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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 16, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Kelly.
Q. Last night I was wondering about Jamoris Slaughter's situation. But the back end of your defense has played two games with him missing large chunks of it. Can you talk about the way he played without him and what his prognosis is.
COACH KELLY: I think you're right. The last couple weeks we've played a lot of football without him, especially in the second half, times where teams are throwing the football. We've done a nice job there.
It's unfortunate we're going to lose him for the year. He has a torn Achilles tendon and will be out for the year and have surgery this week.
Q. Also someone asked you a little bit about Manti after the game, what his plans are. Does it look like you're going to be able to get him home for the bye week?
COACH KELLY: Yes, we are. We just started to detail out some of the arrangements for him. It looks like we'll be able to get him out to Hawaii on the bye week.
I think it's probably going to be closer to Tuesday or Wednesday of the bye week, so he'll be here for a couple of practice days for preparation, as well.
Q. You got a lot of mileage it seems like the last couple days out of a couple young defensive linemen, Sheldon Day and Tony Springman. Can you talk about those two guys.
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think they obviously bring a lot. We played a lot of players. We got a rotation there that really works well for us. It keeps the guys fresh.
Sheldon obviously is a guy that has great athletic ability, but can also stand in there against teams that want to run the football.
Tony is just big, athletic. He's long.
Both of those freshmen provide us some really good depth at the defensive line.
Q. You mentioned last night the growth potential for your offense; you felt like it could continue to get better through the season. Maybe what specific areas are you looking for not just in personnel but maybe from a formation standpoint, being able to extend the playbook a little bit more?
COACH KELLY: That's not the first place that we're looking. It's the execution of what we have currently installed. We had too many opportunities to put points on the board and to get the kind of production we need.
A lot of it is in the quarterback's development. Again, he did some really good things. But we've got a long way to go. He needs to continue to stay on task, Everett, and continue to develop each and every week.
There are a lot of things. We are so far from where we need to be offensively. I think a lot of it is just in the stuff that we're doing right now. We don't need to extend the playbook any deeper.
Q. I know you've had big wins other places, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Grand Valley. At some point you've been able to catalyze those big wins into championships or breakthrough seasons. What do you feel as a coach is the key to making this not just an isolated win but something to build on?
COACH KELLY: Don't get infected with success. It's easy to forget how you got here. It's easy to listen to how great you are. We've got to avoid the noise and stay disciplined on the process. If we do that, we'll be pretty good in November.
Q. Brian, you lost two starters in the secondary, three young guys in there, converted offensive players. Is that a point that you're nervous about or do you think you have the guys that can handle that?
COACH KELLY: No, those are things that coaches have to deal with all over the country. I think we're really pleased with the game that Matthias Farley can go in there and do a solid job for us.
KeiVarae Russell has probably been the guy that really makes us feel pretty good about what's going on. He was challenged in some one‑on‑one matchups, came out of it on a positive note.
I think what we're seeing is the development of some really young players that can be really good players for us. I think you're worried if you feel like you have to hide them out there. We don't need to hide them; they just need to continue to develop.
Q. I wanted to ask you specifically about Elijah Shumate in terms of the progress he's made as kind of your nickel back, what you've seen from him.
COACH KELLY: He's extremely athletic. He's got a great sense of the game. He understands the game of football. I think he makes up for any lack of knowledge of our defense with just being a savvy, smart player, and one that's really, as you know, very gifted.
We wanted to get him involved because of those characteristic traits I just mentioned. We needed to get him involved in the game. The easiest way for us to get him in and make an impact is the nickel position because we're not going to ask you to do a ton of things.
We want that to parlay itself into more roles, whether it be corner or safety. He could probably play either. We want to continue to develop him as we move down the road.
He's got a real keen football instinct and he's a gifted football player.
Q. Inside linebackers and coverage last night, is that about as well as they played? Is that guys getting older? Is that something you emphasize during the week?
COACH KELLY: Well, we really emphasize to get on body. In other words, we gave up a little bit too much space. We were spot dropping a little bit too much. Coach Diaco really emphasized this week getting on body, in other words, getting hands on receivers and being more aggressive with them.
I thought it paid off on a number of instances, in particular our Will linebacker, there was one play where the tight end, they ran a little hammer play where they faked the run and throw it. Other than that, we did a nice job on body, especially with the Will linebacker.
Q. I don't know if it's the benefit of the Purdue game, how they matched up with you, what Michigan State shows, kind of the schematics of your run game last night, change of directions, is that getting Cierre back or is that an X's and O's adjustment you needed to make?
COACH KELLY: No, I think it was more fit for the opposition than it was, you know, Cierre back in the game. Certainly Cierre adds a great dimension to what we're doing.
They're very difficult to hit north and south, so you really have to try to get these guys. We don't run a lot of counter plays, per se. We have to change direction schematically based upon what the opponent shows us and what we're going to be doing.
As you know, with we sprinted out quite a bit, so we needed some, that change of direction.
Q. Sheldon Day, in terms of his knee or hamstring, I wasn't sure what happened there after he batted down the pass, came back in. Do you have an idea of what happened there?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he's got a bone bruise. I think people were talking about him jumping up on the sideline. It happened a series earlier. He played, he finished the game. He should be fine.
Q. Kind of getting back to the idea of not getting infected with success. A couple of guys last night said you tried to bring them back downtoearth a little bit even in the locker room afterwards. Sounds like what a lot of coaches would do to get a team refocused. Is that something like you felt you needed to do specifically with this team in this situation?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, no, I wanted to enjoy the victory, but I wanted to kind of set the landscape for where we are, Michigan coming in this week, then we have a bye week.
I was really trying to give them a bigger picture of where we are, keep the focus. We've got a week here. Stay on task. Then you've got the week off and we begin the second third of the season.
My comments were more I was trying to give them a little bigger picture of where we are, then we'll start to drill down again on, you know, the distractions and avoiding the noise and all those things. We've begun doing that already.
Q. How so? Did you meet with them today and talk about that stuff, rankings, all that?
COACH KELLY: Absolutely. I think you have to. Obviously, they're 18‑ to 21‑year‑olds. You need to continue to remind them about where they are, how they got here. There's no other really recipe than just staying focused on day‑to‑day because of the way we've operated here. If we start changing that now, we'll be in for some issues later.
Q. Similar week with USC last year. After the game you talked about guys not rising to the occasion. What did you learn from the height of buildup of that week, night game at USC, that you want to either correct or tweak this week night game Michigan?
COACH KELLY: I think the distractions that come with playing at home and making sure that our guys are focused solely on the next practice.
I think we learned from all the experiences. A lot of the guys went through the USC experience, and we didn't play our best football. Look, I don't know if there's many times that after a really good win on the road, when I mention Michigan, everybody's attention was to that Michigan game. I think they understand.
This is a group that has learned by their mistakes, as well. Not just players, but coaches. So moving forward, I think we've learned from the experiences over the last couple years that we've got to stay focused and away from the distractions.
Q. Kona Schwenke got the start yesterday. Obviously he's playing a lot. Not a huge surprise. Was that just kind of to throw him a bone, get him a start, or was there something more to that?
COACH KELLY: No. You know, they both have done such a great job. We want to make sure that our players are rewarded. It was just three plays. But it was more about just Kona has done a great job and we want to make sure we appreciate his work, too.
Q. Evaluate Ben Koyack's play through three games, what you'd like to see from him moving forward.
COACH KELLY: I think just more of a consistent approach. He does some really good things. He's a young guy. He really has to be focused on the little things during the week. He's coming. We need him. We desperately need him to play for us at a higher level.
He's getting better. He cares. He's got to be more consistent at the position, in particular blocking. That's what we ask him to do for us. He's committed. He's a good teammate. He's just got to continue to grow, and he is each and every week.
Q. How would you say the defense responded to kind of the change‑up two‑minute offense from Michigan State? Obviously, they had to pick up the tempo sooner than they had probably planned, but it seemed like the team reacted pretty well to that.
COACH KELLY: Yeah. I mean, we had to get going quicker. They definitely moved the tempo.
But if Michigan State is in a high‑tempo offense, we probably got them where we want them.
Q. Is Kapron still a little banged up? Looked like he wasn't quite a hundred percent last night.
COACH KELLY: No, he wasn't. He fought through it. Had a big pass‑rush, hit on the quarterback late in the game. Kept plugging, fighting through it. Some other guys might have tapped out. He kept fighting through it.
I think in his own mind he's reaching new levels as to what he can do and fighting through this calf injury.
He's better today than he was when he started the game. We think that's a really good sign. We think we'll get him close to a hundred percent this week.
Q. After the game last night you talked about how the game could be a confidence builder. Now you're talking about the worry about overconfidence. Is there a fine line there and how do you monitor it?
COACH KELLY: I think you want both. I think you want your team with confidence and you want people to talk about with your team in the sense that this is a big game. Those are the kind of things that you want coaches to balance. If you don't have confidence and nobody cares, that's not a good place to be.
These are the dynamics that come with building a program. When you're starting to win some games, these are things that all coaches want to work on.
So, yes, it is a fine line, and one that I feel confident that we can manage.
Q. I'd like to talk a little bit about Manti's performance. Gutsy performance. What is the team doing to support him in a pretty rough time?
COACH KELLY: We talked about last week after the Purdue game that we wanted to raise the standards, that we make sure we hold each other to those standards.
Manti didn't believe he played up to the standards. He may have been right. So he had set some new standards of his play. Then he had some obviously terrible things happen in his life, and he was still able to maintain those high standards.
That makes for a remarkable young man, that he can play the game at a higher level than what many people thought was pretty good anyway, amidst some personal tragedies.
Yeah, how do you put it in words? At Notre Dame, you get a chance to coach a kid like this, it might be once in a lifetime. That's the kind of kid he is.
Q. How impressed were you with Ben Turk's performance yesterday and how has he developed over the last few years?
COACH KELLY: Our special teams played a large role in flipping the field. I think Michigan State had average starting field position at the 20 yard line. That was absolutely crucial to the success we had.
I think you need all three phases if you're going to win a game on the road against Michigan State.
He's progressed. I think we all saw signs of that at the end of last year. I think he had a great off‑season. His mind has been so focused on being consistent. We're getting that kind of play from him.
Obviously Kyle Brindza, as well, in terms of kicking the ball out of the end zone. I think he was four for five on kickoffs that went out of the back of the end zone, and of course the field goals.
So our two specialists have really impacted the football game.
Q. Has Farley gone into Slaughter's role and can you talk about the reshuffling of the secondary with that injury.
COACH KELLY: You lose a Jamoris Slaughter, you're losing an A player. Matthias is certainly not at the level yet of a Jamoris Slaughter. He's got to continue to develop. But we have a lot of confidence and trust in him. He'll be getting a lot of work back there.
So we'll have to continue to develop him. But we have a lot of confidence in him.
Q. Is DaVaris still banged up? Were you nursing him yesterday?
COACH KELLY: I would say he was not a hundred percent. He did get some reps in there. He looked pretty good, then we had a little bit of a setback on Friday with him. We practiced him and ran him around Saturday over at Lansing Catholic Central in our walk‑through. He looked pretty good, like he bounced back. But we had already set our personnel grouping. We hope to have him full go this week.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone.
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