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October 16, 2016

Brian Kelly

South Bend, Indiana

BRIAN KELLY: We'll get started with questions.

Q. As you look at DeShone Kizer and the night he had last night, how do you go about trying to get him back to the way he was playing earlier in the season where it seemed to be that he was improving with each week?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think that everybody's got to improve around him. I really don't think it's just about DeShone Kizer. We have got to protect him better, I think we have got to run more precise routes. I think the play calling has to improve. I just think it's always the quarterback is going to be the center of the storm and that certainly comes with the position, but and he can do things better and he knows that as well, but this is collectively an entire offensive issue. It's not just one thing. So, I think as the offense gets better at the details across the board, I think we'll see improvement in his position.

Q. As a follow-up with that, with the offensive line, what's reasonable improvement to see in them over the last five games and can you accomplish that without personnel changes?
BRIAN KELLY: I don't think we have any choice that we have to improve in some of the fundamentals in terms of our sets, in terms of the standing blocks, recognition, composure, penalties, I think that all of those are the basic fundamentals and foundation of playing winning football. If we don't improve those, we're not going to win at the level that we need to, as well as precision in route running in terms of depth, leverage, the fundamentals of the quarterback play in terms of throwing on time and all of those things that go to winning, we're just not precise in any of those and when we need our best and have those show, we're not doing those little things to win football games.

Q. Just following up on that, do you think that you can get that offensive line improvement though without personnel changes that just simply by repetition and maturation that that's going to get you where you want to go?
BRIAN KELLY: Yes, they are, we vetted this out, they're the best players that we have. They're all players that will return for us, they're all players that are going to be here for at least another year, so this is a commitment towards this year and getting them better so we can get through this skid that we're on.

Q. As you head into the bye week, when you come out of it, you face some three really good quarterbacks down the stretch and then two option offenses kind of plopped in the middle of all of that. How do you kind of divide your time in the bye week in terms of tweaking the defense and preparing the defense and trying to get it evolved based on what you still have in front of you?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I've got a busy week. We got to make some decisions in my time relative to recruiting and offense and defense, so we're making those decisions internally now. There's some priorities, recruiting is important, but I think there's some things that have to be addressed offensively and then a couple of other finer details in terms of what we need to do defensively. So, a lot to do, excited about working with these guys, I love working with them, but we got some work to do and I got to prioritize those three areas.

Q. Last one, as you obviously you're trying to focus on making the best out of this year, but 2017's still out there. What have you maybe learned from this 2-5 experience that will help you not have it happen in 2017 and beyond?
BRIAN KELLY: Wow, there's some things that can't be avoided. We developed a lot of really good players, we had a number of guys go on to the NFL that were underclassmen, it's not that we're not going to continue to recruit really good players, I think if there's one thing, honestly, I think that probably prepare to play these young guys and getting them more work even more work in our preseason camp. And I mean preparing them to play, actually you got to run with the first group, because you're going to play, I know it's early, and finding things that they can do early on and master those. Because they're in high pressure situations right now and they have got a lot on their plate.

Q. You mentioned the dividing your time. Obviously the defense has shown improvement do you worry that maybe you spread yourself a little thin on the offensive side?
BRIAN KELLY: There's always that thought, right. You concern yourself with managing -- I've got good coaches, I just, I think that we have to not focus simply on one person, but everybody collectively drilling down deeper on fund mentally how we bring the whole group back together and getting them playing at a higher level. And again, we made some critical mistakes that have turned the game on its ear late and we have got to be able to sustain some of the things that we're doing. We look really good the first couple of drives and then we stall out. Twice in this game we got the ball down to the 8 yard line and weren't able to really do anything in the end zone. So, I think my focus, to answer your question in a long form, is really focus on putting the ball in the end zone and how I can help there.

Q. One common thing in the four of the losses, not necessarily the North Carolina State, but long, long stalls appears to be the offense. Teams scoring 17 unanswered points or I think 36 against Michigan State. How, how do you focus on getting more consistency?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think we -- look, what's happened over the last couple of weeks is we have kept the points down, but we only had four possessions in the first half. We went three and out on the first, we scored on the next two, and then we drove the ball down to the 37 yard line and didn't convert a third down.

In the second half we went interception, interception, and then I moved to Malik for a few series and we weren't able to make anything out of it. And then Kizer comes in and we drive the ball down and stall. So, we really, if you look at this game, and how it played out, we only had nine possessions. And we really obviously were trying to shake things up by moving Malik into the game, but we were effective running the football and we just weren't effective enough late in the game and when we had a chance in the red zone. If we capitalize on our red zone opportunities, it's a much different outcome. That, to me, is concerning more than anything else is, we have got to turn those opportunities into scores.

Q. Looking back now you've seen what the defense has done, what do you think has been the biggest change, the catalyst for the defense playing better?
BRIAN KELLY: I think we have just allowed them to play without worrying about mistakes. Just play. Don't worry about mistakes. Here are the fundamental principles of playing sound defense and we don't have answers for everything, but what we do have is you playing hard, you playing fast, and you playing physical. We may not have all the answers, but come back to the bench, we'll talk about it, we'll make some adjustments and we'll move on. Instead of having maybe seven or eight adjustments prior to it happening, which sometimes clogs up the ability to play fast. I think we freed them up to play a lot faster and that's helped us.

Q. I was watching the game last night in my area here, the fourth down with 8:35 left in the third quarter it was a fourth down play and that was that second interception by Kizer. Why did you go to punt the ball or was it just one of those you just wanted to give the offense a little spark and move down the field?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, we were in our go zone, which is that designated area on the field that is too close to pooch punt and just too far to kick a field goal. So that is a go zone designation for us that we'll go for it on fourth down.

Q. The safety by your center, is that like a mental issues having right now, that he's putting too much pressure on himself to make sure he does snaps perfectly or is it something that you can just work with him during the bye week?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, snapping the ball, you want it to be muscle memory and something that you don't even think about. And obviously in that situation there was a flaw in his mechanics and it's just something we're going to have to continue to work with him.

Q. Secondary, they looked like they did a great job last night. The young secondary you guys have. Is that, are you proud of them when you see the improvement going forward?
BRIAN KELLY: I am, I'm really proud of the way that they continue to compete. We're not perfect back there, but we got some good young athletes that are learning and every opportunity they get to playing has been a benefit in their development.

Q. What is your message to recruits this week, given the state of your team if they or their parents ask or have concerns?
BRIAN KELLY: It's never been brought up. They're more interested in the environment of Notre Dame, what it can do for their son, relative to the academic institution. They're in the locker room after, they see my message to the team, they see the interactions, so it's full transparency, they're able to understand what we're about on a day-to-day basis by messaging us and talking to us, so it's business as usual. We don't really change who we are or what we do, so we don't, we're not trying to impress them, they know who we are and they know we're struggling, but we're like anybody else, we're going to let them know who we are and they're going to make their decisions based upon whether this is the right place for them.

Q. What are the difficulties in recruiting when you do have a losing record though? I don't know if maybe you've noticed this just in the past with your experience.
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I haven't, but I would say that they're very minimal as long as they see that the environment isn't toxic. If they see that the environment is one where there is great energy and enthusiasm and that they can see themselves being a difference and being part of the solution. I think that it's not a negative in that sense, it's a temporary situation in their mind and that they're going to be the solution in helping bring the program back up to that top status that it is used to being in.

Q. Colin McGovern, ankle? Concussion? Both?
BRIAN KELLY: Concussion, well, you know, he passed his eye scan, but he had some lingering effects. And so we felt that it was best, our doctor felt it was best to keep him out. And he'll have a further evaluation tomorrow, with Doctor Kutcher, and that will give us a better sense of where he's at.

Q. As far as this week for you, will you be out on the road recruiting next weekend?
BRIAN KELLY: I will go out, we're still putting it together, I think the question was asked a little bit earlier, I've got some things that, as you can probably imagine, to work on, but I will be part of recruiting as well, yes.

Q. In terms of the team's sticking together, I think when teams are going through tough times every coach says this team's sticking together and the vibe is good in the locker room. Have you had any experience in your career where that hasn't been the case, because it seems like this team has a genuine authenticity among all the guys.
BRIAN KELLY: I did have one team at Central Michigan, prior to our final championship season, where we weren't all on board yet. We made some changes at the end of the season because we weren't all together. But that was really it. And again that was the only losing season I've had. So other than that it's generally there's going to be some good times and some bad times and you kind of work through those. This one has been certainly one that's stuck with us longer, but they all know that the fix is the smallest details of execution and that's why they can maintain the energy. Look, if we're getting blown out and we have got no chance, I would probably have a harder time, let's face it, of keeping the energy up with the group. But they know the fix is right there, they just got to find a way to get through it.

Q. With DeShone's coming out of the game I think there's some thought that if you pull your quarterback his confidence is going to be rattled a little bit. Is that a thing? Is that just something that we talk about in the media or where do you stand on that with DeShone and sort of his mental makeup?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think that there's definitely any perspective that can be taken on it. I think the one that I talked to DeShone about that he's unequivocally the starting quarterback and that I was looking for a shot in the arm. And that maybe this was the way to break through this block that we have about the energy coming out of the team. Obviously, it didn't work, right, we had to go back to DeShone. So, I think from that standpoint he knows that we got to go back to him and that's the guy to lead us from that perspective. So, yeah, I don't know, you can take a lot of different angles on it, he knows that he's going to be our starter, it gave him a different vantage point. I told him that these are ones that you can grow from. But it's not him alone it's the other 10 guys that have to play better around him as well.

Q. Kind of a nit picky thing with him, in terms of sort of having a clock in his head holding on to the ball is that just something that's sort of working through right now or is that fine and that's more the offensive line type thing?
BRIAN KELLY: I would like to give you all of the things that go on there, but look, he's expecting to throw the ball on time. You have got some young receivers that may not be precise in what they're doing and that throws off his timing. And there's got to be trust there, that they're going to be where they're supposed to be. Then there's moving in the pocket because we're not as clean as we need to be maybe on some of our sets. So, there's a lot going on as to why the ball doesn't come out. Now, he's responsible for some of that as well, so for me to just say there's one thing, it would be less than honest with you. There's a lot of things moving around him that causes that ball to stay in his hand too long. And it's not just him.

Q. With a bye week coming up here, and this is the third or fourth week in a row you've had a bye right at the midseason point. How much of that is coincidence versus you guys being independent and you and Jack kind of making this a point that you need that midseason break?
BRIAN KELLY: We try really hard to get it on this date. It requires some obviously some planning, some negotiating, but we believe, I believe strongly that this is very, very important to how we operate our program 365 days out of the year. So, you can imagine that I'm pretty firm on trying to make this work the way it works, but it doesn't always come out this way.

Q. Why do you think it really hasn't all clicked for Malik when he's got his opportunities and week-to-week behind the scenes what kind of, what the rest of the distributions like in practice? How much work is he getting with the ones along with Kizer?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, that snapshot may not really be enough for us to make that declaration. He had a snap that went over his head, he started a possession on the minus 10 yard line, and he had three, two young receivers in the game at one time that were less than perfect on the route running. So, we can make that jump, but I would be careful that this snapshot is not proof of his inability to come in there and/or proof that he's not making progress in practice. He gets about 40 percent of the reps. It's about a 60/40 break, to answer your question.

Q. Last night you mentioned you wanted to keep everything within the family. Jerry Tillery likes to do tweets that indicated Les Miles should be the next head coach at Notre Dame. What's your reaction to that?
BRIAN KELLY: I'm not aware of it. I haven't really had time to surf the social media of our kids. I'll get, I usually get an update from our staff here in the next day or two. But yeah, I mean, look, there's so much with social media, you know, it's, for me, I don't make much of it. Jerry's been a committed player, I've got a great relationship with Jerry, so I haven't seen anything from him, nor has he said anything to me that he's not committed to playing here at Notre Dame and for me, for that matter.

Q. Is it one of those things that does concern you though, obviously, when you hear something like that, to make sure that you aren't showing potentially a chance to lose your players and your team.
BRIAN KELLY: No, I would tell you that it's not a concern of mine. I'm going to be who I am. I'm going to coach my football team. I'm going to be honest with them. I think I've got a good pulse of my football team. And I really don't believe that there is much out there that would indicate to me on a day-to-day basis that my football team is lacking the energy or the desire to play for Notre Dame and play hard every Saturday. I think they exhibited that again this weekend. We got to execute better and we got to coach better.

Q. What is your message at all different to your team going into the bye week now than maybe it was in like last year in a year where maybe were you having more success on the field?
BRIAN KELLY: I think if you really break it down, we know what our issues are, so there was no really need to bring those up. I mean, other than the dedication to come back here with a great attitude and a desire to win every game that we play. And that it's important for us to play in the post-season. That's probably the only difference in the message. I think we all were in a position last year that we knew that we were going to play in the post-season. Now that, obviously, is something that we're going to have to do some really good things to get there. So, just using that as a goal right now is probably a little bit of a different message than what they heard last year.

Q. What do you want to see out of your players when they come back from the bye? Do you want them to kind of disconnect and avoid football or what sort of do you want to see from them when they return?
BRIAN KELLY: Just recharged. I mean, they got a lot on their plate. Academically, we had mid terms this week, they had a lot on their plate, they showed great energy in the game, a great commitment. I just want them to get away and then when they come back fully committed with a great attitude, ready to prepare and to get over this slide that we're in in terms of finishing out football games. I mean to be 2-5 and to out score your opponents has got to be one of the craziest stats in America. So, we have got to be able to get through this and that's going to require great attitude and great preparation. So that's really what I focused on. Get away, avoid the noise as best you can, come back ready to go, reenergized, and ready to win every game that we play over the next five weeks.

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