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October 30, 2011

Brian Kelly

Q. I guess sort of housekeeping, Hounshell and then any other guys that may have emerged banged up that you're going to be looking at this week?
COACH KELLY: I got the medical report about a half hour ago, very slight shoulder capsule injury, on Hounshell, that is, that will not affect his practice status for the week. He'll be back on the field on Tuesday. And nothing will keep anybody out of playing time from the game, so we were very fortunate to get out of the game without any injuries.

Q. A little bit big picture, when you look back, is there anything that you would point to in two years of being Notre Dame's head coach in terms of transition that you would say is not something you could just take Notre Dame out, insert school X in there, and it might hold up anywhere else? In other words, are any challenges you face any different than maybe a lot of people face when you come in in transition to a place?
COACH KELLY: I think each job that I've had has its own unique set of circumstances. I don't know that any job is the same when you're coming in. You're trying to build a winning environment. So that's common in all the jobs. But each university has its own characteristics. Notre Dame is different than all the other jobs I've had, but no challenge that is insurmountable. All of them, like I said, all jobs have those different characteristics, and Notre Dame is like all those others, just different things that we have to work on.

Q. I think some people raised their eyebrows a little bit when Tommy ran back out there for that last possession he was in there, 49-7. I don't know if it's that big a deal considering the margin, but can you talk about whether that was Tommy's possession, was Dayne just not quite ready to go in at that point?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he didn't get enough snaps, Dayne, and I probably should have done a better job communicating upstairs with our coaches and wanting to get Dayne in. But he hadn't taken enough snaps because Golic was already in. And he was going to go in with Golic and didn't get enough snaps, so we waited a few plays until he got a few more snaps, he gave me the thumbs up that he was ready, and we put him right in.

Q. Can you just talk about obviously stopping the option, sound play up front is going to be important, you had a lot of young kids yesterday playing, most of which we've never seen maybe. Can you talk about how important their play was to your defensive success as a unit?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think there's a number of things. The first thing that I would point out is our graduate assistants, Mike Painter and John Carpenter, both those guys did a great job of preparing our defense for what they needed to see in putting together Navy's offense with our players. They did a great job of preparing our young guys, in particular those that had never seen option before. So it was as realistic as it was in the game. They just did a tremendous job.
That's why we all felt collectively really confident going in, because we saw how well those guys were schooled during the week. I think the most important thing, if you really look at the young guys that were out there, they weren't on the ground. They knew how to play off blocks. We cut during the week. So I would give a lot of the credit not only to our coaches and players but also to our graduate assistants, and our guys that demoed Navy did an incredible job.

Q. Were you surprised at all how well your young kids did hold up to that because obviously a couple weeks ago against Air Force they didn't have as much success getting off of those blocks.
COACH KELLY: There's no question, and we said that in the fourth quarter, look, these guys are going to have to defend option next year when guys graduate, so let's get them back in the game as quickly as we can, and they played much better the next time around when they saw option.
And I think that's -- obviously any time you're able to get these young guys an opportunity to play this year, it's only going to help you down the road.

Q. Just wanted to ask you, first of all, another annoying big-picture question, two thirds of the way through the season, what do you feel good about with this team and where do you feel like you're still building?
COACH KELLY: You know, I like the fact that we're physically so far ahead of where we were last year. We haven't given up a sack in the month of October. You know, we've controlled the line of scrimmage for the most part, the way you want to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. I think when you're looking at it, those are the things this year that we know where our weaknesses are in terms of turning the ball over. But our strengths are that we've really developed ourselves both offensively and defensively, the lines, and that's a real good foundation moving forward.

Q. And then how about the things where you need to build? Where do you feel like you're still building and need to get better?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think it's pretty clear, the consistency week in and week out and taking care of the football and eliminating some of those sloppy mistakes. I think that's -- if you look at some of the mistakes that we've made, you know, they're all correctable through better coaching, better playing, and I think that's where we know that we can clean those areas up moving forward.

Q. Without asking you to give away a tactical advantage as you move back, I guess, into the 3-4 without Kapron, does Tuitt become an outside player, or is he just too difficult to move from the nose guard spot?
COACH KELLY: No, he can play both the four technique and play inside. I think we're going to get that sorted out here in the next 48 hours as to who's going to play where, because obviously Lynch and Tuitt are going to have to play and play a lot. So I think it's just -- I think where we are right now with Nix and Cwynar at the nose, we feel really good about it there, and now it's -- the young guys are going to have to step up at the four technique.

Q. And the last thing from me, recruiting in the Carolinas, I imagine you didn't do that a whole lot at Cincinnati or Central Michigan. It seems like you've formed some pretty good relationships in the Carolinas; you're pretty active there with your recruiting. Can you talk about the importance of that part of the country to your recruiting?
COACH KELLY: Well, it's started to grow in terms of its significance in the recruiting grand scheme of things. Even when I was at Cincinnati we started to get in there because the high school football was growing and that population growth in that area as you know made that the reason for it.
It's been on our radar. We've just really worked hard at it, and we've obviously got some players from that area that have allowed us to continue to build those relationships. Yeah, North Carolina, South Carolina has been an area now that we've had a number of coaches on our staff, it's not just one coach, that are in there recruiting it hard.
So getting down and playing Wake Forest, you know, obviously we're going to be able to have a number of kids come up -- they won't be our guests obviously, but they're certainly going to check us out.

Q. Question defensively, it looked like kind of Kendall Moore and Ethan Johnson were holding up a little bit of a board before some of the plays yesterday. Could you kind of talk about that strategically, how that helped the defense kind of get lined up and get the right checks in?
COACH KELLY: Well, we wanted to make sure that we didn't get tempoed like we did a little bit against Air Force. Air Force went with a quick tempo, which limited us a little bit relative to our calls. So we went with some boards to make sure that everybody could get the calls and see the calls without them having to be communicated from one safety over to the other and then obviously to the corners. So it was a way of just making sure that we got things communicated if Navy was going to pick up their tempo.

Q. And is that something you think you guys will keep doing, or is that just more of a tempo counter only type of situation?
COACH KELLY: It's more for tempo more than anything else. We're going to keep it in, and we don't want to get into a situation where we have to stay in a static defense if somebody is trying to tempo us.

Q. I think somebody earlier asked you about Tuitt. I was curious about Lynch. He came in, kind of set the world on fire against Michigan State. Where is he at in his development this season?
COACH KELLY: I think he's done well. I mean, different games for him, it's the option teams clearly that -- he's an edge player for us. He's a good player. He's a guy that's only going to get better. But he's a different player than Stephon Tuitt is. Stephon is a guy that obviously can play inside, is physically strong at the point of attack. As you know, Lynch is a great pass rusher, and he's going to be a great player for us. It's just the different teams that we've played have obviously put him in a situation where he hasn't gotten as much playing time, but moving forward, with traditional offenses, he's going to be a big part of what we do.

Q. When you came in here you kind of had a lot of attention-to-detail-type tasks for your team, the locker room and keeping things straight and tidy and that type of thing. How has that been received this year? Have guys kind of kept up where they are with that? Have they not reverted to old habits with some of those things?
COACH KELLY: You know, we work hard on all those details every day. It's for all of us, the little things that go to winning. We're working hard on it every day.

Q. I'd like to shift the focus to Wake Forest. You guys have been pretty option heavy preparation-wise the last couple weeks, now you're getting ready for a Wake Forest team that's currently 30th in the country in passing. Talk a little bit about how you guys shift the focus in practice from obviously defending the option to obviously defending a pretty good passing team in Wake Forest.
COACH KELLY: Well, obviously the tougher adjustments are when you only get two or three days to prepare for something that you don't spend much time on, being option is what I'm referring to. But we throw the ball quite a bit, and our defense goes against us quite a bit. So it's one of those things where it's easier to get out of the option than to get into it. In other words, the preparation will go back to what they're used to in defending these traditional spread offenses. It won't be a big transition for us at all.

Q. The last three, four weeks the special teams have quietly been making more of a mark, and obviously somebody like George has been making the biggest. But can you talk about the development of the overall unit there and specifically Austin Collinsworth especially seems to have had quite a nose for the ball?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, and as you know, the big fumble recovery by Niklas was huge for us. Again, I think we're seeing -- we only punted one time, and David Ruffer has been -- excuse me, Ben Turk has been so much more consistent than he was earlier in the year. I think we said that our kickers have to kick better, and that has occurred. We found a game changer on our kickoff returns, and I think that that in itself is the reason why this unit has gotten better and better. And we have really paid so much attention to it, and our guys are focused knowing that they had to up their game individually and collectively.
I think your observation is right. They've quietly put together some steady performances.

Q. Was there anything you changed like in the practice format or emphasis on it, or was it just a matter of better execution?
COACH KELLY: No, I don't know that there were many changes. We've changed the routines a little bit. We're trying to kick earlier in the practice so our guys are able to work on some other techniques later in practice. But I don't know that that is as much of the reason. I think it's just the work is starting to pay off. We've put a lot of time into it, and I think that's starting to pay off.

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