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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2011
Q. Curious, you thought you might play like eight to ten of your freshmen this year. Of the group that has not played, are you still considering some of those guys to be used this year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, they are going to be used. It's just a matter of time. We are getting closer on a couple other guys that we think can give us some quality reps.
Q. In terms of quarterback play, Tommy has played all the downs pretty much since you made the quarterback switch. How important is it for to you get a look at some other people in game action?
COACH KELLY: At quarterback?
Q. Yeah, quarterback. If the circumstances dictated that.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean, right now, Tommy is 6-1 as a starter. You know, he's led two very huge drives for us late in the game against Michigan and of course against Pittsburgh. He's obviously not a finished product; nobody is. He'll continue to get better and better and we'll continue to help him in terms of play calling and getting him in the right kind of situation so he can be successful.
But no, there's -- we're not in a situation right now where we need to think about what other quarterbacks are going to get in the game. Tommy is the starter.
Q. I meant more from a depth standpoint.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, when we get up by three or four scores, yeah, we think about getting somebody in there. But I don't think that we are in a situation where we need to worry about the depth at that position, because we have got Dayne who can go in there and do very well for us.
Q. And how has Dayne handled being the No. 2 quarterback? Obviously we have not seen him in a practice or a game. How would you say he's played in practice?
COACH KELLY: I think he's been very professional in the sense that he's gone to work every day, he's worked hard; he's staying prepared. He's not happy with his situation, but no one would be. But he's been a positive influence on our team, and he's prepared for when he gets his chance to be ready.
Q. I noticed Massa was kind of part of the red hat before I gait. Is he still working at wide receiver for you, is he helping you out at all as a scout team quarterback?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, we like to keep him active. He does a little bit of scout team work for us because we are still developing our young quarterbacks. He's helping out out there but his position is still wide receiver.
Q. Yesterday somebody asked you about penalties, and your answer's been somewhat similar. You said we are going to keep doing the same things and you like to bring consistency in message. Can you talk about situations where that's helped you as a coach, where keeping the same message, rather than trying to change things has helped you.
COACH KELLY: Well, I think if the message has been, you know, one that has brought success for me within our system and program, that's a message that we'll continue to talk about.
I'm not averse to changing the message if I think it's going to help our football team. As it relates to penalties, we are simply not going to allow our kids to feel that they can have a penalty and it's not impactful for what we are doing. We have to clean those things up and that's just a matter of discipline and we'll continue on that road of discipline and attention to detail.
So my response was pretty much when it comes to penalties, are you an undisciplined team, are you an undisciplined player. And I won't tolerate either one of those.
Q. And last from me, local kid that a lot of people wonder about, Daniel Smith, his leg injury, is it something that looks like it will be long term or do you see improvement where he might be able to get on the field in special teams and help you some?
COACH KELLY: We hope so. He was running hard on the treadmill on Friday; so we are getting him back.
I have stated a couple of times, you know, he can help us as obviously a depth by, but at special teams. Our hope is to get him back so that he can help us there.
Q. Curious if you've felt like in any way -- presented a blueprint for dealing with Floyd that you feel like other teams may try to copy?
COACH KELLY: No, not really. You know, a little bit in our three by one, they played a lot more man. But other than that, you know, the typical quarter, quarter half coverage to Mike, and you know, I think we have seen quite a bit of that, even last year, very similar. I think the only difference really would be for us in terms of how to get the ball to the guys that are it, you know, one-on-one.
I think we had a number of one-on-one situations that we didn't take advantage of, and that's what we'll make certain, that we coach Tommy up on.
Q. How do the guys on offense -- yesterday they talked a lot about how, hit through some unconventional stuff they had not seen on tape; they talked about how in some ways they fought through their own tendencies. Was that a situation where the offense was just a little bit confused and not just what was coming so you guys kind of figured it out towards the end of the game?
COACH KELLY: I think what we did more than anything else is we went back to some of our basics and in the last, probably ten or 15 plays, they were some of our base plays. And I think early on, some of the looks for Tommy were first-time looks for him, and again, he's a young quarterback. And so it takes him a little while to process a new look. So we'll do a better job of giving him during the week looks that we may see.
So I think part of that's coaching, doing a better job of giving him multiple looks, but just sometimes you've got to go back to your basics and I think that's what we did.
Q. I don't know if this happened to you at Central or Cincinnati, but are you running into more games where teams are saving stuff for and you getting a higher volume of new looks that maybe teams don't show on tape?
COACH KELLY: No. I think you always have to be prepared for how people are going to deal spread offense. I've seen all kinds of looks.
There's some things that obviously we are not at the level where we can do some things that we would like to do down the road which we'll be able to do offensively. It just would not -- we are not there yet. So it's my job to make sure that we win football games as we continue to develop on the offensive side of the ball.
Q. And there were a couple of things that jump out when you mention things that you can't do yet or you want to, what comes to mind first?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think obviously when you get a lot of man coverage, you want to be able to do some things with the quarterback that allows to you either, A, take advantage of one-on-one throws; or B, beat them with your feet.
So, you know, Tommy is not a guy that's going to beat with you his feet right now. So we have to lock him in on being able to take advantage of some other things and develop our screen game better and do some things that suit him.
Q. Lastly from me, short yardage, third and one, third and two, not a strength; and yesterday I think you were five-on-five and then a couple of fourth down conversions. What are you doing better that fixed that department?
COACH KELLY: Well, against Michigan, we were not as good as we wanted to be because we didn't handle the front that we saw. I think what we have done is we spent more time looking at multiple fronts and third down situations, so we are prepared for any kind of front, and any kind of pressure.
So the Michigan game gave us an opportunity to really look at base plays that we want to run versus any look. It doesn't matter what the look is, no matter what practiced, we have tried to add things and I think that's helped our linemen out a lot.
Q. It's been a good 31 of the last 32 quarters for your defense, what has that unit given you? Are they essentially carrying you guys in some ways end of last year, beginning of this year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah we felt our recruiting efforts and everything we have done since we have been here is to put together a championship defense, and then we'll catch up on offense. But I think you have to start with building your defense first and the line of scrimmage.
So they are progressing. We have got a good influx of veterans with young players that's given us very good depth. We have got some guys that are going to be able to help us down the road.
So I think more than anything else, it's just the way we are building the program, and it's -- to me, the most important thing is to get our defense to championship level and we are not there yet but we are on the right road.
Q. With Aaron and Stephon, just getting into the mix more and understanding what's going on, even Darius is playing better the last two weeks than the first two weeks; do you almost see room for improvement, a lot of room for improvement, even as well as they are playing?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I'll just give you a couple of examples. We had to use another time out on defense because we get some young kids who get confused as to what the signals are.
So, yeah, there's a lot of room for improvement as they continue to play and it keeps our younger guys obviously involved and engaged and it gives our veterans a chance obviously to take a blow.
Yeah, it's coming together. The plan is to develop our defense and let our offense kind of work its way into who our players are. You know, in terms of not trying to fit the offense but to fit the players to the offense right now.
Q. And what's your balance on you would like more take aways, I think you have a total of five, versus the defense is playing pretty well without -- how do you balance the way it's performing versus your desire to force a few more mistakes from the other guys?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there's a balance there in terms of big plays. We really have not let up any big play runs and if you are going to gamble a little bit and look to get that take away, there's a chance that you give up some more big plays.
We are philosophically more in line with wanting to be gap sound and disciplined against the run game. I mean, we are doing pretty good this year relative to teams in running the football. I'm more interested in that right now than gambling on defense to get some more turnovers.
Q. You brought up Tommy and what he did against Michigan late in the game and yesterday what he did late in the game. Besides the obvious thing, preparation and accuracy, in your experience, what makes a quarterback successful in those type of situations?
COACH KELLY: Just very competitive. Somebody that can settle down into the flow of the game; that is not impacted by the moment. Doesn't matter how much time is left on the clock, they don't rush or get rattled. He's just got the right demeanor to be able to go out there in late games on the road and put it together when we need to.
So it's his personality. It's his makeup.
Q. Can you coach it at all? You can obviously run the two-minute drill in practice and all those types of situations but you really can't recreate the moment, can you?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't think you can. I think what you try to do in practice is get as many competitive opportunities for your quarterbacks. We run a two-minute drill every Thursday, which is extremely competitive. It's loud. There's music on. You've got to be calling all the plays at the line of scrimmage.
So we try to duplicate those opportunities because it's more than just being a smart, tough, savvy guy. You've got to be able to make throws down the line, too, and he's been able to do both.
Q. Seems you've got a real knack for stringing shorter throws together, which is sometimes harder for quarterbacks to learn; they want to throw the ball deep down the middle and make a big play -- inaudible.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think that's part of his strength. I think one of the things that we'll want to continue to get better at is, as I mentioned earlier, some of the one-on-one matchups; that we have got to be able to take advantage of. And that means, you know, driving the ball into tight coverage once in awhile, as long as it's the right read.
So I think he does a nice job there. His development will be taking advantage of some of those one-on-ones.
Q. Yesterday the sudden change defense, they seemed to step it up after a turnover. What is it about this defense that just makes them quick like that, right when they are throwing to the gap like that?
COACH KELLY: I think Coach Diaco and the defensive staff do a great job of talking about it. I think it's something that we coach every day and talk to our players about, and they then -- I think right now, any time you have some early success in that, it starts to build a confidence level where they are talking about it themselves, and I think we have got that going for us.
Q. And just taking a step back a little bit, obviously a lot of talk about how tough the schedule was, now that you're through with the month you're 2-2. What is the next step? How do you look back at this month with your team?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think there's -- obviously for our guys, there's a couple of games. Obviously the Michigan game is going to be one that we relive over and over and over. That's not going to go away.
But getting back-to-back wins, getting the good road win, I think our guys feel good about themselves and know that, you know, it takes a strong will to win games late, and especially on the road.
So I think through the first four games, our kids understand what it takes to win, and they know if they play well they are capable of winning each game they play.
Q. One of the overlooked plays at the end there, the third-and-two situation with Cierre, it looked like he was going to be stopped in the backfield, but a switch forward there. Does that speak to the maturation? It seemed last year he would have gone down with the first hit, but he really seems to have that toughness inside.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I agree. I think I mentioned in the presser after the game that a lot of his yards are now between the tackles, especially the way teams are trying to play us out on the perimeter. And getting two, three yards of successful plays; he was in there for most of the short yardage gains that resulted in the first downs, and you know, third and two, third and one, third and three. He's becoming more of the kind of complete runner that you need to be.
Q. Twist of irony there, Jonas supposed to be the power back -- 79-yard touchdown run and Cierre has come in between the tackles. Was that just by design or did it come off that way?
COACH KELLY: No, I think was just the way it came out, who was in the game at particular times. Both of them are capable of doing the things that we need the backs to do. We can't call plays that are just designed for getting Cierre on the perimeter or Jonas up inside. We have to be able to run our offense and not know what back is in the game.
Now if it's a freshman or somebody else, we'll be more careful with the calls but those guys have got to be in there no matter what we call.
Q. Was that just a matter of more confidence with Cierre with the style or knowledge of the offense -- what was behind that?
COACH KELLY: Nothing, one is the starter, one is the backup and the starter is going to be in there and if he needs a blow and we feel like there's an opportunity to get the No. 2 back in there, we will. We have great confidence in Jonas to go in there. But Cierre is going to get the lion's share of the work.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports