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April 16, 2011

Brian Kelly

COACH KELLY: For us, the concerns coming into the game were depth at certain positions, so it forced us to slow down a lot. We were pleased with overall no major injuries of any kind. We got an ankle here or a bang here, but that's your first concern is that you get out of the spring game without any major injuries, so we certainly accomplished that.
We got some young guys some quality reps in a very competitive environment. So the next time they come out of that tunnel against South Florida when it counts, they know what it feels like. They know what it's like to play in that stadium.
It's hard to evaluate individual performances today given the circumstances of the game. Not having great continuity at certain positions and the ability to work with a group on a day-to-day basis.
So I stay away from those right now. All in all, I thought it was a competitive atmosphere. Our guys played hard. I saw great leadership from our seniors working with the younger guys that got on there and got a chance to play.
And we got all four quarterbacks some work. We got Dayne and Tommy some work early on, and then Andrew and Everett got a ton of work.
So, again, I click off all the boxes that I had set-up for us, and that was stay injury free, give our young players an opportunity to compete in a game-like atmosphere. Then get all those young players an opportunity to compete at the quarterback position, which we did. So, I'll open it up to questions.

Q. What did you learn about your team today? I mean, you said it's hard to evaluate individuals, but were there some things that jumped out?
COACH KELLY: I think they're much more comfortable with the procedure and the game day, and the routine, and how we do things.
But what we tried to do as a coaching staff is to create a game-like atmosphere. We did everything the same way that we would do, other than the walk over here. We had our pregame film, talked to our team, we came out.
So we tried to create that competitive consistency of what game day is like. So for us it was another opportunity to kind of cement down what our routine is. Just easy comfort to everything that we did. A number of comments on coach, why are we going so slow? So that's a bit of a change from last year.
Other than that, I don't know that we learned that much about our team.

Q. I know that you want to temper expectations with Aaron Lynch and you want him to be a complete player. But he's making it difficult when people see what he did today. What can you say about him?
COACH KELLY: He's a good football player. You know, we've got to go slow with him. The one thing that he did today is he went against our first offensive linemen, he went against Trevor Robinson and Taylor Dever, and that would tamp down the expectations too.
I'd also like to give him credit for what he did. But it's going to be a process with him. We've got to keep doing little things right with him in terms of where he's playing.
But you saw, we moved him around. He played inside; he played outside. He's going to be a great addition.

Q. What did you think of the two young quarterbacks today and how they played? What did you think them going live did to help their development today?
COACH KELLY: I think it helps immensely just getting in there. Little things like we're huddling, a couple times Andrew Hendrix is on the wrong side of the huddle, on the back of the huddle instead of the front. It's first time out there for those guys. So there were a lot of jitters.
I thought they really calmed down in the second half. I that you go you saw Andrew really settled down. Early on they were throwing the balls with everything was a 99 mile-an-hour fastball instead of feathering balls in here and there.
I thought it was a great, great opportunity for them in a game-like atmosphere. We had a nice crowd early on when they got in there before the rains really hit. And I think they got that sense of playing in a big-time atmosphere. So I thought you can't replace that kind of experience that they got.

Q. So much is generally made about -- with your offense, the spread offense and having that run-pass threat. What did it mean to you to see two guys wearing your jersey at this university able to do that the way those two youngsters did?
COACH KELLY: Well, I don't know that we have expectations to just run that kind offense with those two guys. I'm more interested in winning football games and whoever that quarterback is that gives us the best chance.
Obviously, for me and what I'm used to, it's a comfort level in terms of play calling. But we're going to make it work whoever the quarterback is. I think it's pretty clear that we saw that they had the ability to do both, and that's pretty exciting when you're in the spread offense.

Q. Can you assess Tommy's performance today? We all know he's not the most mobile of quarterbacks, but can quarterbacks become more mobile as they age in this offense and get more experience? Is that possible?
COACH KELLY: I think it's capability over speed is what Tommy brings. He can see the field. He had three legitimate drops out there today where he put the ball right on.
I think in terms of accuracy today, and, again, I'll go back and watch the film, but I think Tommy was the most accurate in throwing the football. He was a little late in an overdrag off the play action where the ball got deflected. But by and large I thought he was right on.
He showed his fire. We kicked the field goal because we want to see a kicker out there. He said, coach, what's wrong with you? We would have normally gone for this. I said, Tommy, it's a spring game, relax.
So he's a competitive kid. He wants to be out there and that's what you love when you're working with a quarterback like him.

Q. Having gone through the second spring, who would you say has really enabled or set up enough in this second spring to put himself more in the forefront that wasn't there as much this past year, like Louis Nix or Dan Fox? Who helps themselves the most, perhaps?
COACH KELLY: I think we're getting a lot of tight ends work. So today you saw Alex Welch played very well today. He got an opportunity to get a lot of work. We played four tight ends.
So I think the tight end position benefited in the spring. And we found we've got pretty good depth there. Louis Nix, our concern is how long can he play at that level? Because when he's out there, he's a pretty good football player. He was on today. He's hard to move. We've just got to continue to develop his work volume. He would be another guy.
Shembo and Spond are two guys that can play and space very well. As I mentioned, developing the cornerback position, Lo Wood had a high interception coming off the high-low combination, which so many times a younger corner's going to drive on that smash out. Well, he sank and played the flag, so that's another guy that I would point out to you.
Then at the safety position, Collinsworth got a lot of action out there today as well. So I think all those guys helped themselves.

Q. Have you shifted Riddick to the outside? I noticed T.J. was on the slot?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he's got the ability to play a number of different positions for us. It's really about we had so few players that really could lineup for us at that position, that we had to move him around a little bit today. He had some knowledge base because last spring we worked him out of that position.
So he was really filling a role. We haven't made a decision yet as to where he's going to end up.

Q. You mentioned you didn't really learn a lot by design today. But throughout the course of the last four weeks, what did you pick up about your team's big picture that maybe you didn't know?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think we were hoping that we were going to continue to show the strength on the defensive line. I think we showed that again today.
Look, it's hard. Of course, we didn't show any of our defensive fronts today that we didn't want to get on film.
But certainly we're going to be pretty good upfront. I think our defense was, again, very difficult to move the ball on and running the football. I think I know that coming out.
When you go into the Fall and you feel like your defense is going to be able to stop the run and play the ball in the air, that is a pretty good feeling. It allows you to really play smart on offense. Not that we're going to play sloppy on offense, but we can really cater to having a solid defense. I know that for sure.

Q. With the quarterback situation, anything you can rep for in spring? Time is not ticking, where do you go next with that? Do you continue to rep for it in August or what will you do there?
COACH KELLY: That will be early on repping for, and we'll have to obviously cut back and hone in on who the starter and back-up in that order is.
So, no, we don't have the luxury, but we have knowledge now. Now we can move forward in making some of those tougher decisions relative to who is one, and who is two.

Q. Bennett Jackson made the switch to the secondary this spring. He made a lot of plays today. Can you evaluate that transition for him last spring?
COACH KELLY: I think I mentioned it in our last press conference as we finished up spring ball. He's had a good spring. That transition is very, very difficult. But he's a good athlete. He's a smart kid. He understands the game of football.
So you really not many times have I moved over somebody to the corner that has put himself in a position to compete at that position. He's usually been a fill-in, somebody to get you out of the game, you know what I mean? It's been more than that with him.
He really has some natural instincts to play that position. So that, you know, if you're writing down what are the pleasant surprises, I would think that you'd have to include that as well.

Q. I know your goal is to play a lot of young guys today. But it seems you have a lot of really young guys that look like they could play on Saturdays in the fall. Do you feel that way?
COACH KELLY: I do. I think with spring ball we know a lot more about who we can factor into depth, and who can play winning football for us. And certainly there are a number of freshmen that we found out today that can do that.

Q. Could you comment about the wide receiver group as a group, and your comfort level with how they can perform in the fall with it?
COACH KELLY: Well, obviously, Robby Toma had a nice day to day. He had one drop early on, Tommy Rees third down play where I went up to him and said, listen, you're short, you're not very fast. You've got to do something really well and that's catch it. He made every catch after that.
He had a nice game for us. He factors in there with T.J., and certainly Theo Riddick we believe is an explosive wide receiver, and Goody's coming for us as well. I think Deion put himself back in the two deep. We were questioning whether he would be a two-deep player for us, but Deion has done a nice job to put himself.
And we've heaped a lot on Luke Massa. He's not ready yet, but he's a big kid that can make plays for us. He had a nice third down conversion on a screen.
So we're a work in progress in certain areas. We know we have a couple of dynamic players. I think the thing we have to consider when we talk about the receivers is that we've got some real good pass catchers at tight end with Eifert and Welch as well.

Q. You were mic'd today for VERSUS, some of your quarterbacks were mic'd today. How did that go and how did that affect your ability to have a successful spring practice?
COACH KELLY: I think the mic'ing was just to give some insight to what we're doing on the sideline and teaching and coaching our kids. We were just trying to give our partners an opportunity to see the kind of what it's like on the sideline and what's going on.
It's not as frantic as some people think. There is a lot of coaching and teaching. Hopefully they had a three-second delay (laughing).

Q. What were your thoughts on the running game, namely the two front line running backs?
COACH KELLY: I like the way Cierre looked. Confident in running the football is the way I would describe him. He was confident and decisive in his decisions. If he couldn't hit it at the front door, he was going to bend it back.
I thought Jonas did a nice job. We've got to catch the football. We're a little sloppy catching the football out of the back. The protections were solid. Both of those guys were obviously where we want them to be.
Now we go into the off-season, and I think they've got some confidence.

Q. Did Cierre get banged by Nix? Is that why he didn't come back?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he twisted. He may have a little bit of a pull back in the rib cage. Didn't break anything, but certainly 345 pounds, that's not a smart thing to do.

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