Exciting day today for people who write about Notre Dame football, and probably an annoying day for those actually in the Notre Dame football program.
The press conference started with head coach Brian Kelly for what was supposed to be about a half hour, along with a steady diet of various team leaders (Te'o, Cave, Slaughter, Eifert...), Savvy Jack, Bob Diaco, and Chuck Martin. The grand finale was a 3:45pm press conference to unveil the Shamrock Series uniform that the team will wear in Chicago against Miami. It should not surprise you that Eric has brought you a full breakdown of this event here on OFD.
We focus here on head coach Brian Kelly, who endured 50 minutes of press conference and some truly terrible reporter humor so I can take his quotes out of context and make fun of him.
As you know, trying a new quarterback has required us to keep our practices from being too much about individual and more about 11 on 11 because that's what we've got to get him ready for. So we've had a lot of work, a lot of opportunities to teach, a lot of guys have gotten reps and work.
Kelly spent much of the press conference talking about the virtues of 11-on-11 work in these training camps and practices and how it has really given the entire roster more valuable looks and more useful practice time. If this is true, why aren't all practices 11-on-11 then? Shouldn't more coaches go full squads, full pads more often?
I'm not even saying Kelly is wrong or being too coach-y here, but I do wonder if the injury concern has taken away what could otherwise be much more valuable practice time. It seems like the scrimmaging would be the best possible use of time but seems to be an abnormal preseason camp, at least under Kelly. Maybe some of those turnover issues could've been ironed out with some more of these reps last year...
I've probably in my own mind answered a lot of some of the early questions that we had about our football team.
On Davaris Daniels: Now he's fighting through that mental fatigue. He's getting banged up a little bit, and he's answered the bell. So we're really seeing a young man continue to mature. Look, he's far from where we want him to be, but boy, has he made great progress in the last couple of weeks.
Daniels appears, athletically, to be the heir apparent to Michael Floyd, and so obviously everyone wants him to break out in this his second year in South Bend. His career is still very young, so it might be asking a lot for him to just step in and be the guy at outside receiver. I thought this was some pretty good honesty from Kelly all along about Daniels, talking about his mental game and how he hasn't always been locked in every rep. He's a young guy who looks to be coming along, and I don't know that Davaris will be the breakout star we are all looking for quite yet, but he could be getting to a point where we can see some major contributions this year out of him. Here's hoping anyway.
A simply hilarious moment here when Brian Hamilton, stating his credentials, said he was from, get this, "Water Polo Illustrated". Oh my! I don't even know if such a publication exists! What a hoot!
As it relates to punt, we're still a work in progress there. We've got three guys that we really like back there that are still developing. I'd say that's probably something that we'll focus a little bit more on next week.
Coach, quick follow up. How many more weeks do you feel you can push back addressing the whole punt return issue before you just put a laundry cart back there? I think it's probably about time to make this a priority. It was pretty bad last year, in case you forgot.
On Chuck Martin: Him being in that position is just I know what to expect. It's not going to be a surprise. I come out on the field, our guys are executing the things that I want done. He's just really good at following through on whatever decisions were made relative to our offensive structure. I know it's getting coached. You know, it's the same offense that we have. Chuck is really good at being flexible. He doesn't have to be in this particular formation, he doesn't have to be in this type of offense. He can really adapt well to all circumstances. So I like his ability to adapt based upon what our personnel is, and I like his ability to carry what we talk about in a staff meeting onto the field, and I would expect that from Bob Diaco, as well, on both sides of the ball. I want my coordinators to be able to do that.
I don't think anyone out there can quantify stuff like this and tell us how much it manifests on Saturdays, but this has got to be a huge relief for Kelly and make practices so much more efficient. The three men at the top (Kelly, Martin, Diaco) are all locked in and seem to be on the same page all the time (Diaco even called Kelly the best boss in the country during his interview). I haven't hid the fact that I think extremely highly of our coaching staff and can only hope we can milk a couple more years out of this triumvirate before Martin and Diaco inevitably move on to bigger and better things.
Farley has done very, very well. I think he's changed the dynamics back there. I know I had spoke that McCarthy had that position locked up. Well, it's a battle now. Farley has really been impressive the last 10 days or so.
Not exactly instilling confidence in our safety depth. Slaughter gets hurt, and the guy who locked up the backup spot a week ago is relegated to third team, making way for a high school soccer player who hasn't seen the field yet at ND. But hey, at least ol' reliable Zeke Motta is staying strong back there...
Slaughter talked a lot about Farley in his interview, about how shocked he is that a guy like that who was a receiver and just moved to safety this spring has been so good this fall and how he could be a "starter" in some of their packages this season. This is great stuff from Farley, as Notre Dame is certainly going to need some guys like Farley step up this year and contribute to some victories.
Q. Building on that, is there a position group or unit where I guess since last season you've seen enough improvement where you think that it's kind of an added strength or a new strength from last year?
COACH KELLY: I think our punter and kicker.
Oh God. Kickers?!? That's what you give us? You have a chance to just heap praise on any group on your team that you want and make us all happy, and you go with the kicking specialists? NOT WHAT WE WANTED TO HEAR, COACH. Try again, this time a lot more quarterback-y.
I'll give you just an insight: We've had 126 throwing opportunities for Everett. He's had one interception. You build trust. You don't just give it, you build trust. So going from that phrase that I used in the spring to where we are today, I had to be able to move from where I was to where we want to be, and so we had to really load a lot of work on his plate. And he's exhibited that trust in the way he's handled himself in camp.
Ah now that's much better. This was probably the most revealing information in the entire press conference. That's astounding, if true. They've been going full blast with 11-on-11 all camp, so Golson's seeing the real thing and has only made the one bad mistake. This is great news and should have Notre Dame fans feeling at least a little excited to see what the new quarterback can do.
Also revealing occurred to me when a coworker asked me what he has said about Hendrix. Well...uh...he's said virtually nothing about Hendrix. It would be hard to imagine Golson not being named the starter against Navy.
Like I said, in 7 on 7 they don't need to do that because there's no linemen there. You've just got receivers running around. But you put them in 11 on 11 and you've got to make some checks and you've got to tell that tackle now that he's got to fan and that this tight end stay in.
You develop that, so you create those situations so you can see it, and then if it doesn't happen you can talk to him about it and say, hey, here's a perfect example. That's going to hold you back from being the starter unless you can overcome that. So creating those situations.
"You see, Andrew, how you threw it directly to that linebacker standing 10 yards in front of you. Yea, uh, that's gonna hold you back and keep you from being the starter."
It's the opener. Those guys will play it at 2:00 in the morning.
Hmm...2 am EST is 3 pm in Tokyo. I think Kelly has inadvertently confirmed the rumors of a game in Japan in the near future. Can't get anything by me, Coach!
Anyway, not a whole heck of a lot that we haven't heard before from the head man, but it certainly seems like there is a growing comfort level with two of the biggest concerns: Golson at QB and the depth at CB. Golson is clearly emerging, and Kelly couldn't not talk about him a bunch today. Meanwhile, Jackson and Wood have brought their games to an entirely new level and put the underclassmen in their place. They've moved incoming freshmen like Russell and Shumate to the CB depth chart to add a ton of athleticism, while Jalen Brown has played a lot better in fall than he did in spring.
I was watching und.com's coverage all day (and you should've too!), and I gotta say, Jack Nolan's hokey grandpa sense of humor was making me laugh. That probably says more about me than his comedic style, though.
They have seriously a bunch of content coming from this media day. Hopefully it will all be up at their website later today. You should check it out, especially when they talk with Swarbrick. I'm really enjoying these interviews with Nolan and Brooks. Probably a little pep rally-y for the cynical out there, but I'm really starting to feel the season right around the corner.
Some quick personnel notes:
-OT Tate Nichols is out two weeks with a patella injury (something called a sublexation). Kelly was unsure if he would be able to suit up for Navy, which would make Nick Martin and Ronnie Stanley the next men in for Week One.
-Jamoris Slaughter sat out the contact portion of practice today, but it was precautionary and not something that should be too concerning. As noted earlier, Mattias Farley was elevated to first team in his stead.
-Kona Schwenke had a soft cast on his hand but was able to participate fully in practice. Kelly curiously said "it's not even a fracture, it's a crack of the bone", which I thought was pretty much the definition of a fracture. Irishane, help me out!
-Dan Fox had a dinged up shoulder but fully participated as well. Can't afford to lose him in game one with Calabrese suspended.
-Finally, Alex Welch had successful surgery on his ACL tear. He should be back training slowly in a few months and expected back to 100% for next fall's camp.