|Browse by Sport
|Find us on
UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 5, 2016
South Bend, Indiana
COACH KELLY: Welcome, everybody. Fall press briefing here. We'll begin with a couple of opening remarks.
First of all, this football team, 2016, has been a work-in-progress for us. Certainly with number of key players that have graduated, but everybody in college football goes through this same process of retooling, getting those that have waited for their opportunity ready to play. And I like where we have evolved to.
We got a chance to spend some time with our team this week in some less formal activities. A lot of the things that you have to work on are leadership. Putting your guys in a position to succeed and letting them grow and mature, and a lot of the things happen without coaches around, and this summer, you know, a lot of that development occurred without coaches overseeing their day-to-day work.
So I really am pleased with the progress that we've made leading into camp starting tomorrow in so many areas. I think this football team in a nutshell, for everybody here today, is one that's going to have to do the ordinary things extraordinary narrowly well.
And I know that's a clichĂ© that you've heard a lot, and Chuck Noll made it famous with his football team with the Steelers, but that's true with this team. If they just do the basics, the ordinary things and they do them very well, this is going to be a good football team.
It's a balance of some guys that have played a lot of football, have had success; with some young players, the balance at times would make you leery, and at times is very exciting, because there's a lot of talent on this football team.
It's that balance, because they are going to have play on the road against some very good football team and they are going to have play at home against some talented football teams.
That blend, and the things that they are going to have to go through together, I've seen some great growth with this football team leading into our first practice tomorrow.
So what 2016 is going to be about, really, is this football team really doing the ordinary things well. If we take care of the football, if we control the line of scrimmage, no negative plays, don't give up the big plays, those basic tenets of football that you hear all the time ad nauseam, if we do those ordinary things well, we're going to be a good football team.
We can't give up the catastrophic plays and turn the ball over on offense. I think if we are going to be the kind of football team we expect to be, ordinary things, extraordinarily well, we're going to be a good football team.
So kind of a bit of a preview. I think you'll get a bit more of a sense of this team as we kind of answer some questions and dive deeper into some of the personnel and some of the questions that you have.
So with that, we'll open it up to questions.
Q. Saw some stuff online --
COACH KELLY: With my emoji? Right out of the gate?
Q. Bachelorette thing.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I can't comment on that.
Q. But as far as injury technology, I know that you're going to get a lot of questions about last year's injuries and what have you done to address them. Can you speak to the technology part of that?
COACH KELLY: Again, I think there's no way to have an injury prevention, not in this game of football. But I think being clearly invested in finding ways to keep your players on the field, other than hoping and praying, is where you have to be. And that is an investment in science. That is sports science coming into modern-day athletics, and we've made a huge investment into the sports science.
I think that that field is going to allow us the opportunity to keep our players on the field. Again, as I said, there's no injury prevention, but there are ways to cut back and to continue to develop your players, to keep them away from those potential injuries. That has been a big focus of mine this year, whether it be through functional movement screening, whether it be through GPS, whether it be through scan testing the retinas for concussion testing. There's a number of different protocols that we have entered into this year that I think are going to help us keep our players on the field.
Q. Your wide receiver position at the end of spring, I think you were pretty excited about the potential of the group. But beyond Torii Hunter, there was kind of this mass of young talent. How do you see that shaking out and have you kind of figured out what you're going to do with Stepherson in terms of trying to get him on the field?
COACH KELLY: Well, again, I think we feel like the picture is going to have to get clearer once we get into some form of competition in the next two, three weeks. But guys that have been in the program first, let's talk about them.
Torii Hunter, I think we all know is going to have to play a central role. If you go back to when we had Michael Floyd here, we moved him all over the place. He was a central figure in what we did. We may have to move Torii around a little bit, as well to, keep double coverages off him.
But then we move to guys that have got to step up for us, and I think C.J. Sanders has got to be able to play more of a prominent role. As you know, he got his toes wet a little bit in the special teams game, and we saw his ability there. Now it's going to have to show itself as an inside receiver.
And I think you're going to have to see more from Equanimeous St. Brown. I think he's a great player for us, a guy that's really going to have to take the next step; which all of our players that have been here with me have used that opportunity and have taken advantage of their chance, if you will, and I think he will.
He's going to be an important player for us in terms of stepping up. If he does step up, now you've got Corey Holmes who is waiting for a chance. I think he's a very gifted player, and I think he's going to find a place on the field.
We mentioned Stepherson, who is a freshman, who has certainly got great skills. But we don't want to put too much on his plate. And then I think then finding how that rotation plays out with that group right there. Miles Boykin obviously is a big kid that can certainly use his athleticism.
So there's a number of guys there right now, and you probably put it the best, is that there's a bunch of guys there. But we have singled out some guys that really have to step their game up, and now it's their time. Equanimeous is a guy, Corey Holmes is a guy, C.J. Sanders is a guy, and in particular, those guys are going to have to really elevate their game.
Q. Obviously you don't see them doing everything, you have OTAs and kind of behind the scenes, no coaches practices, but what freshmen impressed you this summer?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's been the defensive players by and large, the corners and the safeties. Those guys are probably as a group, more ready to play than anybody that we have on our football team.
So when you say impressed, I mean, I'm impressed with, you know, Okwara and Jones and Day (ph), those defensive linemen are going to be very special players.
There's some more development that goes on there. Tommy Kraemer is an impressive player. There's a lot to be impressed with, with a number of them.
But if the question I'm reading into correctly is, who are the guys that are close to playing, I think your eyes have to look towards the corners and the safeties. And in particular, that group, they have got some players there, we have got some players there, that are going to play this year as true freshmen and impact our football team positively.
Q. AlizĂ© came out with a statement and seemed to take accountability for everything, and I know that as a coach, that these are hiccups that you don't ever want to see. But at Notre Dame, is this just something that's going to happen because of the academic grind; is there an answer to maybe making these happen fewer? How do you kind of frame what's happened there?
COACH KELLY: I think first of all, I'm proud of AlizĂ© and him taking full accountability. That's what we ask our players to do. They are accountable for their actions both in the classroom, on the football field, and in the community. We would want all of our players to be accountable in everything that they do.
So I'm pleased with him, in the sense that he's understanding what he needs to do. He understands his shortcomings and what he's got to work on. He's a young man that is maturing and growing, and you know, he's got a bright future. He's just not going to play football for us this year, but he'll be involved in the program. He'll practice and continue to develop.
Like I said, I think he took the first step in the right direction of moving past this by being accountable for his actions.
Look, Notre Dame is and will all be a high academic environment, and you've got to come to play every day. If you don't, you're going to find yourself on the sideline, and this is a case and it's a reminder to all of our players; that that classroom is filled with Army academic All- Americans and Under Armor Academic All-Americans and you'd better meet that level when you get in the classroom or you're going to get left behind. He recognizes that and he'll be better for it.
Q. To take your opening statement, that if your guys do ordinary things extraordinarily well; in your mind, what is a good year this year?
COACH KELLY: Well, we have only one goal and that is to be one of the four teams selected for the playoffs. We don't have a conference championship. So everything that we look towards is to be one of those four teams selected in the playoffs, and that's the goal each and every year.
Q. What is it about this group that makes you confident that you're going to be successful this year? What do you like about them?
COACH KELLY: Well, first of all, I think we've recruited pretty well. I think we've got some talented players. I think in college football, any time that you have quarterback, quarterbacks, and we are full with quarterbacks; that gives you a fighting chance right out of the gates.
I think coupled with the fact that we have really settled into our defense, our kids are very confident in what we're doing. We've transitioned well from where we were defensively to Coach VanGorder's scheme and what we're doing there. I think that there's a comfort level that's on the defensive side of the ball.
So playing good defense, having an excellent quarterback situation; that's a good place to start. Recruiting well, that's a good place to start, those three things.
And then what I've seen with the growth of this team since January, I couldn't say that in January. I didn't particularly like some of the things about our day-to-day demeanor and how we handle things, but I do today.
Q. Since you went down the quarterback road, do you have a time line as to when you want to name a starter? A starter, is that something you're concerned with?
COACH KELLY: As a staff, we've talked about no time line other than really doing a very good job of allowing both those quarterbacks to be who they are.
We felt like in the spring, we may not have allowed Malik to be who he was in the sense that we had to catch him up to an offense that evolved more around DeShone than it did around Malik's talents. So we need both of them to be who they are.
So it's really more about getting our offense to run effectively for both of them and that's really been most of the focus, if not all the focus. Instead of sitting in a staff room and coming up with a date or a time as to when are we going to make a decision on the quarterback.
Q. And moving forward, as you evaluate the two of them, how do you weigh what happens in camp versus DeShone's body of work, which is pretty massive last year.
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly, you have a glimpse at what he can do. But then you put the Texas film on and see how easy it was for Malik, or you put on the LSU game and you see how easy it was for him, as well.
You know, that's why we are where we are. We've got two really good quarterbacks, based on what we've seen on film, and we've got to let them both compete and continue to compete.
Q. And lastly, you've had some really quality offensive linemen the last couple of years, the Martin brothers and Stanley, that were great here and moved on to the next level. How close do you see a guy like Mike McGlinchey being able to anchor the line and follow in their footsteps?
COACH KELLY: He's a really good football player. He's got the size, he's got the length, he's got the demeanor, he's got the toughness. He's got all of the intangibles you want. He has some things that he has to continue to work on in terms of fundamentals.
I think what Mike brings is that every day, he's going to be working on his craft. But you know, I think it's not just that he has that kind of Nick Martin, Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley kind of athletic ability. But he's got that toughness that you need every single day to play that position, mental and physical toughness. That doesn't come along all the time and he brings that every single day.
Q. The schedule is what it is, but can you talk about the added challenges of whether it be an advantage or disadvantage of trying to get ready for an opponent like Texas on the road in the opener versus maybe a lesser opponent? I know you're probably preparing the same, but it has to add different challenges, doesn't it?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I think that there are a number of teams that have to go through the same situation that we do. I know there's some marquis games out there, USC-Alabama.
For us, we've got our football team's attention in camp. So from that perspective, they know who they are playing against. So from the positive standpoint, they know every day counts. You have to be prepared when you step on the field against Texas. I think that's the positive end of it.
You know, whether or not you're playing a lesser opponent, whether that helps you or not the next week, you know, it's hard to say. I know this; that our guys have been excited about this opportunity, because they know it's a challenge.
Our guys come here because of the challenges. I don't think that they would be quite as excited if it was a no-name that they were playing.
Notre Dame is all about the challenges, and they come here because they want that challenge. They want the bright lights. They want the national televised games. I think if you polled our kids, they would rather be playing Texas.
Q. What would you anticipate the interior defensive line, I know end of spring, Jarron Jones and Tillery were lining up there, but neither were named as starters. What do you anticipate having there in terms of position flexibility? Do you see Jarron Jones moving to a three technique at times, and Daniel Cage I know is in that mix, but who else might be in that mix?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's those three guys right away. It's Cage, Tillery and Jones. Those three guys right away.
And position flexibility, Tillery presents the most flexibility of the three. Cage is much more of a shade, you know, nose. Jarron can do some things in the passing situation that are very intriguing to us, as you know.
So each one of them presents some different pluses and minuses in there. We think there's a couple young guys that may be able to give us some things in there. Elijah Taylor is extremely strong, can hold the point. May not be as dynamic yet, but is a guy you can't move. He's one of the stronger players on our football team.
So we think if we can get a four- or five-man rotation in there; with the three guys that you mentioned obviously, we should be in pretty good shape.
Q. I know you'll find out here in the next couple weeks, but in terms of work volume with Jarron Jones and Daniel Cage, what are you anticipating at this stage of their careers?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, you know, I think if we can get between 20 and 30 plays, I mean, that's an expectation that we would have for them in there that would be really good for us. Because we're going to be playing in third-down situations and nickel.
We're going to have to play a lot of guys against Texas. They are a tempo team; it's going to be hot. Some of those young guys that I mentioned are going to have to be able to play some roles there for us inside, as well.
Q. 2014, I don't know that you anticipated the break out year that Will Fuller had; last year you might have anticipated more with C.J. Prosise. Who is the guy in 2016? And you can't say Torii Hunter.
COACH KELLY: I think on the offensive side of the ball, I don't know that there's one particular guy. I think we're going to have to have contributions from the running back position: Josh Adams, Tarean Folston.
I think Dexter Williams could be a guy that really plays much more of a prominent role in what we do offensively. I think he's an explosive player. I mentioned Equanimeous St. Brown, I think he's a guy that's on the verge of doing some really big things for us.
So not to be, you know, elusive, but I don't know that there will be one particular player, but I do think that we have maybe four or five guys that will elevate their game to a level that will give us the production that we're looking for from an offensive standpoint.
Q. You mentioned that you don't have a time line for the quarterback. How much of a challenge is it with the different skill sets getting the whole offense ready?
COACH KELLY: You know, at first I would probably have said, there's not much of a difference in terms of the two of them. They are both very similar.
But we've learned a lot about both of them. I think last year at this time, we didn't think Kizer could run the ball very well in our option scheme, and he runs the ball very, very well. And I think we all would sit here at this time last year and say Malik is going to be really good running the read option.
So in that process of learning about both of them, they have some strengths and weaknesses within the offense that we'll tweak just a little bit. But there's no overhaul of the offense if one is in versus the other. There's just some play selections that would be different.
And so, we can still lay down our entire installation seamlessly, but we'll just pick some different offensive plays and structure for one versus the other. One works in a little bit of a different kind of scenario better than the other, but it won't be going from a direct snap, two-back offense, to a spread offense. It won't be that much of a jump.
Q. Nyles Morgan, can you talk about the development he's made this year and what your expectations are for him?
COACH KELLY: He'll be our starting middle linebacker. We're very confident. He's gained the trust of the ten guys around him, including the guy that counts the most, Brian VanGorder and that's huge.
The middle linebacker position is the most difficult position to get down and he's got it cold. He knows what he's doing. We've got to get the second guy ready. That's our big concern right now, is making sure we've got the No. 2 position. We can't have Nyles go down in the first series and not have the No. 2 position.
So a lot of our work is we feel really good about what Nyles is doing leading that group. I think he's going to have a great year for us. Let's keep him healthy for all 14 games, and our focus is getting the No. 2 guy ready.
Q. And can you talk about how he is as a leader? Is he a vocal leader? What style does he take?
COACH KELLY: I think more than anything else, he's become and has to be at some position, somebody that communicates. He's now become the kind of communicator necessary to get the front lined up.
We are getting better communication from everybody in the back end. They are doing their job. His job is to make sure that we get that front aligned, get them properly set, and he's doing a good job there.
As it relates to being out in front of the group, you know, look, he's not a guy that's naturally going to take the reigns and jump out in front. He knows his role and his place is to be a leader on the football field and he's doing a good job there.
But he holds others accountable on a day-to-day basis like other players do in the program, as well.
Q. You sort of began with the theme that you started in the spring about the players are getting more comfortable in the defense and the expectations there. Can you kind of look forward and as you're getting ready for Texas, what are the things that you expect to see during fall camp that are showing you that the players are not only getting it maybe mentally, but kind of taking it out on to the field?
COACH KELLY: I would say probably more than anything else, no big play runs. No big play passes. Really eliminating those big plays. If you look at our defense last year, played really good defense and let up a big play. So eliminating the big plays; those are the things that we'll obviously have an eye towards more than anything else.
And really, for us, defending aggressively with our corners and safeties, being on the ball. And I think we're going to be able to do that. Matter of fact, I know we'll be able to do that with the players that we have back there.
So just on it relative to coverage; on it relative to our fits and not giving up big plays in the passing game and big plays in the run game.
Q. When you talk about cornerbacks, you've got a battle obviously at left cornerback; who are the guys that you see pushing for that? And is there a hesitancy at all to maybe not throw Shaun Crawford out there because of what the expectations might be for him at nickel?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't think so. I think we're going to play Shaun Crawford as much as we can and if we've got to play him at corner and then move him in and then bring somebody else on the field; we think we have great depth at that position.
You know, I think Nick Coleman's really going to come in his own. We've seen some great growth from Nick. Nick's got great speed. He just needs some confidence and we're starting to see that confidence grow with him. I think he's a guy you're going to see a lot more of.
Obviously some of the freshmen we've been impressed with; there isn't a corner that we don't like; that we don't believe right now as we speak can't play for us. And you've got some interesting opportunities there.
Donte Vaughn, 6-2 corner. And he is not a safety playing corner. He is a corner playing corner. Here is a long, athletic guy that maybe he complements Shaun Crawford, you know, at different times, at different places on the field.
So we just think we've got so much more flexibility that we can do a lot more things with the number of players that we have back there.
Q. And last thing, you talked about the offense evolving around the quarterback and style of quarterback. Does that happen at all up front on the offensive line? You lost two pretty good players, three starters overall and some new guys with new skill sets; does your offensive line or run game evolve at all based on the five you end up with, or is it you are who you are and you execute what you do?
COACH KELLY: I'm not sure -- do you mean do we favor a group?
Q. No, is it kind of like, this is what we run and we've got to find guys to execute what we run or --
COACH KELLY: I see. I see. No, I think that our system of offense is clearly defined and we recruit the player to fit that type of offense. And so the depth that we have on the offensive line is going to be such that the best player that is in there is going to be able to run and execute the offense that we have.
Q. You just mentioned Donte Vaughn as a corner. He's listed at safety. Is he a corner right now?
COACH KELLY: We've got him listed at safety? That's Bertsch. He's got a kid now, you've got to give him a little leeway (Laughter). He's a corner.
Q. Isaac Rochell has been so consistent for you guys, so reliable. What is the next step in his advancement?
COACH KELLY: We've asked him to do a lot of things. The first thing we've asked them to do is be a leader for us. He's really done a great job there. He's picked up for where Sheldon Day has left off in terms of taking over the room, the defensive line room. Outstanding job there of mentoring the group, the young guys. There's a lot young guys in that room. Really pleased with where that's going and the direction.
And now the other thing is, that he's been able to physically do all the things that we've wanted him to do in this off-season. Again, a little bit like Sheldon Day, he's made the most gains he's had since he's been here physically.
He's had some back issues since he's been here, and he's been physically able to do everything. This is the first time in two years he's been able to squat heavy, do all the leg lifts, do all the things that's necessary to be explosive.
So I see him being a great leader for us and then having the kind of strength to maintain that throughout the year. He had a tendency to drop body weight and maybe get a little bit worn down during the season. He looks really good right now.
Q. You've been talking a lot about the freshmen, Chase Claypool, a guy that seems like he could fit in a lot of different spots. What do you see where he might end up?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he's an intriguing player obviously. We're committed to giving him a look on offense. We want to see what he can do that, as I mentioned, the W position is one that's requiring somebody to step up. We want to see what Equanimeous certainly can do, Miles, certainly, what he can do. Chase will be in the mix there, as well.
There will be a lot of one-on-one opportunities. In our camp, we'll have to structure it to give all of these young players, corners and receivers, the opportunity to go out and compete and make some of those evaluations, and make some decisions and do with them. He's certainly a guy we've got our eyes on.
Q. We've seen photos on social media with guys working out in shirts that say "Leaders Eat Last." Wonder what that means, if you can kind of explain that.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, so each year, thematically, we try to bring the group in on something that kind of has a connection to our in-service leadership. We had the program in here again this year.
One of the things that was really I thought, for our players, something that stuck with them, was that the leaders really need to walk the walk and talk the talk.
And so you really can't be a leader if you're not picking up from behind. You've got to be that guy that picks up that piece of paperer and puts it in the barrel in the locker room. You've got to be the last one in, last one out, first one in.
So it kind of has that connotation of, I'm going to let all my guys eat first; I'm going take care of my group first before I eat because I'm selfless, and I'm going to look over my guys first. That's kind of what we're trying to build in the group, and I think I've seen that build over the last three months.
Q. After the Blue and Gold game, it seemed like there was a little frustration with Brandon Wimbush, how to keep him involved and keep him improving and advancing. How do you manage his situation when obviously it's such a full room and you've got a competition going on.
COACH KELLY: Well, I don't know who was frustrated. I wasn't frustrated. I know that we've got an outstanding player that just is going to wait for his opportunity. You know, we were committed to not playing him this year after having to play him under a less than ideal situation last year; we had to put him in a game.
We were committed to not playing him this year and saving a year and that was the plan. So there's no frustration on anybody's part. He'll be able to compete for the starting job next year.
Q. If you could, talk about special teams. A couple years ago, you went three games into the season without giving up a return yard and you have a lot of weapons this year. Talk about the punting and kicking.
COACH KELLY: Well, we saw the spring game. We know where we are from a punting standpoint. We're really pleased with the production there. I think that that could be an area of strength for us, flipping the field.
Look, everybody's looking for that guy that can pin people inside the ten--yard line, but the consistency out of the position, the ability to flip fields, give offenses long fields to work with, I think that that's one of those hidden yardage pieces that's absolutely crucial. I think we'll be able to do that.
The kicking game is solid. We had a freshman kicker last year, I thought did a very, very good job. He'll continue to get better. Our long snapping situation is consistent. We moved a new holder into the mix.
So I'm pleased with the kicking game. I think our coaching has been on spot there and so the whole unit has been really, really solid in all phases. Our coaches are committed. We've got all of our coaches involved in different aspects of it, as well. So I expect that to be a strength of our football team.
Q. When you look at the possible return game, you've got so much talent on the squad and people looking for an opportunity to shine. Is it wide open as far as kickoff return, punt return, who can jump in and be creative?
COACH KELLY: Unless you have Devin Hester or something like that, I think you're always looking for that great returner.
But the kid we had last year was pretty dynamic. I mean, he returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He returned a punt, a couple punts. He's going to have first shot at it.
But we think we've got some other guys we'd like to take a look at, as well and we'll certainly -- we're not going to close off the competition by any means. But there's a pretty good player back there. I think if there's any competition at all, I think it's a kick-off return and see where that kind of plays out.
Q. You kind of mentioned the whole leadership thing, but who over the summer really emerged as a leader; was there someone who maybe you didn't expect would step up into that role over the summer?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think James Onwualu is one guy in particular that really took hold of the leadership position for us. He's a highly-respected player in our program, but was certainly one that wanted people to take notice and certainly did.
I think Cole Luke did a good job of being much more vocal and taking ownership in his role as a senior. I mentioned Isaac Rochell, who I thought was a little bit reticent at times and had a tendency to kind of stand back and let things happen. He's making things happen.
Mike McGlinchey is a very vocal guy. I wasn't too concerned about him, but he's been very vocal. He's been outstanding.
I think those guys, in particular, to name a few, Torii Hunter has been outstanding; the quarterbacks. So we're not where we were leading into the spring where I was really concerned. Our guys have really understood the importance of holding others accountable, and themselves, and the need for leadership and that's really been very pleasing to see.
Q. Did you kind of have to set the platform for Cole Luke, Isaac Rochell, those guys during spring, to let them know, hey, you have to do this but it still has to happen naturally over the summer almost?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it's all work. You have to set it up by meetings and spending time with them and pointing it out. We had exercises. We had in-services. We've tapped on our sports performance groups to come in. We've had position group meetings. It doesn't happen just naturally. You have to get in there and get it moving. And when it starts moving in the right direction, it begins to grow itself.
With the right guidance, that leadership starts to form, and it's formed very well over the last three months.
Q. With the quarterbacks, how important is it to have consistency in a coaching staff and the message coming from a coaching staff where you and Coach Denbrock have been here for awhile, and Coach Sanford, how important is that to deliver the message to the quarterbacks?
COACH KELLY: It's helpful. It's certainly helpful and eliminates confusion. Any time that the kids can come over here and particularly the quarterbacks, and know what to expect, that helps them go out and know that they are going to be given every opportunity to succeed.
If they come here and they are not sure what to expect, you might see some inconsistencies in their performance. That's very important; that consistent message, consistency on a day-to-day basis.
And not having three different messages; I say one thing, Denbrock says another thing, Sanford says another. That can be fatal in some businesses or organizations as it relates to the productivity of the guys that are in the middle of it.
Q. You said there is no timetable, but leading up to the Texas game, is there a point where the offense needs to have an identity with the quarterback?
COACH KELLY: I don't think so. I was concerned about that earlier; that we wouldn't have an identity one way or the other. We know where we're going to go with this offense. It's not going to be so different one way or the other, and the locker room could care less. They know they are both really good, so there won't be any controversy. It won't be split or divided. Our guys trust that we'll make the right decision.
So from that standpoint, where I was a little bit concerned that we may not have an identity, we know what we're going to do look like. Now it's just a matter of who is going to be taking the snaps.
Q. Does not having a weapon like AlizĂ© affect the quarterback decision in terms of a strength of one or the other, leaning on the run game more, anything like that?
COACH KELLY: No. I think, let's face it, he's a talented young man, but he had no touchdowns last year. So we're going from no touchdowns to no touchdowns. We didn't lose any productivity.
He's going to be a good player. There's no question about that. But it didn't affect anything that we were doing offensively. We're returning our starting tight end healthy in Durham Smythe, so that's a really good thing. We're excited about that.
Q. And then once you settle in on whoever the quarterback is at whatever point, is that your guy, or would there be a short leash because the guy behind him is so talented?
COACH KELLY: Depends how loud you guys boo and if it affects me or not (Laughter). There's just too many scenarios for me to actually answer that question intelligently.
You try to put the best player on the field. They are both really good. Devoid of putting both of them on the field at the same time, which I haven't figured out how to do that in 26 years, we're going to have to figure it out.
But yeah, you open yourself up to all the noise, right; if there's a bad series or a bad game, why didn't you go with the other All-American. So we've got to be prepared for those eventualities.
Q. Just following up on that, with the quarterback situation, do you just prefer to stay in one lane or is there -- how do you resist the temptation to maybe give the other a series or two, who is not starting? Very successful against LSU but a different situation --
COACH KELLY: I haven't resisted any temptation to be honest with you. All I can tell you is that we are going to let both of them compete, and we think we'll have a starter for you. But I don't know what will happen during the year.
During the year, there might be a lull in the game where we feel like, all right, the other guy's practicing well, we'll play him; I don't know.
For me to stand here right now and tell you that one guy is going to be the starter every single game would be foolish of me. I've got two really good quarterbacks, so I really couldn't tell you what I'm going to do, other than we're going to have a starting quarterback.
And then we know that the No. 2 has got to be ready to. I've got to have two really good quarterbacks in college football. I think we've all seen that your guy is going to get dinged up, he's going to come out and you'd better have the other guy ready to go, because nobody really cares that your starter went down. You've got to win anyway.
So I've got to get both of them ready to play at the highest level and then what happens, how they go in, I really -- we'll just figure that out when we get there.
Q. With AlizĂ© out, you still have a pretty good situation at tight end. And you returned the starter, Durham Smythe, but Nic Weishar came in as one of the top recruits several years ago, maybe wasn't physically developed enough yet to contribute. The return of Tyler Luatua at the end of spring -- can you just expand on each of their roles, especially the discussion that you had with Tyler to come back.
COACH KELLY: With Durham back, he's a guy that can do a lot of jobs for us. He knows the position very well. Can catch it, can run block for us. Very committed, is healthy.
In this case wish everybody we think has got the strength now necessary to do all the jobs. We think we've got two really good tight ends there.
And then you add, you know, Matuska, who is an in-line, physical guy, that can give us some of that tough blocking, and is very capable to catch the football. He's not going to beat you down the middle of the field, but he can catch the football for us and the short passing game.
And Tyler Luatua, who is a physical player, as well. We've got two guys that are multidimensional that can do all the things and two real physical guys that at the point of attack and it gives us really great depth.
Tyler just obviously like anybody else, it's tough at Notre Dame. He was going through being long away from home and not playing a lot and went through a tough period with some injuries. As you know, his spiritual faith obviously was weighing on him. But as he looked at everything, he had a lot of close friends here and he loves Notre Dame.
And so you can't blame a kid 21 years old that is trying to weigh all those things out, and you know, came back to the realization that this is home for him, even though he is from the west coast and close to a club of people in his faith at BYU. This was the right place for him.
Q. We've talked about the competition at the receiver position we especially the youth there. Maybe the most competitive single position might be the will linebacker. You have Coney and you have Asmar Bilal who moved there in the spring, and you mentioned Greer Martini potentially there. How do you see that shaking out, and is Greer potentially also that second Mike linebacker?
COACH KELLY: Well, he could be. I think that he may have to cross-train at that position, because we do have some great depth there at the Will linebacker position. We'll see how that goes. He's capable mentally to probably handle more so the multiple roles of that position.
But you're right, we've got some great depth there, and Greer looks great. Physically, you know, he's really transformed the way he looks and is physically in a position where he I think can play a lot of football for us, a lot of high-level -- at a high level.
So yeah, I think that's probably right that he'll get a chance to probably look at both of those positions. But we'll see how that plays out in camp.
Q. Is anybody ruled out of camp for injuries?
COACH KELLY: Justin Brent, as you know, he's got the Lisfranc. He's got the screws out, he's moving, but he's still probably about four to six weeks away.
And Devin Butler, he re-broke his foot over the summer, so he's out. Other than that, everybody else is cleared to go. Nick Watkins is not fully healed yet but he's doing everything. That's it.
Q. I didn't notice Blankenship on the roster.
COACH KELLY: He's not. He's no longer on the roster.
Q. Is he transferring?
COACH KELLY: From what I understand, he is looking at a transfer.
Q. With Coney back, how does that change the complexion of that battle, because he wasn't with those guys in the spring. Is he further back, or how does him being in the mix with the other guys change that battle in any way?
COACH KELLY: No, I think it's going to be a great battle with the number of guys that were mentioned there. We think that both of those guys have different skill sets. Asmar is extremely gifted, athletic.
But Coney is physical and has some unique traits, as well. We just went through our functional movement screening and his performance in that was off the charts.
We're very deep at that position. And that generally works its way out, you know what I mean. We kind of figure out where those guys go. But you know, on paper, right now, when you go to camp, you look at it and you go, wow, they have got too many guys there. But we'll kind of figure that out.
Q. And when you look across all the positions that you'll have battles or uncertainties, is there one that you want or expect to be sort of figured out first as you go into this camp?
COACH KELLY: Is there one that I want figured out first? You know, I still think that more than anything else, it's to me, settling the wide receiver position.
If you told me, after the first five days at Culver, we got all of the receiver positions looked down, I would be a pretty happy guy at that next press conference. I think that's the area that we really have to see those guys perform on a consistent basis.
I'm pleased with the depth and the athleticism on the defensive side of the ball. I think that's going to work itself out. I think the offensive line is going to work itself out. I think the running back position is. We've got to see who is going to be those guys that are going to step up at wide receiver.
Q. I was curious, at right guard, is there a certain time frame by which you want to have the first team line set and ready to go and who exactly are the guys involved? Who are the freshmen in that role?
COACH KELLY: Well, Kraemer, Kraemer is the guy that would be involved at that right guard position right now. I'd say we would bounce Tristen Hoge over there, as well, take a look at him.
So Hoge, Hunter Bivin and Kraemer. Those guys would get the first look going into camp and then kind of play it from there.
Q. Last year, having continuity through the spring and fall camp on the offensive line really helped the guys gel. Is there a certain time by which you want to have them sorted out?
COACH KELLY: Well, you've got Mustipher at center right now, so you've got three of those guys sorted out. Bars will start out at the right tackle position. We think that's the right place for him. So arguably, four of the five are figured out. That's pretty good, going into camp. There will be competition for Bars. I'm not handing him a position. That's not what I'm saying. But there's some pretty good continuity there right now.
Bivin is a guy that's been around a long time. You line up five guys there that have played a lot of football and know what they are doing, so I don't see that as a huge mishmash of trying to figure out who is playing where, as much as trying to give Hoge some time at guard.
Now, when you're doing that, then I've got to move Harrell into center. And Harrell has been -- without Harrell, we're in trouble. I mean, that guy is -- he's worth his weight in gold for us, because he can play almost every position on the offensive line.
So he gives us the flexibility to virtually do everything. He's our utility guy that can play guard, center, tackle, a little bit of everything. He's invaluable to us on the offensive line right now.
Q. What have you seen from Max that makes you believe this might be the year for him?
COACH KELLY: You know, he may be the guy that epitomizes the ordinary things, doing them extraordinarily well. Just got to do the ordinary things. Doesn't have to do anything spectacular.
I think we all know he's an extremely gifted player. He's got great athleticism, but he just has to do the ordinary things well. If he does that, we're going to be in good shape with him.
Q. To be clear, Martini and Coney are good to go, as well?
COACH KELLY: Yes, cleared, fully cleared.
Q. With the quarterbacks, if they are more similar than different, and who you choose isn't going to affect the identity of the team, why not just play both and would that be the best way to keep No. 2 sharp?
COACH KELLY: Let's do that. Let's play them both. I'd say, Pete, why the heck aren't you sitting here. Let's just change --
Q. I mean, aside from press conference questions --
COACH KELLY: Well, I'd get paid your money, too. So that would be awesome.
Q. When you look at what worked at Cincinnati for you with Pike and Collaros, certainly what worked in the Music City Bowl; is that just not a feasible solution?
COACH KELLY: I have not taken anything off the table. Really, honestly. Look, if you go down the roster, and I think we're all reasonable to look at the offensive roster and look at the playmakers on offense, two of them are on the quarterback side.
So I've got to look at all of those and factor every one of them in. And so, for me not to look at every scenario possible as it relates to the quarterback position, I would be not being smart as a football coach.
So we'll look at every option and everything that's available to us to put the best offense on the field. So everything's on the table as it relates to that.
Q. When you have situations like AlizĂ©, you really had something like this the last four years, it creates a hurdle on the recruiting trail. What's your counter-punch to that on the trail, because clearly you have a good one based on how you've been recruiting over the last few cycles.
COACH KELLY: Are you telling me that you're peers, nobody loses anybody to academics across the board, nobody?
So that would be my argument that, look, Notre Dame is hard. And if you're not prepared and if you're not going to come here with the focus and attention to work in the classroom, you could get dinged.
And I'm not afraid to say that to anybody or any mom or dad when I go into the home; and you'd better be prepared to work hard in the classroom.
But I also know that you can overcome it, and that we'll stick with you and we'll support you and we'll be there for you. We're not going to throw you aside. We're going to back you up and make sure that you grow and develop as a man and that you take accountability for your actions and that you're better for it.
Q. At the receiver position, with so much youth, potentially playing at the same time, what challenge does that create for you as a staff in terms of what you can do offensively? You haven't had a whole lot of freshmen come in to play major roles over your six years here. What kind of dynamics does that create when you have so much youth at once?
COACH KELLY: Well, in fairness, the guys that are going to have to step up are not going to be true freshmen. I mean, KJ is going to play a role, we know that. But we're not going to put him in, you know, he's got to go save the game for us. He's going to be a role, but it's not going to be "the" guy in this offense.
It's going to be the guys I mentioned. Corey Holmes is going to have to step up; he's been here three years. EQ has been here now, this will be his second year; and Sanders, two years.
So those guys already have already been in the system. They already know the offense. They have played in games. They know what it looks like. They have been at Clemson; they have been at Stanford, so they know what is expected of them. Those are the guys that we are pushing to step up to that next level.
Q. You talked about this a little bit in a statement yesterday, the Bleacher Report aspect, the benefits for your program. Did you see any negatives, especially after the way Showtime went last year in terms of the exposure it got, and maybe penetrating the recruiting market more than what Showtime would be able to do?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think you've hit it. The penetration into a targeted audience, right, and the social media piece is huge for us through the recruiting medium, who they can reach, the millions of people that they can reach. Pick up your phone and you can be on Bleacher Report. You couldn't do that with Showtime. Although it did tremendous pieces on television.
This gives us a unique relationship that nobody else has in college football. I think the uniqueness of that where they are partnering with Notre Dame; the ability to penetrate a targeted audience that we're looking for, not only in our alumni base and those that follow Notre Dame football, but that recruiting base, as well.
I think it wasn't too difficult to sell me on it. There's obviously a bit of work that has to go behind the scenes, again, but much, much less than the Showtime piece.
Q. You've a group of talented off-field analysts, and during the summer there's more time for self-scout. What were a couple things that they were able to bring to you and say, maybe here are some tendencies we need to look at and here is how we can fix them.
COACH KELLY: Well, if I told you, then it wouldn't be a secret anymore.
I think we've done a really good job of utilizing the brainpower that we brought in. Greg Hudson, as you know, a former Notre Dame player, was at Purdue and Florida State, has joined us as a defensive analyst.
Jeff Burris, former player here, is a senior analyst, we've added both of them. And not only do they have defensive roles, but they help in looking at our offense, as well, from a defensive prism.
So we've been able to utilize them, and as well as a number of the guys that are on staff that have given us the insight from a self-scouting standpoint that have allowed us to clean some things up that maybe gave tendencies; or, how we were getting played offensively by formations or plays that allow us to maybe break some of those tendencies.
And that's really what you get with the extra, you know, brainpower, if you will, and the analysts do a great job with that.
Q. Coach Lyght talked in the spring about self-scout, a little more time now, playing a lot of open field safety, maybe a shirt now to a little more post safety. Does that have anything to do with getting a guy like Shaun Crawford back, being able to play some more sub-packages what does it look like from a personnel standpoint relaying Elijah Shumate? Do you take all that into consideration and do you see from Brian VanGorder's standpoint back side of the defense?
COACH KELLY: Playing post safety requires you to play man coverage. The first thing you have to be able to do is play inside-out man against a skilled No. 2 receiver and we believe that we can do that with Shaun Crawford. So it all evolves around the ability to play a nickel in a man situation.
Then you can play post safety and play some more man coverage.
We didn't feel comfortable playing man inside item out with our New York he will last year when Shaun went down. That gives you the opportunity to play more post safety because you can play some more cover one. We feel like we can with the corners outside; now we feel better about the first nickel and the second nickel that can play man coverage.
So yeah, you may see more post safety because of that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports