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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 3, 2017
South Bend, Indiana
BRIAN KELLY: We're super excited. I'm proud of our football team, to go from where we were, unranked. We didn't have bowl prep. We didn't get, really, the way our schedule was set up this year, from spring break to our class schedule in July, they didn't get a chance to go home. It was a long year for our guys. They persevered. We had a long schedule, a tough schedule. Finished our last six games with four nationally ranked teams. Then Wake Forest is a pretty darn good football team, and Navy.
So, you know, just really proud of our football team to be rewarded to play in the Citrus Bowl. One of the older, most prestigious games on New Year's Day, on national television.
We're really super excited. Then to play LSU. Another nationally ranked team, that will give us our seventh nationally ranked team to play on this schedule.
You don't need much motivation from your football team. Our guys are pretty motivated. They know what's in front of them in terms of playing LSU. So, again, really proud of our staff, our players, and to be put in this position on New Year's Day, really excited for the accomplishment of our football team.
Questions that pertain to that?
Q. I'm not going to ask you to go through the whole schedule, but what -- when will you plan to get down to Orlando, and how many practices do you think you'll be able to get in total before the bowl?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, Chad Klunder and Jason, our assistant ops, will get down there Tuesday and do the site visit. We'll kind of decide logistically on the high school and where we'll practice. We already have the hotel set in terms of the where we'll be, which is the same hotel we were for the old Camping World, which was the Russell Athletic back in 2011. So there are some familiar logistics for us, so that will get accomplished.
We'll get 15 total. The first practice will be Saturday after the Echos. We'll go Saturday and Sunday. Then we'll navigate through finals, and begin with our scouting report the following week, probably get about two weeks of LSU. So try to duplicate a week of LSU up here before we break and send our players home on the 22nd. We'll send them home on the 22nd, so they'll fly out of here on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th, and then they'll have to report to the bowl site on the 26th.
So from our perspective, it's great that we can get some work in here. Then get a break for our players during Christmas so they can spend Christmas home with the family and then meet back up with the bowl site. So it really -- playing on New Year's Day really is good for our football team.
Q. When Jaylon Smith had his injury in the Fiesta Bowl a couple years ago, there was a thought that people would start to skip bowl games because of their NFL future. Do you have anybody that would fall into that category this bowl site?
BRIAN KELLY: Nobody has approached me about it. I've met with all of my captains today, and none of them gave me any indication that that would be the case. But, again, we're -- we'll deal with any individual situations if they arise, but nobody has approached me about it.
Again, I met with the captains today and asked if that was the case, and that wasn't the case today. But we'll proceed as if everybody's going to play. If there are any individual cases that need to be dealt with, we'll support our players 100%.
Q. What do you feel like you can accomplish with Brandon in terms of getting him in a good place for this bowl game against a really good pass defense?
BRIAN KELLY: Very good pass defense. You're going to get man. Dave Aranda is a very good defensive coordinator. And it's timing. It's really about getting into a consistency of rhythm and throwing the ball on time. And we're going to have to go to work on that over the next couple weeks and get into some form of consistency in the passing game that allows us a little bit more success in throwing the football. I know Brandon will do whatever's necessary to get to that end.
Q. When you look at standalone bowl games, like non-playoff games, do you sort of view this as a cap on this season or a building block for next season or a little bit of both?
BRIAN KELLY: I think it's more about this season, really, I think, when you really get down to it. You get a few days where you get some of the younger players a glimpse towards next year. But I think it's a cap on this season. You know, it's a quest to be special in a sense of getting to ten wins, and that's really going to be on the backs of the guys that got you to where you are.
So if you were to break it up in terms of how the pie would look, I still think this is about getting your team ready and prepared for a 13th game. Along the way, if you can accomplish a couple other things and get a glimpse of some other players that haven't gotten a lot of work, you'll certainly do that. But you don't have a ton of time to do that either.
Q. When you look at this LSU team, how much work have you guys had a chance to kind of get to look at it?
BRIAN KELLY: I really haven't had much, but I know LSU. I know the type of athlete that they have on their football team. Derrius Guice is another version of Leonard Fournette in the sense that power, speed. Obviously, he's big, but he has the power, speed. Their front seven is going to look like a Georgia SEC team. This is going to be an SEC-Georgia type football team.
I think their scheme is a little bit different than when we played them in '14 in terms of what they do offensively. I think Matt Canada has opened up their offense a little bit. So I think you'll see that as maybe a little different from what we saw in '14. But I think you're going to see the kind of athletes we expect to see that we saw in '14.
Q. When you look at your schedule for the season and you have Georgia, an SEC team, Michigan State, Stanford, teams like that, do you feel like your team has gone through enough experiences where they can be prepared for the physicality that LSU will bring?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, yeah, physicality won't be an issue for us. We have to take care of the football. The games that we struggled, we didn't take care of the football. We were ahead in the fourth quarter in the two losses against Georgia and Stanford. So not really concerned about that. It's about being clean, efficient, and taking care of the football. Physicality is the least of my concerns when it comes to our football team.
Q. When you look at these bowl (indiscernible), you're not going to spend 15 practices going through preparation for what LSU is going to throw at you offensively and defensively. Is this an opportunity -- it seemed like late in the year at some spots you were kind of getting away from the fundamentals that put you in the position to be 8-1 and talking about the playoffs. Do you sort of do a get-back-to-basics thing? What do those early practices really focus on?
BRIAN KELLY: Um, I think you look at, first of all, there's a layoff, and you're also trying to balance that layoff with players that are -- their focus is their final exams. So they're distracted in a sense. So you don't want to lay much on them. But you want to get them in football-related movements.
So you're right in the sense that you do want to focus on skill development, but you're not really saying, all right, let's get and run schemes here that we were more successful early in the year than later in the year.
I think you're just trying to get the rust off your team that's going to have a two-week layoff. So skill development will be important early on. Tackling will be important, so working tackling drills. So it will be more fundamental work, but I don't think it will have an eye towards what did you do well versus what did you do not so well later.
Q. I've been wondering this for a while, when you look at preparation for a team, and I thought this might be a good time to ask it since you don't have a game coming up in a few days. When you talk about preparation for a team, obviously the coaches are focusing on that upcoming game, and then the players start Monday, Tuesday getting ready for that week. What is your advanced scouting situation like? What's sort of the framework for what that looks like? Because obviously you'll have a lot of that going on here in the next couple weeks. But what's that look like for you guys who is in charge of that? Do coaches still do this? I know it's changed a lot since you first got here.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, Bill Rees is our advanced scout. He does an evaluation of the entire team that we play, and we have a rating scale of every player. Bill will meet with me, the coordinators, and then we'll have a meeting together with the coordinators to go over every player that we're going against, you know, first line, second line, offense, defense, and special teams.
So we'll have a full, detailed advanced scouting report on opposition, and that will be the front page of our scouting report.
Then the inlay will be the analytics, the schemes from our graduate assistants that are doing the due diligence relative to film breakdown.
So it's a collaborative work that's done, first with advanced scouting on personnel, and then film breakdown of tendencies and schemes, and that gets us our full scouting report.
Q. Does that happen so when you're getting ready to play Navy, for example, your coaches are obviously focused on Navy, is that week your advanced scouting department focusing on that next opponent, or does it happen the weekend after you played them?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, Bill will already have been working on the next week opponent. We shift gears on Thursday. So Thursday we close the book on the end-week opponent, and our GAs are now working and our analysts are working on the next week's opponent.
So we're usually 48 hours before the next opponent. So we're a couple days ahead of it putting that work together.
Q. What were your memories of the last time you guys played LSU and how important that game was spring-boarding you into next year?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, what I recall in the 2014 season, we started out undefeated. Then we had a rash of injuries. Finished poorly in a sense that we lost some close games at home. Lost a game to Northwestern and Louisville where we had the game won.
So we really had to bring our guys back from a confidence standpoint. I remember vividly talking to them about that they were a better football team than how we finished, and to bring that confidence to the LSU game, I thought they played with a lot of confidence in that game. Subsequently we made some changes, as you know, at the quarterback position, starting Malik Zaire, and focused on playing with confidence and physicality. By doing so, we were able to get the game into the fourth quarter and we had the game-winning field goal.
So confidence, physicality, a lot of the things that we've kind of relied on this year were kind of the salient points in that game in '14.
Q. Did that help a lot going into the next season?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, that victory helped with confidence going into '15, no question. The team changed a little bit, as you know, because we changed who the quarterback was because Malik got injured. But I think that confidence level certainly was definitely momentum going into '15.
Q. So do you think that could also be in play this time around? Obviously, you don't have the injuries, but you didn't win the games you wanted to down the stretch there.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. This season is a different season than that one. That one was clearly different in the sense that we lost some games that were difficult ones. The dynamics were different. That team was different. This team has changed so much from last year to this year that it will make it a special season to win ten games. But it's a really good change from where we were that we'll be able to build off of this season no matter what happens.
Q. Finally for me, just you said at the beginning that you're proud of your team to get to this point to be 9-3. Obviously big picture it makes a lot of sense just on where you were. But where you were from a month ago, however, has this been a really disappointing path to get to this point, the last month? Do you have to overcome that at all with the way you guys played down the stretch?
BRIAN KELLY: No, because I think, if you really look at it, we were up 41-16 to Wake Forest, playing really well. Navy is a tough opponent no matter which way you look at it. We had to go all the way across the country to play a really good Stanford team. Had it in the fourth quarter. Turned the ball over.
So if you really look at it, this football team played really hard. We probably got a little tired at the end with the six weeks in a row of really tough, quality competition. It was a long year for our football team, starting back in January.
So I feel really good about what they accomplished. I don't think it was anything disappointing, other than the fact that everybody has higher goals. Wish we didn't turn the football over late and made a couple plays on defense. Other than that, I don't think there is any narrative that would let me use the word "disappointing."
Q. The 15 practices, I don't think you've always done that?
BRIAN KELLY: No, we've been closer to 13. Just starting on Saturday, going Saturday and Sunday allows us a couple more. And then we can squeeze a couple in around exams. It's going to give us a chance to get to 15.
Q. In terms of the NFL feedback, underclassmen, have guys expressed a desire to do that?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I've had conversations with guys that would like to be evaluated. I generally keep that information amongst ourselves until after we get that information.
Q. The return evaluation?
BRIAN KELLY: Doesn't usually come back until -- it's late.
Q. You're down there in the bowl game?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, it's generally right around then. After Christmas, I know that. It gets late.
Q. In the past you've told us who requested the information.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I'm not going to provide that information because I'm not sure the players want that information released.
Q. In terms of Matt Canada, when you were looking to redo your stats last off-season, and you're sort of thinking where can I go with this and that, was he a guy that you considered?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I like Matt Canada. I think he was being hotly contested, so wasn't somebody that we felt like at that time was going to be the right fit for us. But I really respected the work he's done, all the way back to Indiana, Wisconsin. He would have been the right fit in terms of what we were looking for offensively, but he was deeply negotiating at LSU and kind of knew that, so that wasn't a path that we were going to go down.
Q. I think you did a lot of heavy lifting last week and this week with recruiting and home visits. I think by the time you get practicing again, that will die down. How has the earlier signing date maybe changed your approach as a head coach between now and late December?
BRIAN KELLY: It's busier now. I think what it will do is it will allow us to focus on 19s more in January than we've had in the past. We expect, if our players are committed, they'll sign in December; if they're not committed, they won't.
So our response has been really good in terms of guys signing in December. So if they're committed, they'll sign in December. Which frees up that time that I'm normally on the road in January chasing these guys down for a February signing to really focus on 19s. Then the remaining spots that we have left.
So it's busier now. But I think it's worth it because it allows us to be ahead of the game as we move through January.
Q. Is your perspective basically if you don't sign in December then --
BRIAN KELLY: You're not committed.
Q. You're not even?
BRIAN KELLY: No, you're not committed. If you don't sign in December, you're not committed, and we'll have to keep recruiting you.
Q. I know you haven't had a chance to look at LSU, but you do know about their quarterback, don't you?
BRIAN KELLY: I do.
Q. What do you recall about Danny Etling? He's probably a much different quarterback today than he was then.
BRIAN KELLY: He is a different quarterback. I only got a chance to see him a little bit on some clips, but I like the way they're moving him around. He doesn't stay in the pocket. He's much more athletic than people have ever kind of credited him for. But I thought he's done a really nice job this year. I'll get a chance to see more of him. I like him coming out. I think he's a really good quarterback.
Q. You mentioned the injuries in 2014, and maybe getting a little worn down here this past November?
BRIAN KELLY: Let me, if I could, clarify that. I don't think we were worn down physically. I think we were worn down emotionally and mentally.
Q. That's what was leading into my next question. Whether you've had or will have a conversation with Matt Balis as it pertains to that, or do you not think that's what it is --
BRIAN KELLY: No, I think we were really good. We'll continue to make strides physically. There were no questions about where we were physically as a football team. We were emotionally and mentally -- we had a long year.
I remember addressing the team before the Monday of the Stanford week with so much on the line and a 10th win and a New Year's six, and it looked like they were in biology class. They were staring at me like, Really? There was no juice, there was no excitement. And they were tired. They were tired mentally.
It's a long year, and I've got to do a better job of pacing that out for them.
Q. That's what I was going to ask you also. What can you do to alleviate some of that mental burden on them?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, obviously those are the things that you get a chance when you're on a flight and you're on the plane, you start thinking about what things you can do better as a head coach.
I think there are some things that I can help them with in terms of our leaders and our captains to take that on themselves. Because it can't come from us. They've got to be able to do it. How we can keep them energized emotionally and mentally during the long stretch of games that we had, those six games.
Q. Does it require lightening the load a little bit?
BRIAN KELLY: I think all of those are definitely things that have been on my mind. Again, playing four quarters against Navy before you go out to the West Coast, those are all taxing mentally as well because it's not -- I thought physically we did fine, it's just that requires an attention to detail for four quarters and you're going to come back the next week, fly across the country, that's a lot.
Sometimes you just say, well, maybe if you scheduled better on the back end, you'd be a little bit fresher. So I can't control that. The games are already scheduled. But I have to look at ways in our program where we can keep our guys fresher.
Q. I know you said right up until the end of the season that Josh Adams was a hundred percent, but how much will he benefit with the time off and extra preparation?
BRIAN KELLY: I think he'll benefit greatly. No question.
Q. Thoughts on the four teams chosen for the playoffs?
BRIAN KELLY: I took myself off the college -- the USA Today for that reason. It's really hard, because I don't watch them. I think the conversation was between Ohio State and Alabama, I believe. I couldn't tell you the difference between the two. I think they're both really, really good football teams. But to ask me who is 4, who is 5? Wisconsin was really good too. I thought USC. Auburn beat, I think, two of the teams in the top four, if I don't recall.
Those are the questions that I couldn't answer because I don't watch them. They seem to be -- I think the best way is maybe we should have, you know, 64 teams or 32. I mean, then there wouldn't be any questions, right, if we had 32.
Q. Do you want to be on that committee when you retire from coaching?
BRIAN KELLY: 32 would be great, because I think we'd be in. Or 16, right? 16 would be the way to go. I'm up for 16, or at least 14. Thanks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports