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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 22, 2013
COACH KELLY:Â Good afternoon.Â You'll have plenty of time.Â We'll have coaches available to you today, players available to you.Â I'll start with a couple of brief comments.
We're quickly moving into game week preparation for Temple.Â We've had a good 2 1/2 weeks of preparation taking the 2013 football team and really getting them prepared for a long and very difficult schedule.
So the lion's share of the work has really been preparing the depth of this football team, which we're going to have to count on this year with the kind of schedule we have.
So a lot of the questions are generally about who's starting, who's going to be the starting left tackle, who's going to be the starting Z, and I would prepared to tell you that we're going to need a lot of players.Â A lot of players are going to have to play for us this year.Â There's going to be a lot of players that are going to have to play significant roles throughout the year at a lot of different positions.
So we're going to be talking about a lot of players over the next couple of hours that will play different roles.Â They may not be on the field for every snap, but they will have significant roles.
So going into this preparation for 2013, it was important that we looked at the totality of the season, not one particular game, but the entire season, and getting a lot of players ready.Â I think you probably saw that if you looked at our practice and moving people around to give them opportunities to play guard or tackle or stud end or dropback or catback or Z or X receiver.Â A lot of that has happened.
So that preparation has occurred, and now we have begun the preparation for Temple and have begun to focus on specific schemes and packages and personnel groupings.Â So that's really what has occurred over the last few days leading into Temple.
I'm really pleased with the way our guys have focused on this year.Â There hasn't been a lot of this is what we did last year and talking about the way we did it last year.Â It's been about this year.Â The focus has been on the personalities of this team and the strengths of building this year's team, not what we did last year.
I think I've talked about this publicly a couple of times.Â That's what we went to work on after the Championship loss.Â We went to work on 2013 and focusing on that and not talking about what happened in the past.
So, again, Media Day today for us is about unveiling the 2013 team to you.Â I think you'll see that there's a lot of players that will play significant roles that had not played for us last year that we're excited about seeing them play.Â We have some veterans with a lot of experience that will continue to play big roles for us.
But I think you'll see a team that has a different personality than last year, and we announce captains today.Â We have three captains.
The first one on‑‑ again, he'll be the 18th captain that returns, a two‑year captain, the 18th in the program's history, and that is Zack Martin on the offensive line.Â He did an incredible job for us last year, leading us all year through, as you know, an incredible year.
He was somebody that we can count on week in and week out.Â He did that again this year during the off‑season.Â He's a great resource for all of our players and the coaches.
Bennett Jackson on the defensive side of the ball.Â Although I talk about the defensive side of the ball, he'll represent the entire football team.Â We don't have captains that just represent one side.Â He interacts extremely well with all players, and to be a captain, you can't be just seen as somebody that just sits on one side of the ball.Â These are guys that interact with our entire football team.
He's a young man that came in as an offensive player and now has established himself as a captain.
And T.J. Jones will be our third captain.Â Really proud of T.J.'s growth and development, and he'll be our third captain this year in 2013.Â So those are your captains for 2013.
So with that, a little preface about this team and the number of names that you'll be hearing, the depth of our football team, I think, is really going to be one that we're going to have to count on this year to have the kind of year that we all want.
Open it up to questions.
Q.Â Coach, can you talk about how, now that Danny Spond is gone, how Councell and Jaylon Smith have reacted to kind of their new place in the defense.
COACH KELLY:Â You know, we lost Danny, as you know, really early in camp.Â So they were thrust into that position real early, and they've handled it very well.
I would say that, when you look at that position, there's so much going on to the wide field, formationally, adjustments, pressures.Â First of all, Ben has a lot of experience there.Â Jaylon has done remarkably well in such a short period of time, the picking up the defense, and certainly has the athleticism to cover space.
You have two guys, one who's already 250‑plus pounds, in Ben Councell, that can obviously play over a tight end.Â If you want to play real physical and have a fullback in the game, play that kind of game, Ben suits that very well, although he can play in space.
If you want to go three wide, if you want to play an open set, Jaylon has incredible athleticism to be able to play in space.Â So we really think we've got two players there and the depth at that position that we're very, very lucky, in losing a player like Danny Spond, to have those two guys.Â They've done very, very well.
Q.Â Amir Carlisle has some pop in the running back slot [No microphone].
COACH KELLY:Â You know, we're just really blessed to have such great talent at the running back position.Â I don't know that I've ever had as much depth at the running back position in all my years of coaching.Â All of them can contribute to our success.
Amir has done some things that we weren't certain that he could do, and that is, run the ball up inside.Â At first glance, you'd think, well, maybe he's a guy that plays outside more, but he's run the ball inside, has shown his ability to do that, has shown great durability.Â As you know, he had a couple of injuries early on in his career but made every practice and performed very well.
So he's got the ability to catch the football.Â He's got breakaway speed, and he's shown the versatility to play inside and out.
So great depth at that position.
Q.Â You mentioned the personality of this year's team being different.Â What is this year's?Â Do you have a sense of what this group will be at this point?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, I think you look at people, right, make up that personality.Â And it is a group of personalities that has, one, has been very workmanlike.Â They come to work every day with a consistency.
Last year we had some bold personalities.Â You had a Manti Te'o that had a very bold personality.Â And sometimes we took on his personality as a team.
This one represents more of a group.Â So every single day this is a group that comes to work every single day with a consistency.Â So I think that's what I see more than anything else is that I know what I'm going to get from them every single day because it's‑‑ it's a deeper group in the sense that there's not just one personality.Â It's across the board.
We just talked about three captains, and I didn't mention a number of other seniors‑‑ you know, Louis Nix and Carlo Calabrese and Danny Fox, Chris Watt, just to name a few, Tommy Rees.Â There's a lot of seniors that are really good leaders as well, and all those personalities move in the same direction as well.
So a lot of seniors, a lot of leaders, but they all move together as one.
Q.Â Stephon Tuitt, does he follow under the discussible injuries category or not?
COACH KELLY:Â Yeah, we didn't see anything major there.Â He just twisted his knee, nothing major.Â Brian Ratigan saw him after practice.Â We're not concerned at all.
Q.Â As you get closer to the season now and especially with the Temple game plan in, is this Tommy Rees' team at quarterback, or do you have situations where we will see Andrew Hendrix and Malik Zaire?
COACH KELLY:Â We always prepare for all those things.Â As I said, Tommy Rees is going to be our starter against Temple, but we prepare for all situations.
The difference is, as it related to Hendrix, is that he was a niche quarterback for us.Â He's no longer a niche quarterback.Â I mean, he can run our offense.Â Last year, the year before, we had to run special packages for him.
We're going to take advantage of some of the things he can do.Â He can run.Â He's a physical runner.Â So we may have some more quarterback runs, but it's not going to turn into an option game with him in there.Â He can run our offense.Â So we don't have to turn the playbook inside out to put Andrew Hendrix into the game.
Malik, we would.Â I mean, we would have to alter significantly what we're doing.Â He's just not ready to do everything that we want.Â We're really excited about him as a player and as a quarterback.Â He's just not at that level yet.Â He's getting there.
It's like anything else.Â We want him to continue to grow, but he's not at the level of those two guys yet.Â The difference being Andrew Hendrix is not a niche quarterback anymore.Â He can do much, much more, and we're very confident, if he has to go in the game, that he can run our offense.
Q.Â Two quick ones.Â Do you have an update on Tony Springmann?Â And then as far as kick return, punt return, have you made decisions there?
COACH KELLY:Â Yes.Â Tony Springmann is out for the season.Â He'll have surgery.Â He had a dislocation that also had severe ligament damage that will require surgery, one that we hadn't seen before.Â We think he'll have a full recovery but really disappointed for Tony in that he'd made some great strides.
You know, it alters our depth a little bit.Â We're going to have to push Isaac Rochell most likely into action this year.Â We were hoping we could be a little more patient with Isaac, but we're going to have to really accelerate that learning curve for Isaac this year.
The other questions were punt returner and kick returner.Â Kick returner, we'll stay with George Atkinson.Â I think, you know, those scenarios are, for us‑‑ again, I think we all saw where's that ball being kicked?Â If we have opportunities to return them, we want to get the best personnel on the field to give him opportunities to return them.Â So George will be our kick returner.
Our punt returner will be T.J. Jones.Â I think he's done an outstanding job.Â He wants to do it.Â He's got the passion and the desire to do it, and I think that's a good thing for us.
Q.Â Brian, how down or disappointed were you with Tommy at this time a year ago, and how would you characterize his three years coming in right now?
COACH KELLY:Â I don't know that I would‑‑ I would not put myself in the down or disappointed as much as I've been in college football and around 18 to 21‑year‑olds all my career.Â I'd probably say that, in his instance, it was part of a young man growing up.
And I always‑‑ I'm always looking for the response, you know, how do you respond to making a mistake?Â I'm always looking, are you going to be accountable when you make a mistake?Â And I think, when he stepped on that field against Purdue and got booed and responded to that, you know, I was going to be in his corner all the way.
So I think that's how I would characterize that.Â So how do I see his‑‑ I don't think the story's written.Â I think you write the story after he completes his journey here at Notre Dame, and you know what, it could be a really interesting story.
I think he's had a great camp.Â I think he's really developed his skill, which I think is very important as part of this story because, look, we could talk about the off‑field stuff, and that's really neat, but that doesn't help our football team win games.Â He had to develop his skill in the off‑season, and I've seen tangible evidence of it every day in practice in the way he is throwing the football, getting us in the right place.Â Now I want to see it on Saturday.
So I think, at the end of this season, I think we could have a really good story about Tommy Rees.
Q.Â What did last year show you about [No microphone]?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, it showed me a lot about his competitive drive and his want and desire to go out and want to compete for not only his teammates but for himself and Notre Dame.Â That's why he's got great respect in the locker room.
So you want to push those guys out front.Â He's got great respect from all of his teammates.
Q.Â Brian, very broadly, where has Zack Martin upped his game since the BCS Championship?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, I think we measure greatness in so many different ways, but I think one of those areas is to up the game of others around you.Â I think his ability to bring the play of the line around him to a higher level.
The stories that I've heard this summer, absolutely incredible, where, as a unit, the starting offensive line would stay together, driven by Zach, to wait for the freshmen to get out of class this summer, to get‑‑ because the workouts do not coincide.Â The veterans get their workout in, and then the freshmen come from class and get their workouts in at a different time, sometimes lagging by an hour, hour and a half.
Zach would keep the veteran linemen around for upwards of an hour, hour and a half, so they could work out together.Â Those‑‑ that doesn't happen.Â That just does not happen.Â But because of him, he's been able to up the play of all of our younger players exponentially.Â So he's made others around him better.Â I mean, that's the first thing I can see immediately.
And he's physically stronger at the point of attack.Â I mean, there's‑‑ I mean, he can handle anybody on our defensive line physically, and I think those two things stand out.
Q.Â Real briefly, do you have a five‑‑
COACH KELLY:Â Are you saying that I'm long‑winded?Â Is that what you're implying?
Q.Â This is a more brief question.
COACH KELLY:Â Okay, thank you.
Q.Â Do you have a five set on the offensive line?Â Is Stanley penciled in at right tackle or nothing yet?
COACH KELLY:Â No.Â We're still working through that.Â Ronnie was out with a concussion.Â He is on track to be back on Monday, if all things continue to move in the right direction.Â He's gone through his testing, and we expect him, if things continue to go the right way, to be back Monday.
Steve Elmer has done a great job.Â I think everybody knows about his ability to go in there and compete.Â But it's not something that we're ready to commit to right now.
Both of those guys are going to play.Â Elmer and Stanley are going to play.Â As I cautioned everybody earlier, we like them both, and they're both really good.Â So I think we should all be very excited that both of those guys can come in and help us win.
Q.Â Some people look on paper, Tommy Rees, 14‑4 as a starter, senior, returning as a starter.Â They would think he would be a surefire captain.Â Why is he not a captain?
COACH KELLY:Â There's so many things that I look at when it comes to captains, and it doesn't have to do with just being the quarterback and having a 14‑4 record.Â That's a valid criteria, but I look at so many different things.
I mean, there's‑‑ for me, balance on offense and defense.Â Sometimes I don't like to have too many offensive guys over defensive guys.Â It really‑‑ to me, there's just so many different things.Â I make gut instinct calls on guys.Â Tommy's got a lot on his plate, being the quarterback at Notre Dame too.
And I'm not saying one is‑‑ but I take all of those things into consideration, but there's not really just a box of checklists that I go through.Â I look at everything and then try to make the best decision for the team and the best fits that I see across the board.
I think you can make the case for a number of guys to be captains, but I look at everything, and it's both on the field, off the field, all those things are important to me.
Q.Â Nine days away from the opener.Â Is this team ready to go, as in they're sick of practicing and they just want to get out there already?Â Or where are they mentally?
COACH KELLY:Â They do exactly what I ask them to do.Â Look, down deep, we are physically coming back from the two weeks of, you know, preparation.Â So from a physical standpoint, our legs are coming back.Â We're moving faster.Â You know, if you came out and saw us Saturday compared to today, you'd see us moving a lot quicker on the field than we were on Saturday.
We're mentally at that point where we want to go play someone else mentally, but we understand the importance of good work as well.Â So I'm agreeing with your question that our guys mentally want to play somebody else, but they still know the importance of the work that we're getting day in and day out.
Q.Â Coach, will you be disappointed if I don't ask an injury question?
COACH KELLY:Â You got trumped.Â You got trumped.
Q.Â I did.Â Kind of got scooped there.
COACH KELLY:Â You did.Â That's all right, though.
Q.Â I'm going to ask first about kicking and punting.Â How did that competition end up?
COACH KELLY:Â That's a very good question.Â We're going to use all of them.Â I think Nick Tausch, Kyle Brindza, Wulfeck, all three are going to play against Temple.Â At what time and what place, I'm not sure yet how that's all going to play out.
We've asked Kyle Brindza to be our punter.Â Okay.Â And we've asked him to spend a lot of time and effort in doing that.Â So he's going to get the first shot at punting.Â I really think he can be an All‑American punter.Â He may not be there yet, and we're going to have some growing pains there.
But we have a guy in Wulfeck that can get us out of some jams.Â He's really consistent.Â He's going to get us great hang time, and he's going to put us in some good positions.Â He's not going to flip the field position, but he's going to keep us in good position.Â So he's going to help us as well.
Nick's had a great camp.Â He has.Â I mean, if statistically, numbers‑wise, he's kicked the ball, and we've charted every kick.Â His numbers have been great.Â I didn't bring Nick back not to give him a chance to win the job.Â It just wouldn't be fair.Â We'd just tell him, listen, go find another place.
Having said that, Kyle's been a bit distracted because we've asked him to put all this time and energy in punting.Â So what we're going to do is we're going to go into the first game, I'm going to give Nick an opportunity to kick.Â Kyle's going to kickoff, okay, because he's won that clearly.Â He's going to punt, and we're going to use the Temple game to get all three of them some action, and then we'll make a decision in game two as to where we are.
Q.Â You mentioned some of the things about Tommy Rees with his attitude, what's different with that, and off the field and all that.Â Maybe the assessment of him is unfair.Â I think a lot of people thought that there were physical limitations that contribute to him maybe not having big numbers in 2011.Â Do you feel comfortable with what he's able to do physically from a deep throw standpoint, from a footwork standpoint?
COACH KELLY:Â I do.Â I do.Â He can do the things that we want him to do in terms of pushing the ball down the field vertically.Â He doesn't have the arm strength that Everett Golson does, but if he's on time, if he's reading it properly, if he's doing all the right things, he can get the ball to exactly where we need him to get it.
He's matured as an individual as well, and all of those things, I have been able to see firsthand.Â There's no reason why he can't do the things that we're asking him to do, and he's shown us that he can do them.
Q.Â How does last season's accomplishments affect it, if at all, this team's receptiveness to being coached or their motivation level.Â Has it been more difficult because of any sense settling in that they have achieved something or they've arrived?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, it's been the topic of conversation from day one, and everything that we've talked about has been focused strictly on you don't just begin this climb at the top of the mountain.Â We have to start all over again.
That has been the consistent theme in January in talking about how do we get back up there.Â If we go back and we start relying on what we did in the past‑‑ here's what I told them, to answer the question.Â If we do it like we did last year, we're going to be an 8‑5 team because everybody has taken their motivation off what we did last year and have worked harder.
We supplied motivation for the entire college football world that, if Notre Dame can do it, we can do it.Â So everybody has worked exponentially that much more in their off‑season because of us.Â So if you do it like you did last year, you're an 8‑5 football team.
So that's been the message since January in terms of what we needed to do, and we'll find out because that's how they've worked.Â There's nothing that I have seen that has shown that we have not answered that challenge each and every day.
Q.Â How conscious will you be of how you deal with Tommy Rees on Saturdays in comparison to the last time he was your full‑time quarterback?Â In that does he have a little bit more leeway?Â Will you be a little bit more understanding?Â Does he have more input?
COACH KELLY:Â I think my relationship with Tommy has evolved and grown over the last couple years.Â I think my relationships with the entire football team has grown and evolved over the last couple of years.
I think this whole football program has changed over the last few years under my leadership, and I have changed as we have grown together.
Now, I still reserve the right to bark at them if it doesn't go the way I expect it to go, but I don't see those‑‑ our practices run so much‑‑ so much better on a day‑to‑day basis because we're all on the same page and we're all speaking the same language.
Q.Â Coach, a lot of the players have been talking about the‑‑ the defensive players, that they can be as good or better than last season.Â How can you lose a player like Manti and still be better?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, I think you'll have to look at it in its scope of 11 players, right?Â If you ask me, is Danny Fox or is Jarrett Grace better than Manti Te'o?Â Well, I don't know.Â They haven't played.Â But you could probably begin by saying, well, probably not.
But could Bennett Jackson and KeiVarae Russell tie down and play more man, and we can pressure a little bit more, or we can play some more coverages that can compress and bring down a safety more to supplant maybe some of the things that we were not doing last year in run fronts?Â Yeah, sure, we could do that maybe this year.
So I think you have to look at it that we have some other pieces that might be a little bit stronger than they were last year.Â So I think you have to look at all 11.Â We lose a great player in Manti Te'o, but we gain some other pieces that, I think, are stronger across the board, and we still have a consistent, strong front seven.
When you look at the front seven and those pieces, there's a consistency there, and then I think we do some things that might be a little bit better in other areas that can strengthen that.
Q.Â To have the kind of season you want, do you have to have them be as good as they were last year or better?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, certainly, we're going to have to play very good defense.Â I think we know that for certain.Â But we have to score more points.Â We did not score enough points.Â We were not effective enough in the red zone.Â Those two things are pretty clear.Â And we did not throw the ball effectively enough in first and second down situations.
So a bigger piece falls on the offense this year than it does on the defense.Â If the defense can stay within the same area code as it played last year defensively and we really up our offensive output, then we can have the kind of year that we're all looking forward to.
Q.Â Coach, one thing I've always wondered in preparation between‑‑ unique to college football is at the end of the season and before the most important game of that year is an incredibly long layoff that we've come to accept in our sports over the years as normal.Â There's no other place like that.Â When you were leading up to the Championship game and maybe for the future for any bowl game, is there something you would see in a game of that magnitude that you or your staff would have changed in preparation, not necessarily Xs and Os, but just generally the way things go between all that time of the last game and the big game?
COACH KELLY:Â More bodies.Â We just needed more bodies.Â We weren't deep enough yet.Â We just needed more bodies, more healthy bodies, more bigger bodies.Â And that's in recruiting and continuing to develop and build your program.
The ability to go live and tackle and do the things necessary.Â I think there are some programs going through that.Â Miami is going through that.Â Penn State is going through that during the regular season with reductions in scholarships.Â Not that we were in that level, but we were low on numbers and the ability to duplicate some of the things we needed to do with that long layoff.
We're almost through that.Â We're getting closer to the numbers we need to be, and those long, long layoffs are almost behind us.Â We've got to get through one more year, and then we get into the playoffs, and those layoffs start to shrink.
Q.Â Brian, here in the back.Â You mentioned in the answer about your relationship with Tommy Rees that it has changed, and you said that you have changed as well.Â How have you changed over your time here at Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY:Â I mean, there's so many things.Â I mean, I think we all get the opportunity to grow in so many ways in our life.Â I think I do a better job as a parent, balancing my schedule.Â I think I do a better job at delegating.Â I do a better job of not listening to you guys as much.Â That's helping me a lot.
I just think, when you're the head coach at Notre Dame, it's so important that on a day‑to‑day basis, that you keep in perspective why you're doing this job, and that is you want to be around 18 to 21‑year‑old kids that are the best and the brightest in the world, and that's why you're doing this job.Â You're not doing it for any other reason.Â And keeping that in perspective.
Yes, I understand I'm an ambassador for the University of Notre Dame and I've got all these other things that I have to do, but I've now kept it in perspective that I'm coaching 18 to 21‑year‑olds.Â So it's allowed me to stay focused on that, and it's helped me stay centered from that perspective.
So all of those things, it's helped me immensely.
Q.Â And on a separate note, with the rules this year regarding how you can hit somebody and personal fouls, has any official been able to clearly explain to you, so that you can clearly explain to your players, how the rule operates?
COACH KELLY:Â Yeah, I think really what we're talking about here is intent, right?Â Here's the deal.Â It happened so quickly, right?Â It happened so quickly.
I think everybody in this room can tell when somebody launches, right?Â And launches and is intending to harm somebody with their helmet.Â What we're all worried about is that bang‑bang play.Â Was there intent, right, to hurt somebody?
We're just informing our players of the proper way to play this game, how to properly tackle, to see what you hit, to obviously have no intent to injure or harm.Â That's all we can do.Â The game is so fast.
I think we all have seen the clip of Clowney‑‑ look, they slanted the offensive line.Â Somebody cut him loose and bang.Â Was there intent to‑‑ no, there was no intent there.
So we're just going to play the game, and hopefully, we've got video replay, and we'll see how it goes.Â I'm sure there's going to be some tweaks to this, maybe that down the road it comes to there's no ejections and maybe it becomes like an NFL situation where there might be an ejection later if there's real, true intent that you can see on the video.
But it is what it is.Â We've informed our players, and we've talked about intent as really being the key phrase.
Q.Â You've entered this season with expectations for your team.Â You've been through camp now.Â Any surprises about this team as you get set for game day?
COACH KELLY: Â I don't know that I'm ever really surprised as much as I will say that there are some younger players now that are physically, physically able to compete at a high BCS level.
That's a bit of a surprise because they're coming out of high school, like a guy like Steve Elmer.Â I mean, here's a kid that played at Midland High School last year that physically can block a man like Stephon Tuitt.Â Now, I'm not saying he can block him every down, but he can block a guy like Stefan Tuitt.Â That's surprising, in a sense.
A guy like Jaylon Smith, who is playing in high school, can throw a guy like Troy Niklas down.Â He can't do it every down, but those things surprise me a little bit now and then, you know what I'm saying?
A Corey Robinson, who's playing small high school ball in San Antonio, that can go up and impact a play.Â So I think the freshmen sometimes surprise me.Â They were playing high school football, and then they can come in, and they can actually impact in certain situations some college players.Â Those guys surprise me now and again.
Q.Â A couple weeks ago, when we asked you about Everett Golson, you didn't know exactly what his plans were for the fall.Â Have those been finalized?
COACH KELLY:Â Yeah, I talked to him yesterday.Â He's been working out in Chicago.
His plan right now is to spend some time with George Whitfield.Â George is an established quarterback coach out in San Diego.Â He's planning on spending probably two months out there in San Diego to really work‑‑ you know, most of it is having the right training partners, as you know, receivers, and having somebody that can film him and obviously spend time on his footwork and physical development and keeping him sharp.
So he's going to spend some time out there, and I think that's during most of the inclement weather time, and then he'll be back in the Midwest probably around Thanksgiving and then settle back here in Notre Dame around the holidays.
Q.Â So he won't be involved in classes?
COACH KELLY:Â No, he does not‑‑ he does not need to take any classes, and his advising has been such that he's not really needed to take any classes.
Q.Â I was curious about the coaching staff.Â So much continuity within the coaching staff obviously, and you've addressed it before.Â What kind of advantage does that give your program?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, I think you can see it in a couple of areas.Â One, the ability to turn over play calling, first of all, to Chuck Martin.Â If I was hiring a new offensive coordinator this year, that certainly wouldn't have occurred, right?Â Which has allowed me to do a lot of other things.
I spent a lot of time on special teams.Â I've gotten involved in some other areas, you know, in terms of the kickers and the punters and some other areas that I've wanted to kind of delve into.Â So that's helped.
I think, when it comes to communication, I think that's probably the biggest plus.Â On a day‑to‑day basis, we know what to expect from each other, and it allows your practices to run so effectively because everybody knows what they're looking for.
And then the message.Â Look, when something is said, it is echoed across the board with all the coaches, and that is, when there's one voice and there's one message and that goes across the board all the way down to the players, that's pretty powerful.
Q.Â Do you think the prospective recruits appreciate that as well?Â Do you notice it showing up on the recruiting trail?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, I think it's unmistakable on a visit when a recruit can come‑‑ and parents are perceptive.Â They know when they're getting a sales pitch.Â They know.Â They go to other camps, and they go to other recruiting stops.Â They know whether they're getting sold a bill of goods.
They see my staff.Â They see the continuity.Â They see the connections in the relationships, and they see that across the board and know what they're getting when they come to Notre Dame.
Q.Â Bob Elliott, what attracted you to him?
COACH KELLY:Â Well, his‑‑ his connection with our defensive staff.Â He was Bob Diaco's position coach at Iowa.Â So we like to keep it in the family, and all those guys have strong relationships.Â He's a great teacher, a former coordinator, again, a guy that we trust and in that room is well‑respected.
Q.Â Last one, has he been‑‑ what level of inspiration has he kind of provided in the program?
COACH KELLY:Â It's not talked about a lot, but everyone knows what he's kind of gone through physically.Â What he did last year of self‑dialysis in his office is the ultimate sacrifice to be with a football team, and our players, they really respect the heck out of him for what he did.
Q.Â Brian, in naming T.J. Jones your punt returner, that part of the game can be a weapon, but it seemed that at times in the past you were more content to just keep it from being a liability.Â Is there something that T.J. has shown that will maybe allow you to make that part of a weapon again, if you will?
COACH KELLY:Â One of the cores for wanting to be successful is a burning desire to want to do the job.Â I didn't have a guy that had a burning desire to want to do that job.Â He wants to do this job badly.Â I mean, it's important to him.
He wants to return punts.Â It's important to him.Â Right there, that's, in itself‑‑ now, he's got the skill for it as well.Â And he didn't have that passion for it leading up to it, something about being a senior.Â Obviously, it's going to build his resume.Â That's fine with me.Â But he's got that passion for wanting to do it.
And he's immediately impacted that punt return team.Â They block a little different for guys that want to do it and can have some success with it.Â We've already seen an uptick in the guys that want to be on that team.
Q.Â So is it fair to say that you'll approach that side of the ball from less of a safe perspective and be more aggressive with it?
COACH KELLY:Â Yes, in one sense.Â The numbers were pretty clear.Â We had 43 percent safe punts last year.Â The way we played last year too had a lot to do with it.Â We were in a lot of safe punt situations, and the way we played defense, we held people's‑‑ we held people down.Â They were at midfield.Â They were at the 45.
We're going to try to set up some punt returns regardless of some of those field positions where we were in safe punt keeping our defense on the field.Â We're going to try to set up with some returns.Â So we'll be a little bit more aggressive with it.
THE MODERATOR:Â Thanks, everybody.
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