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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 11, 2018
South Bend, Indiana
BRIAN KELLY: Back at it. Coming off a victory against Ball State. We talked about it. I think we talked about it after the game. We didn't play our best. But what we did well in that game is that we won the game. What we need to do better is certainly I've got to prepare our football team better. What we learned is that we have to be so much more intentional in our process during the week.
We've already addressed that. We've watched the film. We've made our corrections. We've moved on to Vanderbilt.
We have an SEC opponent coming into town, good personnel, physical, good quarterback. Shurmur has done a nice job. Defensive structure is really solid, sound. As you would expect, personnel that can play with SEC opponents.
Certainly a challenge for us here this weekend, and one that I know our players are looking forward to, our coaches are looking forward to, and know we have to play much better football.
So with that, let's get it rolling.
Q. When you have a game that you had of defensive players getting 90 or more snaps in this game, is that a concern within the game itself or is that a concern over the length of the season?
BRIAN KELLY: I think you learn. Obviously 97 plays defended in the game, I think first of all Ball State did a great job controlling it. They had 23 third down opportunities. I think there are some things we can pick from that in a game two, which allows us to really be better at moving forward and learn from.
It's a long season. This is a game in particular, the Ball State game, that gave us some things to consider, work towards being better at.
Q. With both (indiscernible) and Jeff, you've had some pretty good success, fitting them to a position here. With Alex, he's played both. Curious, was it more need that pushed you toward guard ultimately with him later in his career? What kind of tackle would he have made?
BRIAN KELLY: I just think his size. When you're looking at a tackle, sometimes length generally is one of the traits that you're looking for. Certainly he has enough length to play there.
Again, I'd be hesitant to say he couldn't play tackle. I think at the time when you had Mike McGlinchey at one side, we felt we needed to be more physical inside. Alex brought a big 315-pound frame. Once you feel comfortable with the makeup of a player, unless it's need driven, like you have to play him there, you want to build some continuity.
I know he felt more comfortable inside. We just tried to stay with some continuity with him at that position.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I think there's some similarity, some crossover in terms of the defensive structure. Three down, like to play 3-4. Personnel, put them in some four down situations as well. You have to be prepared for that. Multiple coverage looks. They do a really good job defensively. That's what Derek has done all of his career. I don't know Coach Tarver very well, but he's got a great rÃ©sumÃ©, they're off to a great start. We have a lot of respect for what they do. We'll have to be well-prepared.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I don't know that you get the particular tendencies from year to year. They definitely change up. But you do get structure and know what they like versus particular down and distances. You can bet they're going to be in these kind of looks on third down, they're going to have multiplicity, going to bring pressures.
Yeah, we play them once a year, Stanford, so there is some carryover there. There is, as you watch this group play, they've morphed towards what Coach Tarver likes to have done in his experience in the NFL, as well.
Q. You said after the game, then again today, you've identified you need to prepare the team better. What specifically have you identified that you can do?
BRIAN KELLY: Everything, everything, from tying their shoes to the food that we feed them. Got to control the weather better.
Preparation is what I'm responsible for. We're going to do a better job this week.
Q. I think you mentioned two weeks ago that you wanted the team to focus on putting teams away. You didn't say that last week. It was something you weren't able to do. As you look at game flow when you're up double-digits on an opponent, philosophically, would you like to be more aggressive in play calling, build the game, or are you trying to get conservative, kill the clock?
BRIAN KELLY: I think each situation is different, quite honestly. I just want to win games. I've never been about style points, what they look like, as much as trying to find a way to win a game.
I think my entire career has been about if we need to run the football here, even though more points would be better, I don't want to put us in a position where we could jeopardize winning the football game. It's always been about time and place in the game, how you can win the game more so than what it looks like.
Q. A bit of a transition here for you guys at wide receiver. Two games, how would you evaluate Claypool's play?
BRIAN KELLY: I think probably what you would expect in week two. We're not a finished product yet. We still need to be more consistent as a group. Within our entire passing game, I think it's ahead of where it was last year, certainly, and it needed to be. But there's plenty of room for improvement in all areas.
So week two, we've made some progress, but we're going to need to continue to get better if we want to get to where we want to be.
Q. What one or two things do you sense they're ahead of where they were last year? What have they done well to this point?
BRIAN KELLY: We've made some contested catches, won some 50/50 battles, been physical as blockers. There's still that process of growing as a tandem with the quarterback that has to continue to see itself through. I'd like to say that all the receivers are on the same page, but we're still evolving there.
After week two, I'd say we made progress, but I still think maybe in some instances we're a step behind on a route, still feeling our way through it. Our tight ends are much more in sync with the passing game, our quarterbacks. Pretty much where I thought it would be in week two, and needs to continue to get better.
Q. Do you know any more about Kmet Sunday?
BRIAN KELLY: It's more of a high-ankle sprain. He's going to be limited. It's going to take some time. I would think he's doubtful for this week.
Q. You and the offensive linemen immediately when you sit down and watch the film, how much do you discover? Are you oftentimes shocked? There has to be a lot of plays where you can't even really see from your vantage point.
BRIAN KELLY: Absolutely. I think the phrase always been, you're in a business in this sense as a former coach, it's never quite as good as you think, it's never quite as bad.
What you really learn is it's never about one player, it's generally, it was a miss-fit, we didn't get to the second level. The five technique had always spiked inside. This time he spiked outside. It's always a combination of things.
I think the bottom line relative to some of the things that went up front was that just a little bit too much indecision, a little bit too much thinking. We need to get off the ball, hit some people in the nose, and let's get rolling. I think there was just a little bit too much -- back-to-back weeks, a lot of stuff going on, a little bit too much indecision. This week we're getting off the ball, be much more physical.
Q. You're not specifically play calling any more. I would imagine you're in communication with people up top all the time to find out what happened there.
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. Do you find yourself looking at the video board to see what happened at times?
BRIAN KELLY: No, not really. It's happening, I'm trying to stay ahead of it. I'm thinking about fourth down situations, I'm thinking about play calls, running and pass, management of the game. It's hard to take a look at it.
I'm 0-2 in challenging plays. I need to do a better job there, watching the board. So I'm not really looking at the board relative to plays. I'm trying to think of some other things that are going on.
Q. You said with Brandon, you want to let him do what he does best, run. This past week, didn't seem to be a lot of design run plays for him. Was that because of what they were showing you on defense or did you go in with a plan to let him run more?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, a lot of our run plays are designed within a play itself. A pass play could turn into a design run based upon what he reads. I think what we have to do is continue to make sure that we pay attention to detail within our structure and offense. I think Brandon learned a lot from that game.
What I mean by that is that he's given a lot of run-pass options. I wouldn't buy much into the notion that he's going to stop running, and we're just going to be throwing the football. What we really need to do is continue to work towards what his strengths are.
Q. Today is the anniversary of September 11th. Would you mind sharing where you were?
BRIAN KELLY: It was really one of the first things I thought of today, certainly such an important day in so many lives that were lost. I was preparing for practice. I was the head coach at Grand Valley State. We were in our end zone. We had a suite of offices in the end zone. I was drawing up the cards as the head coach. Had three full-time assistant coaches. I drew all the scout cards as well as the head coach, the offensive coordinator for the scout team.
We had this old box TV that was on as just backdrop. One of the guys ran up from downstairs and said there was a fire in one of the towers. We turned it on. We were playing our rival that week, Ferris State, ended up canceling the game. Really the first thing I thought about this morning.
Q. (Question about run defense, quarterback scramble, what are the biggest keys for keeping that in a good way.)
BRIAN KELLY: I think second level support has been much better. It starts with better tackling at the second level. Drue and Te'von are really good linebackers, as well. A very conscientious group up front. I don't think you just say the safeties are tackling better. You look at all three levels. All of them have to be part of that. Conscientious group up front where they're not out of their gaps, two really good linebackers, in particular Te'von who is really instinctive, they're getting the ball on the ground.
Q. The mental edge this week. Based on how last Saturday went, is it an easy correction, a step down from Michigan to Ball State?
BRIAN KELLY: They know the standard of play wasn't what it needs to be last week. I think everybody, including myself, wants it corrected. I think it's what I said at the outset, that there's a lot more intention about how we prepare. We expect to see that come to fruition.
Q. Is there a specific you can give on what would be more intentional this week, a drill, a meeting?
BRIAN KELLY: I just think it starts with respecting your opponent, and it carries itself into the way you practice. You have to have that buildup throughout the entire week. I think our players really understand that the whole week cumulatively gets you ready for Saturday, not 24 hours prior to the game.
So we all learned. We have to coach better, prepare them better, I have to prepare them better, making sure that today is a great day, a physical day, then we build on it each and every day.
Q. Your offensive line, something to be said, you have three guys at new positions, new coach, there will be some learning as the season goes on, maybe it's not happening as fast as you would like it to. Is that a natural state of where that line is with a new coach, a new starter?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, there's work to be done. There's no doubt about that. But I've been in it long enough to know where the red panic button is. It's not even near my desk. But there's work to be done.
We have to build continuity, communication, a standard of how we practice, a standard of how we communicate on a day-to-day basis.
There's some work to be done, but I'm confident the unit is going to be really strong.
Q. You've gone through the fall pre-season, first two games. You have a pretty good idea where people are fitting on your team. Where is the opportunity for a young man to step up during practice to make an impression where he maybe moves up the depth chart?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, they're on high kind of alert this week in particular, if they're not with us in the two deep, they're on the demonstration squad, the scout team. They have to play at a high level. They know that. All eyes are on them.
These are weeks where they can really impress us and give us an opportunity to evaluate them. So Mike Elston can come in and say, So-and-So on the offensive line was really impressive today. He went toe-to-toe with Jerry Tillery. That's pretty good. Or wide receiver went up over Julian Love twice and took the ball away. You have a great opportunity to do that.
We met with our guys that are down there to let them know that same kind of questions you asked. You still have an opportunity, if you want to play this year, to make an impact. That's how we communicated it to them.
Q. Has there been anyone on the Vanderbilt offense that jumped off the screen?
BRIAN KELLY: I like the backs. Shurmur has been really efficient, throws the ball well. A couple things, first of all, the cohesiveness of the offensive line, a group that's played together. I don't think you can ever feel like a good offensive line that plays together is not a strength of your team. I think that stands out to me.
The other notes that I took down with Kyle, plays a lot of snaps in the SEC. He's a guy that's going to come in here with a lot of confidence. This entire team will. They played in a lot of tough locations. But the three backs, I think Ke'shawn Vaughn, the transfer, he does a lot of really good things. Can catch the ball coming out of the backfield, really an outstanding back. Blasingame and Wakefield, they can go pretty deep. The tight end I think is a pro prospect. Pinkney is a guy that Shurmur looks for, and Lipscomb, the wide receiver, those are two guys in particular. Lipscomb is shifty, maybe he's not a burner, but he routes and runs extremely well. He goes and gets the football.
Q. With the way Saturday felt, do you feel like there could be some sense of urgency in practice this week to make up for last week?
BRIAN KELLY: Like I said, what we did well is we won the game. What we need to do better is prepare better. Our preparation has to be better. I've got to prepare them better. We've got to coach better.
Our guys know that what we've learned from last week is that we got to be locked in on our process. If we're not locked in our process, this is a difficult game. You can get beat any week. This is a good opponent coming in to Notre Dame stadium. We'll have to play well.
Q. You had a number of freshmen that have played as kick returners in high school. What was (indiscernible) to do to show himself as the guy that can handle the pressure as a freshman?
BRIAN KELLY: Pretty good vision. Didn't have a rÃ©sumÃ© really, quite honestly. We were just trying to look for guys that we felt like had shown some things in camp in the first week or so that had pretty good vision, could hit some things. Again, he's still learning. He missed a cut that he saw on film this week. I still think we're evolving at that position, as well.
We think he's talented, a guy that we can count on bing a good kick returner for us moving forward.
Q. You mentioned about many times there's several components that have to come together. How would you prioritize them in terms of blitz pickup right now?
BRIAN KELLY: Oh, that's just awareness more than anything, being aware. So a couple of those things. We picked up incredibly all kinds of (indiscernible) the week before. We're not lacking from awareness. We needed to be much more aware on Saturday. That focus, that preparation got to be better. We got to coach them better.
It's there. We just got to get them locked in. We're confident that our guys can do it.
Q. You talked about the offensive line thinking too much. How do you take them from the level of we're standing around thinking to hitting?
BRIAN KELLY: I know you're not going to want to hear this, but if you prepare the right way, then you shouldn't be thinking on Saturdays, you should be reacting. If our preparation and coaching is such that in practice they see it, they've reacted to it, then on Saturday it should be second nature.
You can't be standing around on game day waiting for things to happen. You have to flip the switch into competitive mode and play, trust your teaching, trust what happened in practice, then react.
That's why the preparation was not what it needed to be, because our guys were standing around. I take full responsibility for that. We've got to get better.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports