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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 9, 2010
COACH KELLY: Good afternoon. We are certainly excited to be back out practicing football and getting ready for a very good Utah team. We practiced yesterday, Monday, which is normally a day off for us.
But with the bye week, we gave our guys some time off last week, and had a good practice yesterday. The weather is going to be pretty good this week. So we'll be outside, all week. We are on our practice fields and again, getting the work done necessary that we are going to need against a very good Utah football team.
Coach Winningham has done an incredible job. They are a program that knows success, playing in BCS games and winning a lot of football games. This is a team that is built obviously to run the football. Their quarterback, Wynn, is certainly somebody that can exploit one-on-one matchups if you drop an extra hat down, and you know, they have proven to be obviously a very, very good football team throughout the year.
Defensively, aggressive, like to certainly discourage you from running the football. And some real big playmakers in special teams. So again, for us, last home game for our seniors, an opportunity for us to get a win against a nationally-ranked team and get back to playing winning football.
So with that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Senior day here is a little confusing sometimes because there's guys that are going to be back, there's guys that aren't going to be back. Wonder with David Ruffer, have you had conversations with him about whether he would return next year or would you like him to return?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, those are things that I really haven't touched upon yet relative to those guys that may come back for that fifth year, or are eligible to come back for that fifth year.
I will probably do that here over the next week or so, or can kind of start to filter through some of those guys that may have an interest in coming back, and as you know, some want to graduate and move on. We are just starting to get our hands around it. I think we have 36; 36 seniors, including a number of walk-ons. So we have to sit down and work on that pretty soon.
Ruffer in particular has obviously had an incredible year. Certainly, if things would work out academically for him, you know, that option would be open on our end.
Q. The same goes with Floyd and Rudolph. Have you had any talks with them about whether this is going to be their last time here at the stadium or is that something that you wait till December to get to?
COACH KELLY: I try not to get into those conversations. Generally, my experience has been -- they will come into my office and they will ask a question like, "Coach, what do you think." And of course, we already know what their answer is or they wouldn't have asked me.
So I've tried to wait until the end of the season. They have got a lot of things on their mind relative to, you know, playing and injuries and things of that nature. Again, to answer your question, we'll wait till the end of the year.
Q. Speaking of injuries, can you give us an update, if you want me to name the people, I will.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don't know who --
COACH KELLY: You guys, what is it, I just learned the other day, I guess I should start living in the real world. There's like an Internet site for injuries. So you guys probably get more information on that than I do.
So go ahead. Give me the names and I can give you an update.
Q. Carlo, TJ, Slaughter and Riddick, where do those four stand?
COACH KELLY: All but Riddick would have a chance to play this week. Riddick would not be available this week. He is still in the rehab stages for that ankle.
Q. And does it look like it's going to take him all the way through the end of the season?
COACH KELLY: We just started moving him today. He's out of the boot. He's out of the -- he was in a cast, as you know. Then out of the boot. Started moving around today. I think we'll get a better indication as the week moves, you know, further; soreness, swelling, things after he exerts himself. It's too early to tell as to what that timetable would be. I think we'll have a better idea as we move through the week.
Q. Just curious, Rees and Hendrix, what you've seen the last couple of practices.
COACH KELLY: You can see the athleticism of Hendrix, strength of arm, and then you can see the strengths that Tommy has in picking up a game plan, where it comes natural to him. It's -- you go into a practice and he understands what you're trying to accomplish.
He's got to be able to accomplish those things, but his recognition is really good for a true freshmen, and you can see the athleticism of an Andrew Hendrix, but it's hard to put it all together right now because he has a very, very shallow base of what we want to accomplish.
Q. Last thing from me, I had a chance to talk to Chris Badger this week, as far as the other LDS kids on the team, especially Kona and Justin, have you talked to them about when they are taking the mission, if they are taking their mission?
COACH KELLY: No, I have not. I have not talked to them about it in any length other than with Kona, it was something that we talked about in recruiting. He wasn't certain, given the, I guess, options that he has in his religious faith, he was talking a lot to Manti about those things, as well.
I think they are certainly going to start thinking about things once the season gets over, though.
Q. Going back to December, maybe early January, what did you think you had with Tommy Rees? Did you think that over a few months he would progress to even being a guy you would be comfortable putting into a game?
COACH KELLY: Tommy needed to develop physically. That was the first thing that hit me in terms of just his body type. Could he stand up to taking some hits. Those were the things that I really wasn't certain. I knew this: He had a great understanding of the game. He grew up around the game.
So it was easy for me to understand in very short conversations that he had a great understanding and that if presented with the opportunity, he could probably do some things for us.
Obviously now we have pressed him into position that he has to do a lot for us, but I think those are my first takes on Tommy Rees; physically, needs to develop but had a very good understanding of the offense and what we wanted to try to accomplish.
Q. Assume recruiting at quarterback is different than a defensive end, because you have such a personal involvement with that position and how important it is to your offense. If you have not recruited a guy, does he have a little bit of an uphill battle in terms of proving to you that he can do the things you want him to do?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't think so. I don't think that somebody that I recruit versus somebody that was already in the program has a leg up.
I still think it's about seeing things, without having explaining to you what you're seeing. You have a sense in seeing the game and understanding the game and it comes to you easy. Some are just great athletes that play the position. Others have just an intuitiveness at that position that they can pick things up quickly.
I have had some situations where quarterbacks that I have recruited have not played as well as some that I have inherited, and then obviously the opposite. The one thing that they will get in my recruiting is they are going to be guys that love to play and will welcome being challenged every day to being the best they can be. That's probably where my personality comes into the recruiting more.
Q. Sort of a housekeeping thing, a lot less players available this week, your coordinators are not available to us; any thought process?
COACH KELLY: Daylight Savings Time. They have got to get to bed earlier. We are going to bring them inside here, just because by the time we finished practice, it was starting to get dark. We'll bring them in here. We'll have players available to you.
From a coaching standpoint, I just would prefer to take on more of the responsibilities relative to the questions which you have in the media on offense, defense, special teams. We are not going to quarantine theme or lock them away, but I'm going to pick up some of the slack for them. They really need to focus on what they are doing and that is getting the football team ready.
Q. A couple weeks ago you talked a lot about Dayne running the ball to make this offense go; same deal with Tommy, is that something that he has to do?
COACH KELLY: In certain situations, yeah, he's going to have to be able to pick up some needed first downs, he's going to have to make some reads in the zone game. It's impossible not to have him involved.
Now, we made sure that he can slide, and he's a really good slider. He'll have to be able to run the football if the certain situations call for it.
Q. How do you handle him differently than Dayne as far as on the sidelines, maybe a pat on the back a little more often?
COACH KELLY: If he needs it. I think each situation is different. You know, reactions that I have are based upon the week of preparation more so than the actual event that happens.
So it's still about those relationships that you build during the week and things that you're talking about and making sure that those things are taken care of during the game.
So if you're asking, would I have any problem getting after Tommy Rees, I would have no problem if the situation warranted it.
Q. And Anthony McDonald, was he ready to go two weeks ago and is he ready to go now?
COACH KELLY: I think so. I think he's closer. We have to get him out on the field, yes.
Q. The matchup that Utah had last week and kind of the humbling experience that they had, what has been your experience in the past of facing a team that had such a letdown the week before? Do you find a team comes in demoralized or even more fired up the next week?
COACH KELLY: You know, certainly this is a team that's won a lot of football games. And they can -- obviously Coach knows that his football team probably didn't play its best, but maybe TCU had a little to do with it. They are playing for a lot. You know, they are a team that's got a lot of confidence because they have won a lot of football games.
So generally my experience has been a team that has a lot of confidence coming in, is not all of the sudden going to lose all of their confidence. They are going to chalk it up to, hey, we had a bad day, let's put that behind us, maybe we don't even look at the film; let's get going on Notre Dame.
Q. Yesterday's practice, was that at Lebar (ph)?
COACH KELLY: Yes, it was.
Q. You had success at Cincinnati in the underdog role, whether it was real or perceived underdog role. Is that something where you try and -- do you ever bring it up to the team when it's a decided underdog role, or is it something you don't view yourself as such and you can let the outside sources look at you as an underdog?
COACH KELLY: I think each week, you craft messages to your team. I think the one that we are crafting this week is that we are back playing the game of football. We want to obviously play at a higher level and we are playing a very good nationally-ranked team; what a great opportunity for seniors and everybody in our program to get back on the winning ways by beating a great football team.
And however they take that, you know, some may take it as such, but I really haven't been big on trying to draw those David versus Goliath kind of matchups, and I certainly don't see that in this game. I see a very good football team in Utah, and one that needs to play up to those standards. That's what we are hoping for Saturday.
Q. And Eric touched on it briefly, with Senior Day at Notre Dame, the last two years, the team has lost on Senior Days, that would be relevant to some of the guys here; and when the program was at its peak under Holtz, they still lost some Senior Day games. Do you have any outside advice to combat Senior Day?
COACH KELLY: You know, again, I think it's more about the memories of winning and just trying to get a win.
I try not to overplay that. We have got people that are handling the operations for Senior Day and recognizing our players for their commitment. And our seniors, I will say this publicly: They have had to build this foundation. And they have been forced to dig a hole, and digging that hole is that foundation that we are talking to. They have had to put a lot on their shoulders, and for that, they will always be welcome here at Notre Dame.
It's certainly not the kind of season that anybody wanted, but for my seniors in this first year at Notre Dame, they have done so much for the program, so there's going to be that emotional feeling when we play the game that we want to win, especially for our seniors.
Q. Special teams, Utah is terrific in punt returns. Obviously Notre Dame had a problem with that last game against Tulsa. What changes if any have you made in your special teams to prepare for what Utah does?
COACH KELLY: Well, you know, they have got obviously a very dynamic return guy as Tulsa did. We played well. I think we had given up -- I don't know what the stats are, maybe four or five yards in total punt return average. It was ungodly.
So clearly we have got to go back to the basics of how we got to that point, and recognize that we have got to put the ball in certain areas. You can't just free-kick that ball down the middle of the field, and say, let's go cover 52 and a third.
So we have to do a good job in placing the football when we punt it, as well. I think we have worked hard on that this week.
Q. They have been very good in pass protection this year, they have only given up four sacks. What kind of things do you have to do to combat that? Is that based on what they do offensively and quick release passes, or is it because their offensive line is that good?
COACH KELLY: It's a lot to do with their offense and it doesn't mean they are not copping their kids on the offensive line. They do a very good job. But they are getting rid of the football. It's play-action pass. It's a quick game if you do bring a lot of pressure, their quick roll at getting the ball out. Schematically do a lot of things that we do; they are doing them better right now. But clearly, part of their system has something to do with that, as well.
Q. I know you watched last week's game on film, but did you watch it live as it happened on Saturday and what kind of reaction did you have as that game unfolded?
COACH KELLY: I didn't see the game at all. I watched it on film, and was running around with my kids at different games.
No, watching it on film, TCU got of to such a great start and it kind of seemed to snowball. If I was at the game, you probably would have got a feeling that TCU just got off to a great start.
Q. You mentioned you asked your seniors to dig a hole at the beginning of the year, that's probably not what their goal was, they want to climb something --
COACH KELLY: Sure.
Q. As opposed to end up in a hole --
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I don't want you to take that the wrong way.
When I say dig a hole, we are talking about a foundation, something that is very, very important. But probably not the first thing you think of. So just make sure we are in the right context.
Q. Just kind of curious if that's a difficult ask to when you go to guys in their last year, and you're like: I want you to help me build a foundation for two or three years down the road, and they are like, 'What about this year?'
COACH KELLY: Well, I don't think you start off the conversation saying, hey, guys, let's go, let's build this foundation. You are doing it by your actions every single day.
And I think what I did more than anything else is I pointed out to them, what they had been doing all year. Here is what you've been doing; yeah, I know the record says this, and we are all judged upon our record, but here is what you've been doing.
And it was important for me to articulate that message to our seniors, but clearly, you're absolutely right, you don't open up with the message of, hey, guys, this is a foundation-building year. I've never done that, nor would I, but I think it's important to point out the contributions that they are making even though they are being told that they are 4-5. They can see that, but they need to hear more from me.
Q. In a situation like, this do you ever get concerned that maybe your seniors have an eye on what's next for them at this stage of a tough season?
COACH KELLY: Well, we have a lot of seniors who have an eye on other things. We have a number of walk-ons that are here just because they love playing the game but they are filling out law applications, they are filling out tests for GRE. It's a balance. But I have never felt for one day that our seniors have not done everything that we have asked them to do. They have. And I would tell you, if I felt like it was half-in, half-out -- it hasn't been that way. They have given us everything.
We have got to do a better job of coaching our football team, because they have given us everything they have.
Q. And in terms of leadership, I think we asked you about this a couple of weeks ago and you said when you got here, leadership, not great, it was something you had to develop and build. Through the course of the season and the ups and the downs, have there been guys that you feel like have grabbed hold of that message?
COACH KELLY: Again, I don't want to say that there wasn't leadership, but we really had to define what it meant. To me, a great player isn't necessarily a great leader. So I think it was in my definition of what leadership is, that I was referring to.
So I think we have done a very good job of pointing out the things that we want from leaders, and I'm seeing those young men really grasp hold of the leadership definition that I have given them.
Q. Watching Utah, do you see some similarities in terms of that, I guess, what, unconscious competence, how you described it, in what you had at Cincinnati; do they remind you in terms of their attitude, their style of play, of what you had at Cincinnati?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's a confident group, certainly. You look at some of the scores that they have had. They really believe in what they do offensively. It's a physical presence.
So I think what I take away from Utah is a personality. They clearly have a personality on the football field. Very confident about what they can do, and they have exhibited that on a very consistent basis.
I think all winning teams have some kind of component that is similar to that.
Q. In the wake of the Declan Sullivan tragedy, you have subject to a lot of criticism as a result of that incident, including calls for you to be fired as a result of this incident; wondering if you are cognizant of that heat, and if so, what's your response to it?
COACH KELLY: You know, when I decided to be the head football coach at Notre Dame, I knew that there would be a great deal of scrutiny placed upon the leadership position. So we are under that scrutiny. I recognized that that comes with the job here at Notre Dame. But it doesn't deter me from doing the job that I came here to do, and that is to develop our football team; to win football games, and to get Notre Dame back to the upper echelon of college football.
So, yes, I'm very cognizant of that, and it comes with the job. But it doesn't affect how I go to work every day.
Q. And just about the game on Saturday, is there anything you saw that TCU did to defend Utah that your team also can do? In other words, the way -- do they just have -- in other words does TCU just have better, faster players that maybe you can't replicate?
COACH KELLY: Well, again, in watching the film, they got off to a very good start, big plays, and if you'll remember, they caught him in some man-to-man coverage, hit a double move, got a turnover early in the game, and really were able to dictate the game from then on out; getting up two scores quickly and then being able to dictate the tempo of the game.
So I really think a lot of it is, TCU is a terrific football team. They were able to win some one-on-one matchups for big plays and then took advantage early of some of the miscues that Utah had.
Q. I'm wondering, by my count, Notre Dame has had 10-win seasons twice in 17 years, and last four or five has been around .500; still, it's the place for college football; it's the mecca. Why is that so and why is that a place that you wanted to go coach?
COACH KELLY: Well, I believed that all of the things were in place from Notre Dame to commitment to the football program, to the ability to recruit nationally, to an incredibly passionate fan base, and those were the things that I was looking for, as well as a fit for me, personally, and my family.
So again, I think it was more about Brian Kelly and my understandings of Notre Dame, and that has not let me down since I've been here.
So I just believe that with the resources, the commitment, we just need to develop a consistency. I think that's the word that I would underline more than anything else; this program needs consistency. And I'm going to provide it that.
End of FastScripts