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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 22, 2016
South Bend, Indiana
BRIAN KELLY: We'll start with USC. I know you all want to talk about the NCAA release that's just come out. We'll get to that. Let's get through USC first and then we'll get to your questions about the NCAA release that came out. Okay?
So let's start off, obviously playing one of the hottest teams in the country in USC, rivalry game for us. We're excited about getting back out on the field. Obviously a disappointing loss, but one that obviously our kids played hard. Didn't play well enough for four quarters, but saw some really good things from our football team. That was a good team, too. Virginia Tech is a good football team. They played well, made plays down the stretch. We did not make some plays that we needed to. But I was proud of the way our kids came out and played.
You know, we've got some guys that are learning how to handle the pressure of big-time competition, and they'll be better for it.
Again, going back to USC, obviously the big difference there, Sam Donald, when he's been inserted into the lineup, that's been a transformation for that football team offensively. He's as good as I've seen in a long, long time. His escapability, his ability to throw on the run, his accuracy, I don't see anything there that is anything short of brilliant in terms of the way he's playing right now, and of course he's got a great supporting cast. Juju, Ronald Jones, just a very, very potent offensive football team, and it starts with the quarterback.
Defensively having Clancy Pendergast back as the defensive coordinator, they're familiar with the scheme, they know the scheme. They're not too far from what he's done there over years past, and just a really aggressive front. They like to keep the box loaded, and again, they've got a good back end, experienced defensive backfield.
Special teams game with Adoree' Jackson, obviously, is one that you have to be aware of, as well, so all three phases, really, really good football team that we're facing on the road.
Again, another challenge that I know our guys will be up for.
Let's talk about the USC game, and then again, we can transition from there.
Q. Let's start with Torii Hunter and Daniel Cage; is there anything new with those guys?
BRIAN KELLY: I won't know until today. Cage is getting better, but again, I think based on what I had talked about in our media recap on Sunday, I don't expect him to play, but his symptoms have now gone away in the sense that he's passed his cognitive testing. Now it's just simply more of the subjective, how do you feel, and getting back to the point of confidence to go out there and begin to play.
You know, Torii, we'll get him out on the practice field today.
Q. With Daniel, with all the time he's missed with conditioning, is there any real reason to play him Saturday?
BRIAN KELLY: Only if he feels like he wants to play. We would get him some work this week in a limited role, but no, I think he would have to show his want and desire to want to get out there, and then we'd have to get him enough work to feel like he could contribute.
Q. In terms of DeShone, you said he was cleared Saturday night and Sunday; how is he feeling since then?
BRIAN KELLY: He was great in meetings on Sunday. You know, we were in meetings on Monday, as well. I haven't seen any issues with him at all. Normal DeShone Kizer.
Q. I'm curious what your relationship has been like with him this year. Obviously you had to start the year, you made a decision for it to be two quarterbacks, and then he got benched in the one, and I know you're pushing him and so forth. I'm just curious how he reacts to all that stuff.
BRIAN KELLY: I think he's been -- I think he's taken coaching well. I think he's -- obviously the day-to-day with Mike, they spend a lot of time together. I'm more of the bigger picture stuff with him in terms of what I want from a leader and what I need from him from just his presence on our football team, and I think he's taken well to it. I think there's been a transformation in his leadership skills, and just the way he's played. I think he's identifying how to win and what it takes to win and some of the more big picture items that I've wanted him to really focus in on.
I really -- I'm really proud of the way he's kind of taken hold of just understanding that it's more than just distributing the football. You know, you've got to understand what it takes to win, and I think he's done a great job there.
Q. With a guy like Chase Claypool, he's shown you flashes of potential on really still both sides of the ball with his special teams play and with his offensive play. Do you have a sense of where that's headed with him?
BRIAN KELLY: I think we have to define and refine with a number of players. You know, we're still lacking that big play when we need it on both sides of the ball, so I think a lot of it in the off-season will be defining roles and refining some of the more athletic players that we think can help us close out games and be more effective in those pressure situations, and I think he's one of them.
Q. I'm assuming your game plan after USC is to stay out in California and do some recruiting?
BRIAN KELLY: A little bit, not a lot. I'll be back in the office -- I want to do exit interviews with all of our players, offensively and defensively, and I think that's as important as recruiting. What I think is most important is that I get in with all of our mid-year enrollees, so job one will be touching base with all of the mid-year enrollees, and with the current football team and doing exit interviews. Those are the two most important items on my list.
Q. And as you go and do your recruiting between now and signing day, what's the message you want recruits to hear about your vision for the future of the program?
BRIAN KELLY: I think it's still the same. You're here to be challenged both in the classroom and out on the football field. We're here to win championships and we're here to get our degree at Notre Dame. I don't think any of that has changed. We're not here to not win football games and be part of the top echelon of teams. We've had a sub-par season, but that's going to just be a hiccup, and you'll be part of a championship program when you come to Notre Dame.
Q. Are you satisfied with how you guys at the University have handled this NCAA case in contesting --
BRIAN KELLY: I think we were going to talk USC. Anybody else have USC questions? Everybody is done with USC. Seriously? Okay.
Q. Time of possession over the course of a season is kind of irrelevant how a game goes, but in the fourth quarter they were the opponents in defeat and you guys in your close win over Miami and also salting away all the games you have, is that something you study in the off-season? Is it a strength-and-conditioning issue for you? Is it execution where like Michigan State, Navy and Virginia Tech possessed the ball for twice as long as you did, you did the same to teams when you beat them in the fourth quarter. Is it something where you have to look into how that could improve your fourth quarter in future seasons?
BRIAN KELLY: We're 51-16 in the last seven games we've played. We've been outscored 51-16. It's not a strength-and-conditioning issue, you've got to look at everything. You've got to look at structure on defense, you've got to look at structure on offense. You've got to look at your special teams. You've got to look at conditioning. You've got to look at everything. You know, fourth quarter -- we've scored 46 points in the fourth quarter this year. At this time last year we've scored 106. So we're down 60 points in the fourth quarter.
So yeah, all of those things have to be evaluated across the board.
You know, I don't think there's any stone that you leave unturned when those numbers -- when you go to the fourth quarter and not have the success in the fourth quarter. Also, there's experience and not being experienced and not handling the mental end of things, and so there are a number of different factors that are involved in there.
But clearly in answering your question, all of those have to be evaluated.
Q. I'm only talking about the close games.
BRIAN KELLY: I'm talking about all games.
Q. In this particular follow-up, just the close games, you've actually had more yards per play in the fourth quarter than your opponents, but the rushing has been an issue, 2.7 yards per rush in the fourth quarter. Obviously you're much higher throughout the course of the game. Is it just a young offensive line? Is it lack of production in the passing game that affects the rushing game? Is it once again just everything involved?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think I have to look at all of those things to give you the kind of answer that you're looking for. To say that defenses don't begin to pressure you more in the fourth quarter, I think we're all of agreement that that begins to happen. But that doesn't mean you still can't control the clock. I mean, we've run out the clock a couple of times. But again, I think those are all areas that we'll have to do some deep diving on and finding out what those answers are.
Q. Are you satisfied with the way that the communication has been between you and Jack about this and with the contesting of the vacating of the wins?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, absolutely, yeah. No, Jack has been great. The University has been great. I've been in the loop on this the whole way. So internally, our -- I just think that everybody has been rolling in the right direction, from Father Jenkins, Marianne Corr, Jill Bodensteiner, everybody. I couldn't say enough good things about how this has come together.
Q. Do you feel like -- some of the language in here is that the penalty is excessive for vacating the wins. Do you feel that the penalty has already been served?
BRIAN KELLY: It's never happened before, in the history of the NCAA. A penalty has never been issued in this fashion before. I think that qualifies for being -- first of all, it was discretionary. This was a discretionary action by the committee. That's number one.
Number two, it was student on student cheating. There was nobody implicated. The NCAA agreed across the board with that finding. And it was clearly excessive.
So as you know, we're going to appeal this, and one of the options or clear reasons for appeal is that the penalty is excessive in its discretion. And we believe we have obviously grounds there.
Q. Do you know how many wins they have recommended you vacate?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, for every win in '13 -- excuse me, every win in '12 and every win in '13.
Q. As far as the -- you've said that you felt like this was excessive, but in terms of some kind of penalty, did you expect that -- this has been hanging out there for a long time. Did you expect that there was going to be some kind of penalty that Notre Dame would have to serve?
BRIAN KELLY: You know, it had always been discussed. You know, clearly there -- when you hear about vacating wins, you think of lack of institutional control. You hear of clearly abuse within the University relative to extra benefits, things of that nature. And when these don't even come close to that, although you hear those things, you just never think it would happen.
But you know, I was always hopeful that we wouldn't be at this day, but here's what I can tell you: We did the right thing. I'm proud of our support staff, our academic support staff. I'm proud of the people that represented us here at Notre Dame during this time. And if doing the right thing means that you've got to put an asterisk next to these games, that's fine with me. We still beat Oklahoma. We still beat Wake Forest, we still beat all those times, so you can put an asterisk next to it. If that makes you feel better, then that's fine with me.
Q. From a standpoint of Brian Kelly, what culpability do you feel like the head coach had in that whole scenario?
BRIAN KELLY: Zero. None. Absolutely none.
Q. And how about in terms of making sure that it doesn't happen again? I know that you've talked to -- you and Jack have talked about -- I think there's even a panel of some sort with the University where you're kind of addressing -- we had that conversation a couple Junes ago where you said, all our kids are at risk and we need to address these things. Where does that stand now?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think our interaction with our players relative to academic specialists, we've addressed, we've added support staff. We've added the necessary resources for our players to be represented as it relates to the work that they have to do academically. That's my responsibility, that if we bring them here to Notre Dame that they have the resources necessary to succeed.
But let's not kid ourselves; 80 percent of colleges go through cheating. There's cheating that goes on in college. 80 percent of colleges. That doesn't condone it, but we know what the culture is.
It's my job to support the student-athletes that I have here with the resources necessary on a day-to-day basis. We believe that we do that, and we do it in the best interests by providing those resources.
Q. There was a point this year when Jack Swarbrick came out with public support and said, I expect Brian Kelly to be our head coach leading us out of the tunnel in 2017. Do you feel the same kind of support with this? Have you had conversations with him or Father Jenkins where they have said, this doesn't change your status, we still support you, we still believe you should be our coach in 2017?
BRIAN KELLY: This matter is not -- has nothing to do with me and my status here. This academic piece probably strengthens what I've been doing relative to advocating for our student-athletes and the support staff necessary for them to be successful.
Yeah, so this obviously has been something that's been going on for a few years. The announcement that comes out today has nothing to do with lack or additional support for Brian Kelly. Any negative criticism that's out there about me right now is because we're 4-7. It has nothing to do with the public announcement that came out here today.
Q. Do you think you'll be the head coach of Notre Dame next season?
BRIAN KELLY: I have no reason to believe that I'm not. No one -- like I said, I mean, I think you guys are confusing this statement with the win-loss record. A win-loss record is always under scrutiny at Notre Dame, and it should be. That's part of it.
But this matter here has been a long-standing matter that the University has handled, handled in a positive way relative to how we handled it internally. Everybody has felt that -- every support staff member has represented Notre Dame in a positive way.
Today's statement should be a validation that my collateral responsibilities at Notre Dame as the head coach are outstanding. However, he's got to win more football games. And so that hasn't changed. We're still 4-7. So if you want me to answer you the question on 4-7, I think every football coach that's 4-7 has got to win more football games.
Q. I guess the reason I ask that question point blank is because there will be now a perception, grouping the two together from the public, that's going to be calling for your name.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, and I can't -- look, all I can say is just read the statement. If you want to take time to read the statement, then perception will rule the world, and I can't worry about that.
Q. You touched on this a little in the sense that we knew this was on going for the last two years behind the scenes. Did you think this was going to be -- in terms of vacating wins, this was actually going to happen?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, when I went to Indianapolis to represent Notre Dame along with Father Jenkins and Marianne Corr and Jack Swarbrick, I knew it was a possibility.
Q. When was that meeting?
BRIAN KELLY: It was a few months ago. But you know, again, when you hear that this is based upon language and legislation that has since been changed, and if it was just a year or two ago, this would not even be a violation, it makes you wonder why this is even where it is today.
I knew it was a possibility, but you're hoping that reasonable people would come to a reasonable decision, and obviously that didn't get to the point that we're at today.
Q. I know there's no real consistency with case to case, but the timing, did you expect it to come around now or did it come out of thin air?
BRIAN KELLY: No, I think there's a timeline to everything relative to the infractions committee. I don't know, I'm not privy to exactly what that is, but there was a timeline, yeah.
Q. What would the appeals process, at least from your end, consist of?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, there is an appeals committee. It's not the appeals committee, the infractions committee, it goes to another committee, and I believe that's another step in another process that we're ready to undertake immediately, and I think that's another six to eight weeks.
Q. What exactly falls under the category of the one-year probation? I'm not sure that that's all spelled out. I haven't seen it.
BRIAN KELLY: I am not exactly sure as to what the one-year probation means. I would assume that any violations that rise above secondary violations, that that's what it probably pertains to.
Q. Bowl game?
BRIAN KELLY: No, there are no implications as it relates to bowl games or scholarship reductions or anything of that nature. Yeah. I think probation means if there are any additional violations during that probational period that rise above secondary violations, then you could find yourself into another category. That's what I'm assuming. But again, I don't know for certain.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports