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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 6, 2015
Q. Brian, I wondered if you could update us on Tarean Folston's situation and also Avery Sebastian?
COACH KELLY: Tarean, he had an MRI this morning and showed an MCL tear. So he'll begin the rehab process and surgery here in the next probably ten days. So he'll be lost for the season.
Avery Sebastian has a fractured fifth metatarsal. So he'll have surgery tomorrow morning. Dr.Ratigan will do both those surgeries tomorrow. And he'll have a screw placed in that. That's anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on how he responds. We've had them back in four, as late as six, depending on how he responds.
Those are the two injuries that right now that look like we'll have some long‑term implications.
Q. Obviously Josh Adams you knew was going to play for you. Dexter Williams, you got him some reps late. For people that don't see the nuances of the running back position, Dexter played it in high school. And Justin played some in high school. What's the biggest challenges for guys like that to be able to be productive depth players for you at that position?
COACH KELLY: Well, the different facets of it, first of all, other than just getting to know the playbook, and certainly just right and left in terms of the vernacular and the offense. Pass protection. Catching the ball, coming out of the backfield, getting lined up. If we just assume that you can get all that done, it's the patience of letting your blockers get into their spots and having the patience to trust your offensive line, which is sometimes hard to do as a young back.
So I think they both made terrific progress early on. Dexter, we think, obviously now is going to be pressed into more duty as a freshman. We were hoping that his would be less than what we had first thought. But we'll have to accelerate his learning curve and getting him ready to pick up all facets.
But we feel like Josh has really done well in pass protections and catching the ball and learning the offense. Obviously he's going to get a lot more work and now he'll have to get Dexter ready.
Q. Brian, Texas was only on the field for 52 offensive plays. So there weren't huge defensive tackle numbers individually for anybody. But I'm just curious what stood out to you for maybe some individuals who stood out to you on your defense last night.
COACH KELLY: Well, I like the way we played up front. Daniel Cage, Jerry Tillery. Sheldon Day inside. Isaac Rochell, those guys in particular, up front, were very stout.
Jalen was Jalen; he was on his business. He just was solid in all facets. I thought we got Max Redfield, some real good play from Max. I think if you look at overall, everybody was fundamentally in real good position. It was so much different than last year relative to communication. It was the tempo offense. Really never felt like we were out of position and never really had that sense from last year that we didn't get great communication out there.
So I think all in all, 11 players playing together, but I think it really starts up front with our defensive tackle play.
Q. You had a lot of new pieces on special teams as you kind of look back over that how would you evaluate C.J. Sanderson, Justin Yoon, Tyler Newsome group?
COACH KELLY: I thought there were jitters, there's no question. We saw that with Tyler's first kick out of bounds. And I thought at times a little bit caught up in the moment.
But, by and large, all of them got that first one under their belt. And we knew this would be the big one for them. We only see them getting better week in, week out. They have great talent. And they're so engaged in the process of getting better each day.
So I think we got the toughest one out of the way and I expect them to get better each and every week.
Q. I know coaches always have a discerning eye even when the statistics look good. As you take your next step, what's kind of a couple of important things that you want to see moving into this week that maybe are areas where you can improve?
COACH KELLY: I think, first, from the quarterback position, we have to clean up a couple things relative to recognition of protections. We had four procedure penalties. So we'll have to clean that up.
We were on a verbal cadence, figuring at home we wouldn't need hand signal cadence. So we'll go back and re‑examine that. So that's something that we'll look at, certainly. Too many procedure penalties.
And I think, you know, just overall, up front, just continuing to work on working as a group. Sometimes we got individually focused on beating the guy over us instead of working our combination. So there's some things we've got to clean up. It's a great‑‑ I mean, I know this sounds like a cliche, but I think we can get so much better into week two based upon the competition that we played, the kind of things that happened out there are only going to help us moving into preparation for Virginia.
Q. Just want to see if there's any other adjustments you'll have to make as far as moving to running back or making a change to make sure you have enough depth there?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think the first thing is that we didn't really expect to have to accelerate Dexter. But I think that will be the first thing, is that we'll pick up his preparation. There's a learning curve there that we're going to have to accelerate.
I think Josh Anderson knows our protection very well. So we're going to have to keep him with us a little bit more. And I think that that's where we'll start this week with that kind of process moving forward with Dexter getting more work to have a three‑back rotation and supplement it with Josh Anderson, because we think he's somebody that can help us as a guy that can take some reps away from those guys because he's solid inside out as a runner and very solid in protections.
Q. You praised Josh Adams yesterday for picking up (indiscernible) as a freshman, study, is it challenging to pick up all the things that college defenses can throw?
COACH KELLY: Well, I wouldn't go as far to say that he's at the level of some of those veterans. But he has, surprisingly, picked it up quicker than I thought he could. The game of football comes to him pretty easily. He picks up concepts and schemes.
And when you're talking to him about pressures and things of that nature, he has a really good sense. And some kids it doesn't come quite as easy. And for Josh it just seems to click a lot easier for him.
There's things that he's got to clean up. Last night we had an outside run play and he blocked our read key. So there's certainly room for improvement there. But I saw him this morning in the training room and he knew his mistake before I even brought it up to him. It's just a kid that's really sharp and picks things up quicker than most freshmen.
Q. Just in a matter of months here you've now lost Greg Bryant, obviously, to the suspension and Tarean. And I know going into at least the spring you had thought you were going to have some reliable backs there. You've kind of stressed it, that you're comfortable with those guys, but did you ever imagine that it would come down to this point for you?
COACH KELLY: We like the guys we've got. That's football. We're certainly disappointed for Tarean. He's worked so hard to get where he is. But that's the nature‑‑ there's nothing you can do about it. That's why you try to develop the depth in your program. So we feel good about C.J. and Josh and Dexter, and we're not complaining.
We just move on and those are the three guys we'll get ready and we believe they'll do the job just fine for us.
Q. Talk about your defense. Such a dominating performance last night. Is it something you guys have been working on in spring to get yourself better from last year after that Florida State disaster?
COACH KELLY: The Florida State disaster?
Q. The points, you were giving a lot of points, the defense. Seemed like at the end of the year everybody was scoring on you a lot. Is that something you guys worked on during the spring to get that defense cleaned up?
COACH KELLY: Well, we certainly‑‑ there were a number of factors. We returned KeiVarae Russell who was a big part‑‑ we didn't have him last year due to a suspension. We lost Joe Schmidt, who was the captain of our defense, in terms of communication as our starting middle linebacker.
We had a lot of injuries. So welcoming back a lot of those players on to our defense in the spring. And then simply having more time to work with a lot of young players that we played with last year. We are where we should be in that development from year one to year two in Brian VanGorder's defensive scheme. It's the natural progression of where we should be moving forward with guys maturing in your defense and then overall everybody really getting a better grasp and understanding of a new defensive structure.
Q. Talk about the development of the quarterback. As I hear, seemed like he was on last night. Is that something you've seen a lot during spring practice with his accuracy?
COACH KELLY: He's also been somebody that we felt could throw it and run it. And we recruit quarterbacks that are not one‑dimensional. They have to be able to run it and throw it. So we knew what he was capable of but he's certainly developed in the different kind of balls that he can throw.
You saw last night his ability to push the ball down the field vertically. He can work touch passes across the field. He can work bubble throws, dig routes, and I think what's most impressive is the different type of throws that he made last night.
And I think that that is where he's really worked hard himself over the past year to really become much more accomplished in all the different throws.
Q. Just to clarify on Folston's injury. You said MCL, not ACL? Did I not hear that correctly?
COACH KELLY: You know what, I could check my‑‑ if you give me a second I could check my notes here.
Q. Normally MCL is something he could recover from with the injury occurring this early in the season.
COACH KELLY: No, I believe it's an MCL.
Q. Just wondering, at least from the naked eye, looked like Quenton Nelson, if he already erred on the side of aggressiveness, what was your overall evaluation of his execution?
COACH KELLY: You know, I think where I was most pleased was in his pass protection. Handed off a couple of twists and stunts very well. And gave Malik the time to throw the ball on third down. I was a little concerned in pass protection, because he is a guy that likes to sometimes go for the knockout punch. But his sets were solid.
I think he's got to continue to work with his center and tackle sometimes he likes to take on things by himself. But I thought for a first start he did very well.
Q. Also wondering what the coaching points are for young kids like T.J. Sanders who had the fumble on the punt return and Alizé Jones who had a pass early in the game slip through his hands. Do you address that directly, or do you let your position coach handle most of that? Or how do you deal with that with a young player?
COACH KELLY: Well, I'm playing these kids for a reason, because I think they're very, very talented and I think that they do a lot for where we are as a program and creating great competition.
So we're very positive. I was very positive with them: Get back out there. We're not going to make a change. We're going to give you another chance to catch the football. With Alizé, just a little anxious, wanted to run after the catch. Just remind him about catching the ball first. He's got great hands.
Then with C.J., probably was a fair catch situation where he should have used a little bit better judgment, which he did later. So just reminding them, because they're really good players, and you want to keep their confidence up. We try to do that with Tyler as well after the first kick, because we know they're very talented. We knew they were going to be a little bit caught up in the moment. So game one was really trying to be as positive as we could given the circumstances.
Q. I don't know if I missed Blankenship or Hayes in the game. Are they in the rotation? Are they battling any kind of injury?
COACH KELLY: No, they're not battling any injury. They got in with the second units and got some reps in with the second group.
Q. On the missed field goal, I have not seen the replay yet, but Justin Yoon, was that on him, or was the operation maybe not quite on time?
COACH KELLY: We had it under 1‑3. So operationally it was pretty good. I watched it this morning, and nothing really jumped out at me. But I haven't gotten a chance to talk to Justin yet. I won't see him until about 4:00 today.
But first glance, my notes, I didn't have anything that jumped out at me from a time, operation, snap and hold. But, again, I haven't talked to Justin yet.
Q. Last year, after you guys shut out Michigan, I remember you mentioned that there's still a number of mental errors in that game. After looking at the film today, do you see kind of a lower level of mental errors with your defense against Texas compared to at least that game?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, night and day. Definitely a different unit out there relative to mistakes. Now, we had some‑‑ there's no question. But in terms of recognition where they needed to be, the communication, all of those things, compared to where we were last year to this year just an entirely different unit.
Q. Getting DeShone out there for about 11 minutes in the fourth quarter, what can that do for him? I know last year, when Malik got in, I think it was against Rice, he maybe only had one carry, one series. To get DeShone on that complete quarter, what can do that for him?
COACH KELLY: Invaluable. Especially with almost 12 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, just little things, like the throw, which was a throw that he should have made and he can come back and know that that's one that presented with that opportunity. Again, he's got to make that throw.
So a great learning experience for him and great film to work off, for him to build off. Invaluable to get that opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports