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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 21, 2018
South Bend, Indiana
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Well, we got what I was hoping out of the spring game, was competition. We needed to work on some things internally about how our players handle the emotions during the game.
Some of our guys are really calm, cool and collected, but they needed to kind of get in an optimal zone relative to how they compete, and I thought they did a nice job today of amping up. You know, when you're in spring ball and you're just practicing against each other, the intensity, the adrenaline is not there like a game.
So we challenged our guys to get into a level, a comfort level where there was great intensity but you know, certainly it's not Michigan. I really was pleased internally with some of the things that a couple of our players did today, and it showed, the way they performed. They performed pretty well.
You know, as a head coach, you're never happy, you're never sad. You know, you've got to look at both sides of the ball.
I thought we did some good things offensively. Some things that we need to improve in and same thing on defense. Special teams, we've been outside twice all spring, so we don't have the ability, really, to do much kicking indoors, so I'm not that concerned with our special teams game. I think all those kids are going to be really good for us in the ball.
I think at the end of the day when I walk away from this, our guys competed, we got a lot of young players an opportunity to go in there, and we worked on some of the things that I think I had mentioned in a couple of other press conferences. We needed to throw the football more effectively. We needed some receivers to step up and make plays, and I thought we saw that today.
We're going to have to find out what our rotation is on the offensive line. We had some false start penalties in there, but they will clean themselves up with maturity.
Defensively, I thought we were aggressive. We played the ball in the air. We were attacking the football.
So for me, again, I'll get a better sense when I watch the film, but a lot of things happened out there. It was an exciting, competitive spring game with a lot going on. We ran a ton of plays at our defense. They got tired, which they would, well over 100-something plays, right, Mike? Yeah, so 85 in the first half, that's a lot of football.
Even when you're making some substitutions, because you know, you're really pressing the action. So, good day and pleased with the game and we got out of it injury-free. Daelin got a little bit of a stinger when he ran into Alize, but he was doing the right thing. We ask our guys not to cut tackle in this game. They did a nice job. They didn't put any of our players in compromising positions, so he kind of backed off the tackle and got hit awkwardly.
But other than that, with a slight stinger, really pleased that we went through the entire spring and came out clean.
Q. Quarterbacks where are you with that and where do you want to go with it this summer?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: What do you mean, in terms their development? You want me to name somebody; that what you guys are doing?
Q. Yes. Or not.
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Or not. I think it's pretty clear that Brandon went out and got a chance to go with the first group and Ian played with the second group.
You know, that's not etched in stone but that's the way they have been trending. I don't think there was anything today that changed that, but we know Ian Book can win for us. So it's 1A and 1B.
Q. What did Brandon show you this spring that was different than what you saw from him in November, December, and what's his next step?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Consistency in his member in this cases was probably the biggest thing. You know, his drop put him in a lot of compromising situations in terms of throwing the football. And so I think that was cleaned up. Started with his attention to those things, and being very coachable.
And then repetition, doing it consistently, playing in and play out. We're not there yet, but we made a huge jump forward. Last spring I told them I went home, I didn't feel so good about the way you played. I think I'm going to go home feeling a whole lot better today.
Q. The next step for him?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Well, consistency in all his mechanics. This is something new for him in a sense that he's developed a platform to throw the football a lot more consistently, so this is just about repeating that process.
Q. Adetokunbo Ogundeji, I think I'm saying that right, couple sacks today. What do you think his role is going forward? Seems like he's trending in the right direction?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: He'll be part of our rotation. We'll need him. He's long. He's very strong. I mean, if you look at his numbers in the weight room, you would say, well, that should translate. He's been one step behind everybody, just picking up the nuances of the game and I think it's coming to him.
But he's got the physical traits. He's got the mental traits, too. He's a really, really tough kid, but just picking up the game, being more comfortable, and confident and as that kind of continues to unfold, I think you're going to see him playing some significant football for us.
Q. Miles had a breakout game in your Bowl game and had a couple nice plays today, too. Is this indicative of what you've seen from him in the spring?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: He's been our top receiver. He's been a big play receiver for us, as well. Something that we struggled with last year. We weren't an explosive passing game last year. Miles changes that complexion. He's very difficult to defend and if you do, you have to roll a coverage up on him.
You're going to take a safety and borrow a safety. We think that's going to give us the kind of running game that will be extremely effective, as well. He's a big piece of this moving forward.
Q. And on the other side, Claypool with a lot of catches from a volume standpoint. You're not going to catch seven, eight balls every game, but is that something he's capable of most nights?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, a lot of that is getting his intensity level and in the right place and his emotions. He wasn't one of our cool, calm and collected guys last year but he's really worked hard on that and the way he's practiced has allowed him to be much more focused. He'd have the occasional drop last year, here or there, maybe in a missed assignment, but since he's found that optimal zone for him to be when he plays, he's been so much more consistent.
If he continues to trend this way, you know, you've got a another big, rangy, physical wide receiver that we can put on the field.
Q. A lot of time between now and the Michigan game, but where would you like to see your team take that next step?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Well, you know, again, I think there's so much more things that we need to do in terms of our preparation.
First thing they need to do is finish strong academically. You know, their focus will be on some optional lifts over the next week or two, exams, and then they will get some time off, an active rest period for them.
Then when we get back here in June, really, we need to continue to develop physically. So there will be some hard months here in June and July for us. Then when we get into camp, you know, developing the consistency on both sides of the ball. There's some new faces out there that have to be counted on.
There's a lot of work, you're right, leading up to the Michigan game. But we know what's in front of us. We know that we're not a finished product at this point. But their work ethic has been great. Their attitude's been great. It's a close team. They really care for each other, so there's a lot of really good things moving forward.
Q. In terms of some of those new faces, Armstrong, Davis, curious what kind of spring they had and also, when you have some different styles of running backs, how that can maybe open up parts of the offense that weren't really that open last year.
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think they are definitely pieces to this offensive system that we missed at times last year. I think it gives us, as you saw, the ability to go with some split backs, which gives us a lot of options.
Armstrong was a little bit hobbled with a high ankle sprain, but we saw a physicality in his ability to run. He's strong. He's really got some pretty good instincts and can catch the football.
And then Avery is kind of a multi-dimensional guy. He can do a little bit of everything for us. Those two give us more versatility than just having the two backs and the freshmen at that position.
So what we saw from them in the spring kind of showed itself today. Both of them are going to be productive.
Q. Naming Alex Bars captain earlier today, what have you seen from him and his growth throughout his career but also throughout the spring that put him ahead of some of the other guys that were in line for that?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think Alex has been a three-year starter, a guy that has been in it and understands the standards that we have here, and so he models those standards. Players see that. They react to it positively. You can't kid those guys. You can't convince them to vote.
This was strictly voting on the players. I had nothing to do with Alex Bars being named the captain other than just going through the process here at Notre Dame through a confirmation process.
But the players wanted him as their next captain. He earned it. We gave everybody the opportunity on our football team to be the fourth captain, and his peers voted for him.
Q. What have you seen from your defense this spring that gives you encouragement going into the fall?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Confidence.
Q. The little things?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, they are a very confident group. I think depth at the safety and cornerback position. I like our rotations on the defensive line. If there's one concern, it's finding the depth at the linebacker position. That would be probably my only concern.
But it's a confident group. They run to the football. They are going to be attacking the football in the back end of the defense, which was at times frustrating. I think we've kind of come a long way from that perspective.
Q. And also up front, with the move to Tillery from nose to the three-technique.
COACH BRIAN KELLY: So the three really just gives him the ability to be penetrator. The one, you obviously have to anchor a lot more. We want to use his quickness, his ability, his length to create a new line of scrimmage. He'll be difficult to block at the three.
Jonathan Bonner will be back with us and we'll move him to the shade. Kurt Hinish, Micah Dew-Treadway; so we think we've got three guys there, even moving Jerry to the three, we've still got great depth at that position.
Q. What did you think of Alohi today? Obviously had not played in more than a year.
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, high contact. So if you look at every time he's near the football, there's high contact with him and so that's what we were looking at that position: High contact, plays the ball well in the air, a very smart football player.
He's what we thought he would be. He started a little slow in the spring. I think he's really picked it up to the point where he's making things happen back at that safety position.
Q. And then also, what just in general did Brandon do best today?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: I think he repeated his motion, was the best thing that he did today. So repetition of what his mechanics need to be, what his platform needs to be. Threw a couple off his back foot. Maybe a questionable decision here or there. Those are less of a concern for me because he's so, you know, conscientious about those things.
I was much much more interested in how he was going to handle pregame, how he's been handling the game situations and getting his intensity up a little bit. You know, as you all know, to interview him, he's about as cool and calm as anybody. He needs that heartbeat to race a little bit more, and today, he got it up a little bit. I thought it helped him in the way he plays. So his intensity management was really good today and that was big for me.
Q. Maybe off of that, how did he respond after he threw an interception? Obviously spring game, but how did he respond? How did you think he responded?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: No, I thought he responded like he should, right. He knew what he needed to do in that situation; he didn't do it. Self-corrected and then came back out and led our football team, which he's going to have to continue to do.
Q. Getting back to Bonner, what is his timetable to getting back to 100 percent? What can he do strength and conditioning-wise right now?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: He's been doing everything but at lighter weight, and now he's only a couple of weeks away from being full go. So he was already physically really gifted, so we don't think that that's going to be a big curve for him, and he'll be able to start training aggressively when we get back here in June.
Q. Getting back to the running back situation, what did you want to see from Dexter Williams this spring, and how far did he come in meeting your expectations?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: You know, I think for Dexter, it was really more about can he pick up the nuances of our offense relative to pass protection. That was a big thing for us.
I think he's improved in that area. And then how long can you stay on the field. You know, he seemed to be a guy that we couldn't keep on the field very long. He had a really good spring. He wasn't a guy that we had to pull out or wasn't conditioned well enough.
So I think all of those questions have been answered. Now it's doing it in game situations when he gets that opportunity.
Q. Do you consider him and Tony Jones 1 and 1A, or is Tony Jones your starter?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: You guys are interesting about all these questions.
I mean, he's going to play. You know how we roll here. We're going to go with the guy that's playing really well.
Q. So then 1 and 1A?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Thank you. 1 and 1A. (Laughter) I like when I help you answer your own questions.
Q. Jahmir Smith, you didn't talk about him but he seemed to be a young guy that picked things up pretty quickly for you.
COACH BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, he's been like that all spring, very comfortable. Came in as a mid-year enrollee. He's done a great job in the classroom. Just a joy to coach and has picked up things really quickly. We.
Q. We saw today throws over the middle, crossers, was that an emphasis for you to get the quarterbacks more comfortable attacking the middle of the field with the pass game?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: I think it was the entire passing game. We didn't throw many end cuts. We didn't have many crossers with digs over the top. We didn't have the post combinations. We just didn't feel like we were high percentage there.
So everything that's ever been in my passing game, we've, you know, we've really kind of opened up to our quarterbacks and said that we have to be efficient in these areas.
So you know, what you saw today may not truly reflect what you'll see in the fall, but we needed to know that we're capable of throwing it 50 times, if that was what was needed. So we opened up the playbook this spring to get to that.
Q. It seem like Brandon was doing more moving in the pocket while maintaining sort of a progression read, as opposed to just taking off. Was that also something that was a little bit of a point of emphasis, or is that just his maturity as a player?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: It's both. Comfort in the pocket, and I wasn't going to let him run. I told him that. I'm standing back out here in the field with the whistle because I'm going to blow it once you take off. So if you want the play to end with a sack, that's what you'll do. If not, hang in there and keep your eyes downfield and let's try to make some plays.
Now doing that maybe forced him to put a couple balls into coverage that he shouldn't, but the emphasis was to have him in the pocket.
Q. You said you like the depth at corner and safety. Overall, what did you think of the secondary today and big picture, how do you think the DBs looked overall this spring?
COACH BRIAN KELLY: I want to defend Miles Boykin better. He was obviously an issue. Some of the other plays were on scrambles where the ball got over the top of our defenders but I'm like anybody else no college football as a head coach, we don't want to give up any big plays. If we were playing against a Miles Boykin, we would play a little differently and he would get a lot more pep.
But by large what I've seen in the spring is competition at those positions, and that's a good thing. Playing the ball in the air and being much more aggressive in the back end. We're not as passive in terms of coming up and making an attack on a hitch route getting 12 or 13 yards.
Our guys are a lot more aggressive and with good technique but again today the ball got over the top. We'll have to take a look at that. I have to see it a little more clearly on film but we've had a good spring with our guys being much more aggressive.
Q. Just with Avery, do you see him still as a quarterback going forward or is he --
COACH BRIAN KELLY: No, he's gotten a chance to play quarterback. The conversation we had with Avery is what do you want to do? If you want to stay in the position -- right now it looks like it's 1A, 1B at quarterback and you're 3. You can stay in that position or we think you've got some talent to help our offense and he wanted to do this.
He doesn't want to give up his ability to play quarterback down the road, but in the meantime, you know, you need to play this year and so this gives him that opportunity.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports