Yesterday Coach Kelly discussed all things Stanford with the media. The themes of his press conference? Stanford is good and this game presents a big opportunity for Kelly's lads:
Again, exciting week for us. Playing Stanford, nationally ranked team at the end of the season, and it's relevant. You know, you want games that are relevant in November. That's a mark of building your program towards getting obviously the recognition. To be on national television says a lot about Stanford, but I think it says a lot about Notre Dame football as well.
When asked what he liked about the way in which Stanford had built their program, Kelly gave an answer that should make Irish fans happy: "the mental toughness and physicality of their football team." The Cardinal was "a physical, good-looking football team" when they came to Notre Dame last year. Kelly feels that the Irish have bridged the physical-development gap in the 20 games since that meeting.
Coach Kelly does not think that the Irish will be able to confuse Stanford quarterback and Heisman hopeful Andrew Luck with their defensive alignments. Interestingly enough, however, Kelly wants to make Luck throw the ball:
No, I don't know that he's going to get confused by anything. I think it's a matter of us doing a really good job in play action and knowing when he's going to throw it. Putting him in those positions when he has to throw the football is the most important thing. First and second down obviously are very crucial to us.
Kelly continued to say that the Irish defense will continue to do what it does, but would like to dictate the flow of the game to the offense:
I think you get into each came with a plan, but you also have to then adapt to the circumstances in the game.
So I think I've coached every game in a manner that we prepare the same way; we're going to do what we do; and then be able to adapt to the circumstances in the game.
So in answering your question, we would like to dictate flow of the game, but we're prepared to do what is necessary during the flow of the game.
So Kelly wants to continue to do what he's been doing on defense, he wants to dictate the flow of the of the game to the offense, but maybe not, and he wants to make Luck throw. Huh? It of course makes sense that the Irish will try to stifle the Cardinal's run game. Even with Luck under center, it's easier to run the ball down the field than it is to throw it. And, as Kelly pointed out, Luck will carve up this defense on play action passes to his big tight ends if the run game is clicking.
Kelly talked matchups. Stanford often uses a extra offensive tackles and tight ends, so Irish linebackers will need to be able to get into their run fits in addition to covering the pass. Irish 'backers have struggled mightily in pass coverage this season, so color me nervous.
Kelly gave perhaps his best example of coachspeak when he was asked "Do you kind of expect teams to get you to drop eight and nine until you and Tommy (Rees) can figure it out?" Newt Gingrich might call this "gotcha journalism." Regardless of how it was phrased--and Kelly did chuckle at its phrasing--it was a fair question. But Kelly didn't attribute his offense's second-lowest offensive output of the season to BC's defense dropping 8 and 9:
Well, it's not the reason why it was a low scoring affair, dropping eight and dropping nine.
It was or inability to cash in on a third and two. It was our drop of a wide open receiver down the sideline. Those are, to me, the bigger picture items.
This is a part of that. And getting better at the quarterback position and the recognition of how to defeat drop eight and drop nine is kind of where we are right now.
So I would just reiterate that's the next step that Tommy has to take, because he's not going to take off. As much as I would like to give him the green light or give him a green light or whatever that means, that's just not going to happen. So he's got to find other ways to defeat feet it.
Kelly gave his most candid response of the day non-verbally. He was asked "do you ever foresee [Tommy Rees] getting the green light to run a little bit more?" Kelly, unable to contain his bemusement at the question, chuckled:
We would like to give him the green light. I don't know how to answer that question. Tommy is going to give you whatever he's got. He's a competitive kid. You know how I feel about him. But Tommy also knows his strengths and weaknesses. He's got a lot of strengths, and he knows what his weaknesses are.
Kelly hinted later in his press conference that there really is no such thing as a "green light" to run. If there was, Tommy Rees is sitting at a red light, after which there is a broken railroad crossing, and, oh yeah, his transmission is laying on the pavement under his car. No amount of "green lighting" is going to help Tommy's scrambling ability.
Jonas Gray, sadly, has sustained a torn ACL and "collateral damage." He is scheduled to undergo surgery. God bless you, Jonas. A tribute to this man shall be forthcoming.
Stephon Tuitt was still sick as of the press conference, but Kelly did not rule out the possibility that Tuitt would play.
Theo Riddick is improving. Kelly intimated that the staff would work Riddick into the Stanford game plan if he showed explosiveness and wasn't too sore after Tuesday's practice.
Cierre Wood stepped up, played physical, and helped the Irish close last Saturday.
Kelly never counts on freshmen contributing in the way that Stephon Tuitt, Aaron Lynch, and Troy Niklas have contributed this year, and he certainly never expects the level of consistency that the three freshmen defenders have given.
Jamoris Slaughter is a big hitter for two reasons: (a) the staff puts him in positions to use his hitting ability; and (b) Jamoris just doesn't like to play nice.
Michael Floyd has improved the finer points of his game this year: blocking, route running; and other nuances of the position. Kelly believes that Floyd is the best receiver in the country.
Coach Kelly sounded less-than enthused about the Thanksgiving holiday. He described Thanksgiving at his home as "chaos." Kelly continued to assuage Irish fans' fears: "I think we all know for me it's more about the football." More astute (read "insane") Irish fans will likely parse this comment and ask: "why wouldn't he say that it's 'all' about the football? What's this 'more' stuff?"
The players are each assigned to an assistant coach, so Irish fans should rest assured that they will not be alone on Thanksgiving.
We here at One Foot Down, finally, wish all of our readers, regulars, commenters, FanPosters and FanShotters--okay, and even the trolls--the happiest of Thanksgivings. May your stomachs be full of turkey and pumpkin pie--everything else is just filler. May your eyeballs and brains be full of football. And you may your backsides be ever full of amply-cushioned couch. And most importatntly, may you not have to journey within 10 miles of a shopping center.
Happy Turkey Day, all, and to all a Happy Turkey Day! HUZZAH!