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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2016
South Bend, Indiana
Q. Last night when we asked you, you defended Coach VanGorder. Curious what changed between then and this morning?
COACH KELLY: Well, I mean, when you guys ask me those questions, certainly that's not the time or the place to get into debates about your coaching staff. I make those decisions. Clearly when I have the opportunity to evaluate it and had time last night to evaluate our current situation, and you know, made what I felt to be the best decision for the program.
Q. When you brought Hudson aboard as an analyst this summer, what attracted you to him and what were your plans initially and what do you expect him to bring to the table in his new role?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, I've always felt like any time that you can bring on experienced coaches to your staff, you know, I'm going to look to do that.
Obviously Greg was available to work here in that capacity, and we jumped at it. Loves Notre Dame, knows Notre Dame. He's got great spirit on the defensive side of the ball and bringing him here, we're looking for some more experience and brain power and we got that.
And now as the defensive coordinator, he'll assume the responsibilities of the coordinator to get some energy into the group, some passion, and get that unit playing the kind of football that I know they are capable of.
Q. You may have just answered this but why him over some current full-time staff members?
COACH KELLY: Again I think what I was looking for in this particular instance, each situation, you evaluate it at face value, and what I was looking for, I thought Greg was the perfect fit to bring that energy level up to where I want to see it. Guys played hard, but we lacked some of the energy and enthusiasm and fun, quite frankly, that you need to have when you're playing on defense.
Q. I wondered if you could tell us if the basic tenets of the scheme are going to stay the same, are you going to kind of look to tweak it or make major changes in what you're doing schematically?
COACH KELLY: I'll look to tweak it. You know, I'll spend a lot more time with the defense obviously. But you know, terminology will stay effectively the same. We're not going to go and pull the rug underneath the kids at this point in the season.
So you know, we want to keep terminology effectively the same, but you'll see some certain tweaks that I feel like are necessary and some things that I know that as a group, that we will collectively come to an agreement in our best interests.
Q. In terms of Greg Hudson being the defensive coordinator, is this more of an interim thing, a tryout kind of thing, or is this something for the long term that you're committed to?
COACH KELLY: As I told Greg, you know, everybody's interviewing. Everybody on our staff for the rest of the staff is on a very public interview. So everybody's got a chance to continue in their roles, and we'll all have that very public interview as we play each and every week.
Q. And when you say that, do you mean offensive coaches, as well?
COACH KELLY: Oh, absolutely. I'm under review, as well. I mean, we're all in this together: All the players, coaches, everybody. So players' jobs are on the line. Every job is being evaluated as the players; all coaches' jobs are on the line as well.
Q. I know that when you brought in Brian, you had a vision for what you wanted the defense to look like, and you were pretty excited about it. What do you think went wrong with that vision?
COACH KELLY: You know, it's really hard to really get into that in depth. At the end of the day, I made a change because we certainly weren't playing the kind of football that is necessary at this level, and so there's so many factors that go into that.
I will tell you this: Brian is as fine a defensive coach as there is out there. He knows the game. He loves Notre Dame. He wanted to succeed as much as anybody here, but it wasn't working. You know, again, there's not enough time to go into all of the details of it, but the fact remains that at the end of the day, I've got to find a way to get our defense to play at a higher level, and they certainly weren't.
So making the change in my estimation was the best way to get everybody back to the point where we can look forward to putting this defense back in a position to succeed, and like I said, it's really not the time nor the place to get into all of the specifics.
Q. Did you consider this in the off-season at all?
COACH KELLY: No, there was no consideration. We won ten games and we were close to being in the playoffs. You know, we were a play away, maybe two plays away from being in the playoffs last year. There was no thought of this occurring. This was not part of where I thought we'd be. So I'm reacting to a place where I did not expect us to be.
Q. You talked about some tweaks, I know you don't like to give away game plans, but can you talk about some things you want to see?
COACH KELLY: I need to see our guys play fast and free and loose, and I need to see excitement on the field. I need to see guys playing the game like kids, and not so mechanical and robotic. They have to let it go and let it happen and that means we have to tweak some things.
They had some fourth down stops. They played hard. But playing hard is not enough. There has to be other intangibles as it relates to your defense, and we were missing some important ingredients, and that's why I made the change. And so what I'll be looking for in particular relative to these tweaks is these guys come at it with a clean slate, and I expect to see them play with a lot more passion and enthusiasm.
Q. A couple of plays last night, guarding against dissension that a 1-3 start can caused finger pointing -- inaudible -- this firing kind of has a different tone because one of the main players said it on the team. How do you deal with that dynamic?
COACH KELLY: Well, we deal with it professionally. We deal with it like any family would. I talked to Montgomery and we did that right away. Again, anytime there's difficult times, you deal with them man-to-man, and you do it up front within the family and you move on.
Q. You've already kind of touched on it a little bit, but with the defense that's already been installed since spring practice, what sort of tweaks can you make to it going forward that aren't kind of like you said, pulling the rug out from some of these players?
COACH KELLY: Oh, there's a lot. There's a very vast library that is easily tapped into from a different perspective, different terminology in terms of what has not been leaned on heavily in terms of fronts and coverages, but it's already installed.
So there's a vast library. There's a lot there. I'm going to send around some of the things I believe our guys will feel comfortable with, and we'll go from there.
Q. Is it like narrowing the library, tailoring the library, kind of like you said?
COACH KELLY: No, I think a lot has been made there's too much that -- there's not too much defense. There's probably too much analysis maybe, and we're going to streamline it and we're going to keep it fundamentally sound, certainly and we're going to allow our kids to play fast and free, and have some fun at it.
Q. I was doing some stats this morning over my breakfast table and looking at your red zone defense. Last year you were 68 percent in the first four games, and this year close to 100 percent on your defense in the red zone. What's been the problem? Is it blowing reads, people not getting their guys? What's been the problem?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's why we've made a change.
Q. And I was also looking at some stats, too. In the first quarter and the fourth quarter, this year, you gave up like 14 or seven points but the second quarter and the third quarter, it's 81 points. Is the speed of the game getting too crazy for the players, or is it just -- what happened?
COACH KELLY: It's why we made a change.
Q. And talking about Syracuse this week, going to New York, big area for alumni. Will that really help you guys turn this thing around?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, we always love playing in New York. But you know, I think more importantly, this week is really more about ourselves and getting our kids to really play the kind of football that we all know they are capable of, in all three phases, offense, defense and special teams.
So as much as we love to be in New York, this team just wants to win and so I think the focus here is building this back up so we can start winning on the field on Saturday.
Q. What can you say about the relationship that Greg has with the players from his analyst role and what have been the sort of day-to-day interactions?
COACH KELLY: Well, he doesn't have a ton of interaction with them because he's an analyst. He does a lot more obviously in the film room. He does a lot more of the work that's off the field. So they clearly know who he is. He's respected by the players. But this will be a new relationship that he'll be building with the defensive players.
But they know who he is. He's been around. He's been with us through camp and certainly they know that he brings a lot of experience to the position. But this will be new relationships building.
Q. I'm sorry if you already answered this question, but last night you really defended VanGorder saying coaching wasn't the problem. What changed from last night to this morning?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I already answered the question but I'll answer it again.
You know, that's not the appropriate time to get into talking about your coaches and where you feel they fit on that continuum of how well they are doing. I'm going to defend them; I'm going to defend my coaches in those kind of public settings. As I got a chance to further evaluate our football team and our current situation, I felt that it was in our best interests to make the move that I did.
Q. Did you get some input from some of the defensive players, some of the leaders, Onwualu, Rochell, Luke, before making this decision?
COACH KELLY: No, I didn't. I don't know if I mentioned it but I have been pretty active this past week on the defensive side of the ball, so I had a pretty good pulse of what was going on. So it wasn't really necessary for me to pull anybody. I knew what I needed to do.
Q. When you say you were more active defensively; in what regard? Can you get into that?
COACH KELLY: Well, I'll be in a supervisory role. There's going to be some changes that we're making in terms of how we practice, how we utilize personnel. There's a lot of different things that they are going to need me for, so I have to provide myself the time to be with the defense as we continue to build this back up.
Q. I guess I was asking more about last week. You said you were a little bit more involved last week.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I needed to get my hands around it and spend much more time and find out where some of the areas of concern might be for me to make any kind of decision that I finally did, in fact, make. So you know, I think anybody that's put in the position that I am, I'm going to make informed decisions.
Q. I would assume that someone within your organization has already contacted some of the defensive verbal commitments; what would the message be to those young men?
COACH KELLY: We love you.
Q. If I could ask one personnel question, I had a series of other questions obviously going into today. Last night, and I think I followed up about which players do you want to get on the field more, Jay Hayes, is he physically --
COACH KELLY: Yes, he needs to get on the field.
Q. So he's physically ready to go?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, no limitations. He's got to play. A number of defensive linemen have got to play. More linebackers have to play. I think they are playing way too many plays. We've got guys on the field that have eaten up way too many reps, and we just have not put those guys in the game and they are going to play. You'll see them this weekend.
Q. Tranquil, did he suffer an injury that prevented him from coming back into the game?
COACH KELLY: Cramping. He had some cramps, hamstring cramps, and it prevented him from really being able to be 100 percent at that safety position. But we've got to slow him down a little bit. He did a little too much in pregame and we have to monitor him and make sure he's doing the right things, but he'll be fine.
Q. I think you might have just answered this in the last response, but were you considering this internally yourself after Texas or Michigan State, and then you just needed to really immerse yourself to find out what -- that this change had to be made in-season?
COACH KELLY: I think I'm evaluating everything. I think everything that -- when you lose a football game, and we lost, let's face it now, when we lost the Texas game, that really -- you talked about we lost the Texas game, we lost the year before to Ohio State and Stanford. To me, that was three in a row. So that's got my attention.
You know, you're evaluating everything at that point. So yes, I mean, I'm evaluating those from even what it happened the previous season.
Q. Just a quick personnel question. You talked about kind of tweaking some things moving forward. Is there going to be some thought into possibly tweaking not who plays but where some guys are and maybe someone needs to move here or there, just getting guys in maybe some different spots?
COACH KELLY: Yes. Yeah, we're going to start that coverings in about an hour or two. We think that there might be some validity to moving around a couple of players. So that will be a conversation that I begin a little bit later this afternoon.
Q. And then kind of speaking of something that you discussed last night, along with the move that you made today, when you need to have the passion, the fire, the things like that, a move like this -- I don't want to say rejuvenate and the players are excited about it, but it's a sudden change. Is it a coach-led thing at this point or a player-led thing or is it a little bit of both as far as getting that fire and that emotion back?
COACH KELLY: It starts with the coaches. I think it's got to be coach-led and they have got to start the fire. And then those players that have that intrinsic motivation, that fire within, they will come along with us. Those that don't, we're going to leave them along the side. But this is going to start with the coaches.
Q. I just wanted to know how your defensive players took it, how the team took it when you told them the news today?
COACH KELLY: I didn't really pull them to be quite honest with you. I went in and informed them that -- I mentioned that there would be changes, and you know, I mean that from coaches and players, and I announced the change that I had made. Really talked in terms of where we need to go from here.
So I'm certain that there's some feelings in the room but they clearly understand that when you're 1-3 at Notre Dame, changes are going to be made.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports