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UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 15, 2013
COACH KELLY:¬† Back to work this week.
It's hard to pick one guy.¬† There's so much versatility there.¬† You could go five, six deep at the running back position at USC and say that's the‑‑ boy, that's a really good football player.
Cody Kessler's done a very good job of running the offense, managing the offense.¬† He's got certainly two of the most exciting wide receivers in Aguilar and Marqise Lee on the perimeter that opens up things for him.¬† Two very talented tight ends, Grimble and Telfer.
So, again, I think I'm kind of going through what you already know.¬† It's a very talented offense, one that can score a lot of points.¬† Again, playing with the way they played against Arizona, a lot of energy.
Defensively, what I really like about them inside, Williams, Uko, those guys are very disruptive inside.¬† They will be difficult.¬† We're going to have to do a very good job of eliminating penetration.¬† You know, a very aggressive defense.¬† Three downs, four downs, mix it up a lot.¬† Some veteran players on defense.¬† We've seen Dion Bailey quite a bit.¬† Pullard has been around, a very good football player.¬† Kennard off the edge is a very difficult guy to block.
Guys that we're very familiar with, and certainly with where they are right now with an interim head coach.¬† Ed is a veteran football coach.¬† He's been a head coach.¬† He's certainly somebody that is familiar with all of his players.¬† He's got them playing with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, and we're excited about Notre Dame‑USC.
It's a great rivalry game.¬† Our guys certainly recognize it as our rivalry game, and it should be just a great football game.¬† So with that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q.¬† Talk about the rivalry game, how do you sense that?¬† How does the team show it's something special?
COACH KELLY:¬† I think we go through the season in so many weeks.¬† It's‑‑ you know, I think it's on the other side.¬† In other words, other teams really calling it their rivalry game.¬† I think our players will be the first ones to admit that this is our rivalry game.¬† This is our game that we look forward to against USC.
It's one that it's on our calendar as‑‑ I don't want to say a red letter game, but one that we look forward to.¬† It's such a great matchup, great tradition, great history.¬† It's part of the history of Notre Dame football that they really recognize as that one singular game.
Q.¬† Last year you said that it wasn't a great rivalry right then just because Notre Dame hadn't won enough.¬† Now that you've won 2 of the past 3, do you feel like it's a little bit‑‑ it's back at that level yet?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, I think we're past that.¬† Now I think it's‑‑ we would hope that both programs are competing each and every year for BCS Bowls and playoff opportunities, and I think that's where both programs want to be, that they're on equal footing, that you don't have to wait three, four years to get a win.
You know, I think both programs are looking forward to those days where it's a great matchup year in and year out.
Q.¬† Looking at the Arizona game, looked like USC was more willing to go downfield deep passes, which Lane Kiffin wasn't known for.¬† Have you seen them do anything else differently with him gone?
COACH KELLY: ¬†No, I think they took shots down the field with‑‑ I think‑‑ I just think in that ball game, they had the safeties down.¬† I don't know that I would characterize that the play calling changed that much.
I remember last year, they took shots down the field against us when our safeties started to creep down.¬† So, again, I think the game‑‑ they were certainly looking to get the ball down the field.¬† The safeties were crowding the box.¬† It was a formation where there are a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage, and it just made sense.
They were‑‑ again, they were aggressive, but they didn't, obviously, go to a spread no back, you know, up tempo.¬† They were within profile, and they're certainly going to go to their strengths.
Q.¬† During the off week, did you go back and look at '05 to '07 at all to see if there was anything you could learn from there?
COACH KELLY:¬† We did not go back that far.
Q.¬† And Sheldon Day, the update on what his condition is right now?
COACH KELLY:¬† He was‑‑ he practiced on Monday, and we expect him to play on Saturday.
Q.¬† You talked earlier about you wouldn't trade him for anyone.¬† When he's healthy, what does he bring‑‑ what do you see that makes people take notice?
COACH KELLY:¬† First of all, he doesn't stay blocked.¬† One of the things that makes a defensive lineman a great player is he gets off blocks.¬† Sheldon gets off blocks and is a great pass rusher.
He's a guy that early in the season was a great pass rusher and wasn't staying blocked.¬† He'll figure into our game plan on Saturday.
Q.¬† You mentioned getting to see the young guys this week.¬† Who stood out in the bye week from the freshman class?
COACH KELLY:¬† We try to get guys who are not only just freshmen, but guys who are going to play significant minutes for us as we go through the next six weeks.
It wasn't just a Max Redfield or a Folston.¬† It was Alex Welch getting a lot of work.¬† It was Steve Elmer getting a lot of work.¬† It was guys that are in our rotation‑‑ Jarron Jones, Ben Councell.
So it wasn't just freshmen.¬† It was guys who are getting 10, 15 plays that just needed some more work.¬† So that was really the emphasis more so than, boy, let's get all these freshmen.¬† It wasn't a freshmen scrimmage, per se.
Q.¬† Anybody stand out in particular that you think might get more snaps going forward after you saw them maybe shine a little bit more this week?
COACH KELLY:¬† No.¬† I just think that, as we move through the season, you're going to see more and more guys get an opportunity to contribute.¬† Practicing, being more confident, their role on special teams‑‑ guys are more comfortable in their roles because they're practicing more consistently.
I just think naturally you're going to see guys get more advanced in terms of their roles.
Q.¬† My other question, which kind of goes along with what he says, given that they have an interim head coach, do you use the film with Lane Kiffin, or do you kind of have to prepare for this differently given that there might be some new coaching style changes to the team?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, we don't say that.¬† Like I said, Coach Orgeron has been around.¬† He's a veteran college football coach.¬† He's not going to go in there and scuttle the offense and defense and special teams.
His personality is coming out in this football team, but he knows all of his players.¬† There's an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator for a reason.¬† They'll be some slight variations, and we'll have to be prepared for that.¬† Again, they're going to be who they are six, seven weeks into the season.
Q.¬† The last time we talked to you, there was some thought about introducing Michael Deeb in at mike linebacker.¬† I wonder what you came up with.
COACH KELLY:¬† He'll take some reps there, but it will be Dan Fox and Joe Schmidt will be one, two at that position.¬† It will be Carlo Calabrese and Kendall Moore at the will linebacker position, and Michael will be the swing guy at mike.¬† If there's any need at that position at the mike.¬† Michael would be the swing guy.
So we'd like not to have to play him if we could, but if we have a situation there where a man goes down, he's got to be ready to play.¬† So we're preparing him to play, and he's capable of playing.¬† We'll just‑‑ obviously, we think that we're set there right now with those two guys.
Q.¬† What did you see from Folston during the off week?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, he's healthier.¬† He had a bit of a hamstring.¬† There was a long run against Oklahoma where he kind of pulled up, and it kind of limited him a little bit the rest of the game.¬† But he looked better when we got a chance to run him out, and we expect him to be part of the mix for us.¬† That was the Oklahoma game moving forward.¬† He just didn't feel like he could cut it loose.
We had a play‑‑ I think it was a series or two later, where he was coming out of the backfield, and Tommy overthrew him.¬† He really couldn't cut it loose on a mesh route, and that's when we pulled him out of the game.¬† He's a lot better.¬† I think he's 100 percent.¬† He feels a lot better, and he looked really good in practice yesterday.
Q.¬† When you're going against a team that has an elite player whose injury status is a little bit up in the air‑‑ and I know Marqise Lee said he's planning on playing.¬† Do you have two different game plans, or do you just approach it he's going to play and we'll deal with it if he doesn't?
COACH KELLY:¬† We always approached it in these kinds of situations.¬† I remember Barkley a couple of years ago‑‑ was it a couple of years ago, or was it last year?¬† It was last year.¬† We just assume they're going to play, and that be would the same situation with Marqise Lee.¬† We're assuming that he's going to be in the ball game.
Obviously, you have to pay special attention to that.¬† There will be times where you've got to think about double coverage.¬† You've got to think about special coverages for him.¬† So all that has to be part of your thought process.¬† So we move forward thinking that he's going to be in the lineup.
Q.¬† Torii Hunter, Sr., flying over the wall yesterday made me think about Torii Hunter, Jr.¬† Is he a kid that you have any chance of using this year?¬† And also other players out for the year‑‑ Hounshell, Randolph and Springmann‑‑ can they do anything in practice?
COACH KELLY:¬† Torii Hunter in very impressive.¬† In answering your question, he's a young man, probably without the injury, would probably be competing for playing time as well.¬† Great speed and quickness, very shorthanded, has‑‑ has a lot of the attributes that we thought he did.¬† So we're very excited about him, but he will not play this year.
As it relates to Chase Hounshell, he is the closest.¬† We're going to put some pads on him probably‑‑ you know, I think he's close to ten days, two weeks maybe where he's going to have some pads on him.
Tony Springmann is further away, and he is still early on in the rehabilitation process from the knee injury.¬† He suffered an infection, and he had to battle through that but has made some progress here in the last couple of weeks.
And there was a third?
Q.¬† Doug Randolph.
COACH KELLY:¬† Doug and Nick, Nicky Baratti, had surgery‑‑ I believe they were twins in the surgery room.¬† I think Brian Ratigan did them, I think, on the same table almost.
They are, kidding a little now, I think they're doing a lot of ab work and tanning right now.¬† So they're in a light rehab process.¬† They're obviously far from‑‑ Chase would be the only guy, I guess in answering your question, the long version, that he could be closer to getting into some practice.
Q.¬† Since he's already missed a year, it doesn't‑‑ if he's healthy, you would like to be able to use him?
COACH KELLY:¬† That's correct.¬† There are issues relative to two consecutive years where there's a potential for hardship waivers and things of that nature where I just can't get into those at this point.¬† But we're going to address those as he gets closer to putting the pads on.
Q.¬† Last one from me.¬† I know that you're really busy during your week and so forth, but Lou Holtz is back, apparently on campus this week.¬† Were you carve out time to touch base with him, or is it just something that you just don't have time for getting your team ready?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, I think the question is will he carve out time for me?¬† Lou is extremely busy, and I think you ask him if he's got time for you, more than anything else.
We are going to get a chance to spend a little bit of time.¬† He's going to be part of the pep rally.¬† I'm really excited I'm going to get a chance to spend a little time with him prior to.¬† I'll introduce him at the pep rally.¬† He's going to talk at the pep rally.¬† We'll get a chance to spend a little bit of time.
Hopefully, I'll be able to fit into his extremely busy sports, ESPN schedule.
Q.¬† Brian, I know you're not big on history that you've had no part of, but you mentioned to your team that they haven't won at the stadium against USC since 2001.¬† Is that any kind of emphasis this week?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, continuing with that same theme, I did not know that.¬† So I wasn't aware of the history of that.¬† Really, what we've talked about as a team as to really present our goals, what our goals are, our goals are pretty clear.¬† We want to win every game that we play the rest of the season, and whatever that takes us, at the end of the season, we'll be excited about that.
We want to beat USC, and those really are our goals, and we haven't really talked about anything else relative to how that affects how we prepare.
In the first six weeks, we talked a little bit of history.¬† We talked about the first six weeks.¬† It was a tough six weeks.¬† We had some ups, and we had some downs, but we're in a pretty good place right now.¬† Our guys, their minds are clear and focused.¬† We're feeling pretty good about ourselves and our preparation, and we're really focused on playing well Saturday against USC.
Q.¬† In the bye week, I don't know how much time you were able to devote towards self‑scouting your team, but we talked before about the slow starts that your team has had.¬† USC's been awfully tough in the first quarter.¬† Were you able to come across anything in the bye week that might help you get off to a better start?
COACH KELLY:¬† No.¬† I think‑‑ you know, again, I've been doing this a long time.¬† I've had teams that have started well.¬† I think most of the time, when we talk about getting off to a good start, it's generally coming down to guys just making plays.¬† We just need to make a couple of plays early on and get some momentum.
Confidence is huge.¬† Making a couple of plays is infectious.¬† You saw that against Arizona State.¬† You make a couple of plays, there's great energy with the group.
I think it just is as simple as make a couple of plays, convert on a couple of third downs early in the game, and I think that momentum comes to you.
Q. ¬†Speaking of making plays, talk about Prince Shembo because he obviously made some in the second half against Arizona State.¬† Talk about what it did for him coming out of that game.
COACH KELLY:¬† Again, I think that the effort's been there all year.¬† Ball came out of a lot of quarterback's hands quickly in the year.¬† There was a play action pass that took a little bit longer, and he was able to fight through some protections.¬† I think, if you hold onto the football at all, we're going to get home, and we're able to get home against Arizona State.
Again, to go back to Prince Shembo, his effort's been there.¬† It was good to see him have some success, obviously, as I said earlier about starting fast.¬† Any time you can have some success, you can build off of that.¬† I know he's feeling pretty good about himself.
Q.¬† Looking at USC, you talked about their depth at running back, but obviously, Tre Madden is having a terrific year, and they're really able to use him well as a receiver because there's so much focus that goes on Lee and Aguilar.¬† Talk about the trouble that he gives teams in defending, not only him as a running back, but as a receiver.
COACH KELLY:¬† As I said, I mean, we're talking about play calling.¬† I mean, they've used‑‑ they've used their weapons very well in all areas.¬† They catch the ball coming out of the backfield, screens, swings, they're multidimensional.¬† And you can go down the list.
I mean, there's‑‑ I mean, Allen was big for them against Arizona.¬† So we've got a lot of things that we're going to have to do well against a very deep and talented running back group.
Q.¬† [ No microphone ].
COACH KELLY:¬† I like hunches sometimes in a sense and feel.¬† When you get a sense of a game, you go with it.¬† I will say this about Amir.¬† I think the game has dictated his play and how the game has unfolded.¬† And I think he's been ready every week.
I mean, I think, if we look back early in the season, he was kind of‑‑ he started off really well, and then we just had some other guys that have played well.
So I think it's been more about multiple players playing well at that position, more so than his play has not elevated itself.¬† I think we really just have a situation where we're just trying to get all those guys playing.¬† But having said that, I think he was at USC.¬† I think you can see he's pretty focused this week.
My guess is he's going to be excited about the opportunity to play against USC.¬† So we'll be keenly aware of his want to play very well against USC.
Q.¬† Was he one of those guys this past week that got a lot of work.¬† And what were you looking for‑‑
COACH KELLY:¬† He practiced, let's put it that way.¬† He's one of those guys that practiced a whole lot.
Q.¬† What did you see out of him?
COACH KELLY:¬† It's pretty much what we've seen.¬† Again, we go back to the kind of games we've been in, close fought games.¬† We've been behind in some.¬† And so, again, I think we're really high on Amir, it's just trying to get the football to as many guys as we can.
We've got some depth on that position.¬† Cam McDaniel closed out the game for us against Arizona State.¬† George had the big game the week before.¬† You know what I mean?¬† We really like Amir.¬† It's just we've got to get him in the flow of the game.
Q.¬† Unique situation in that you guys both played the same opponent recently in Arizona State.¬† Is there anything that you saw Arizona State do that you thought was particularly effective when they played USC?
COACH KELLY:¬† Just that Arizona State is a really good football team and very difficult.¬† They gave us all we could handle as well.¬† Their offense is dynamic.¬† When we do those self scouts and take a look at other opponents, we're certainly looking at the nuances of the game, but I really think, if you look at it, it was back and forth.¬† But the game at the end kind of got away from USC.
That game, it was a close game right into the fourth quarter.¬† You had two teams going back and forth, and the dam kind of broke at the end.
So you look at it, our game very close back and forth, USC‑Arizona, close game back and forth.¬† You're going to expect the same thing with Notre Dame‑USC.
Q.¬† So that particular game wasn't necessarily more beneficial for you as you got through this week?
COACH KELLY:¬† No, I think it's still about the body of work for the entire year.
Q.¬† Off topic, but given your love for the Boston Red Sox and given Torii Jr.'s obvious connection with the Tigers, has there been any fun back and forth between the two of you this week?
COACH KELLY:¬† I just told him he can't have his dad throwing his body around like that.¬† We don't want him to get hurt like that.¬† He said his dad should have made the catch.
Q.¬† Do you agree, having seen it?
COACH KELLY:¬† I didn't‑‑ it didn't appear to me that he had any chance to catch that.¬† He looked like superman flying through the air.¬† I don't think that anybody would even think he could make that catch.¬† If you're going to throw yourself over the bullpen, you may as well try to make the catch too, right?
Q.¬† What do you think has allowed Troy Niklas to have as much success now as he's had?
COACH KELLY:¬† Understanding the position.¬† It's a new position for him.¬† Last year is really‑‑ for him, understanding the position and the nuances was really new for him, and he's still learning as we go.¬† He picks up new things about the position each and every week.
I think that's what we're seeing, the maturation of the young man that's learning how to play the tight end position and then his physical ability, right?¬† His size and athleticism and all those things are starting to show themselves.¬† They don't show themselves when you're not sure how to use them.
I think now he's starting to use his athletic ability, and he's so much more comfortable with the position himself.¬† And once you're more comfortable with the position, your athletic ability starts to show itself.¬† I think that's what we're starting to see a glimpse of.
Q.¬† It seems like every Sunday on the conference call we talk to you, and you mention T.J. on the injury report, whether it's ankle or shoulder.¬† [ No microphone ].¬† How does that rub off on the rest?
COACH KELLY:¬† Well, it's been a‑‑ it's been acquired.¬† If you go back to his freshman year, we've been hard on T.J.¬† I've been hard on him.¬† I mean, you can go back to conversations that I've had with him on the sideline at times.¬† He's a guy that has grown and developed, and a lot of it has been on his want and desire to be the best wide receiver in the country.¬† He is an extremely motivated young man.
And he has‑‑ he has elevated himself in the sense that he now plays with a mental and physical toughness.¬† There are times where those things would have‑‑ those bumps and bruises that you mentioned‑‑ which affect everybody, right?¬† In this game of college football‑‑ may have affected him from week to week.¬† It does not affect him now.¬† He fights through them.
He's in practice.¬† He's on the ground diving and making catches.¬† He's on the ground more in practice than any of our young freshmen because he's competing all the time.
These are the marks of great players.¬† Every great player that I've had practices that way.¬† That wasn't the case with him, and he has developed that over his time here at Notre Dame.
He's had others to see in terms of he's seen a Michael Floyd in the way they practice, he's seen a Manti Te'o, he's seen a Tyler Eifert and the way they practice.¬† He's obviously at that level.
Q.¬† Go back to Amir.¬† Do you just recall that connection, if you will, that allowed him to come to Notre Dame?
COACH KELLY:¬† It was recruiting initially.¬† His understanding‑‑ he was a great student in high school.¬† So Stanford, Notre Dame were part of his schools that he was interested in, but you've got to recruit him.
I believe that that was the case, that‑‑ he was a very good student, and he's a great student right now.¬† So I think those schools had an interest, and he had an interest in them early on.
Q.¬† I think the last time we talked, you said there's going to be a delay with Danny Smith's surgery to get the swelling down.
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, he had the surgery.
Q.¬† He did?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah, we had to get some of the swelling out of there.¬† He had successful surgery, plates, screws, all those were taken care of.¬† Derek had his surgery. ¬†Both of those guys are obviously on the mend.
Q.¬† Do you know when Grace finally made it back to town?
COACH KELLY:¬† Tuesday.¬† We flew him back on Tuesday.
Q.¬† Totally off the topic, a technique question, but having had the opportunity to watch so much football this past weekend, just watching DBs and how they react to the ball in the air, what are your rules of thumb in terms of when they turn to see the ball, when they don't, and then now the fact that the back shoulder probably has a whole different dimension.¬†
COACH KELLY:¬† That's a whole argument that we could‑‑ not an argument, but a whole other dissertation.¬† In phase, out of phase.¬† In phase, hip to hip, turn, and play the ball.¬† So if you're in phase, hip to hip with the receiver, turn and play the ball.¬† Out of phase, don't turn and rake through the basket.¬† We call the basket where the hands for the receiver are in a position.¬† Rake through the basket.
So it's an in phase, out of phase technique discussion as it relates to playing the ball.¬† Don't put the hands up.¬† Don't face guards.¬† If you're not in phase, you're trying to get the strip and rip through and dislodge the football.
Q.¬† And how would you evaluate your DBs have played that so far?
COACH KELLY:¬† Much improved.¬† I think we have‑‑ we play the back shoulder throw very well against Arizona State.¬† We force precise throws against Arizona State.¬† We made them make great throws by our positioning, and we've improved in that area.¬† 15‑yard penalty is a big difference than an NFL penalty.¬† So you need to be aggressive as well.
You saw that in some of the teams that we played against.¬† I mean, there's a lot of discussion about how to play it.¬† For us, relative to pure technique, it's an in phase, out of phase discussion.
Q.¬† And as far as the back shoulder, defending that, that's got to be really difficult.
Q.¬† It's a very, very difficult‑‑ there's some things that you have to do before the ball even gets there.¬† You have to do it at the line of scrimmage.¬† Formation, tendencies, where you are, short field versus wide field.¬† If the ball's on the hash and it's a short throw, clock in your head.¬† There's a lot of things you have to try to work on because it's a very, very difficult throw, it's thrown accurately.
We've seen everybody in football, from the NFL to college football really work that throw.¬† There's a lot of things that go into teaching it.
Q.¬† Last time USC was up here, you had the new helmets.¬† It was the first night game here in 21 years, piped in music for the first time.¬† You had probably one of the bigger recruiting weekends ever here.¬† You have a huge recruiting weekend this week too.¬† How do you balance preparing for the game with all the visits as well?¬† I don't want to say it's necessarily a distraction because it's the light squad, but when you have so many things going on.
COACH KELLY:¬† We have a great recruiting office, and they'll handle the lion's share of all that work.¬† They'll take care of a lot of that.¬† Our phone calls have been made.¬† A lot of it has been done.¬† We'll spend some of the time with the guys because we've got a long day, so it it gives us‑‑ we can carve out an hour with them or so.
But 90 percent of our focus will be on the game.¬† We won't be distracted from the recruiting process.¬† We've got a recruiting office that will take care of a lot of that.
As I told our guys, this is pretty simple, right?¬† The atmosphere, the game, the people around will take care of the environment.¬† And then just win the damn game.¬† Win the game.¬† That's what you need to do.¬† So be cordial.¬† If you can say hi to a recruit, if you can shake their hands, make sure you do a good job.¬† High touch, customer service, let's do all those things and do a great job with it, show them a great time, be as gracious as we can with our time.
But they understand.¬† They're football players.¬† They want their coaches.¬† They want the coaches to be focused on the game and win the game.¬† That's the best way I could put it to our coaches.¬† We met with them the other day about the weekend.¬† Win the game.
Q.¬† Is it tougher to have a night game at home than on the road?¬† You're in a traveling mode, business kind of deal on the road, but at home, does it make it for a longer day?
COACH KELLY:¬† Yeah.¬† I mean, I try not to get bottled down in the minutia of it because, if I did, everything would slow me down.¬† You know, all the little things.
I think what we try to do is keep the routine the same as if we were on the road.¬† We're going to go back to the hotel and back at the Doubletree.¬† It's going to have the same room.¬† It's going to have the same routine.¬† We're just in South Bend, and we're not in Indianapolis or another location.¬† So try to keep the routine the same.
So whether we're at home or on the road, that the routine stays the same.¬† That's what I try to do.
Q.¬† Kind of a long term question here, following up on the inside linebacker situation, you lose both Carlo and Danny next year.¬† Kind of the numbers are a little bit more sparse there.¬† Is there any other candidates that you see potentially down the road?
COACH KELLY:¬† We've got plenty of guys that can play there.¬† There's a lot.¬† If you just look at the body types, we've got plenty of guys.¬† Coach Diaco, if he needs to, he's got plenty of guys that can play inside, even if they're not on the roster as mike linebackers.
We feel like there's enough guys on the roster that, if we needed to, we can get them ready to play those positions.¬† We're just not having those discussions at this point.¬† I don't look at it and go, oh, my God, there's nobody that can play at that position.¬† We can't get it done.
I'm confidence that, when it's time to roll out the ball next year, we'll be solid at those positions.
Q.¬† Do you feel with Ben Councell and Romeo Okwara, they'll stay at the positions they are.¬† Romeo can sometimes go down, maybe even like Ishaq in the end position.¬† What roles do you see for them in the future?
COACH KELLY:¬† They're going to be on the field.¬† There's no question.¬† Both of those guys are going to play a lot of football for us.¬† Where, I really couldn't tell you at this point.¬† We really like both those guys.
Romeo got a taste of some action against Arizona State.¬† We like the way he played, and he's coming on.¬† The future looks bright for both those guys.
Q.¬† You could see Romeo downshifting?
COACH KELLY:¬† I could see him playing tight end.¬† That means, yeah, he could play a number of positions.¬† He's athletic.¬† He's long.¬† He could be a pass rusher.¬† We think he can stand up, and he can‑‑ he certainly can play on his two feet.¬† He's an athletic kid.¬† He just needs the opportunity.¬† He just hasn't had the chance really.
You know, when we really look at it, it's a matter of opportunity for Romeo more than anything else.
Q.¬† But Councell, I mean, you like that rotation with him and Jaylon?
COACH KELLY:¬† I do.¬† He's a bigger kid right now.¬† He's 250 pounds.¬† If it gets into a banging, two‑back power game, we love his ability to get in there as well.
Q.¬† Lee or no Lee, you're pretty familiar with Nelson through recruiting.¬† What did you like about him coming out of high school, and what does he look like on tape now similar to what you thought he would be when you recruited him?
COACH KELLY:¬† We love the fact that he could go all day.¬† He's one of those guys that just runs all day, plays fast every snap.¬† I don't think, you know, he came off the field.¬† He's blocking.
The one thing, if it you watch that game closely, to close out the game, they needed to convert some third downs running the football late.¬† He's in there blocking safeties, physical.¬† That's the kind of player he was.¬† That's what we saw.¬† A guy that plays every single play.¬† He was a very good defensive player too in high school.
So that's the kind of player, that tenacious, every play, and elite speed and size.¬† So just a complete player from that standpoint.
Q.¬† The game here two years ago, there was a bit of a fallout afterwards in terms of teams coming back together the next week.¬† You're 20‑3 in the regular season since.¬† What do you feel you got out of that weekend as a coach, even if it was a negative at the time, that helped you kind of put a better foundation on the program that you guys have been building on ever since?
COACH KELLY:¬† I just think it was, you know, one of the pieces along the way.¬† It's just‑‑ you know, every family's going to have good days and bad days.¬† That might have been one of our bad days, but we kept it in‑‑ we talked about it.¬† We aired out our differences.¬† We took accountability for where mistakes were made, and we moved on from it.
We didn't relive it.¬† We moved from it.¬† And so I think that's probably the point that, as you move forward, you learn from past experiences, and you build off of those past experiences.
Q. ¬†What do you think you learned that helped you the most from that experience?¬† Whether it be night game, hoop‑la, all that stuff, that's been a big driving force getting the program where it is.
COACH KELLY:¬† From that game?
Q.¬† That game, the weekend, winning afterwards, and all that.
COACH KELLY:¬† Win the game, and you get more recruits.¬† That's what I learned.¬† I don't know that‑‑ look, I mean, that particular game itself was how we were able to come back the next week and play so well.¬† There were things that were already in it place within the program, or you don't come back the next week and play really, really well.
What was clear to me is that we needed to play the game better, and I think that that's what happened.¬† We were more succinct in our approach.¬† We were more exact in the way we played the game, and that carried itself over.
So there were things that we look back on now, and if we could have done them differently, we would have done them differently, but they all go towards that experience that you have as a group, and they made us better as a football team.
Q.¬† Dan Fox, he obviously gave himself a jolt of confidence last week with the interception, touchdown, fumble recovery when he came in for Jarrett.¬† I'm curious how he handled being passed¬† on the depth chart by Grace and losing 20, 25 snaps those two weeks as a fifth year senior?
COACH KELLY:¬† The way I would expect of him.¬† He was livid.¬† He was mad.¬† And then he handled it like a captain, senior, leader‑‑ although he doesn't have a "C" on his shirt, he handled it the way that I would expect somebody of his character to handle it.¬† He just went to work.¬† And worked on getting better.
Look, he had every excuse in the book.¬† The first thing he could have said is, hey, I went to mike.¬† I'm the will.¬† You know what I mean?¬† He already had a built‑in excuse.¬† Didn't use one of them.¬† Didn't use any of them.¬† Just went to practice and went to work harder.
He could have been disruptive, could have done all those things, but that's why Dan Fox is a special kid.¬† And now we've got to put him in bubble wrap.¬† He knows that.
Now he's got a great opportunity to finish his senior year and finish it in an incredible fashion.¬† So we're really proud of him.¬† I told him that.¬† We're proud of the way he handle himself in a tough, tough circumstance, and it's only going to benefit him down the road.
Thanks, everybody.¬† We'll see you on Wednesday.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports