Brian Kelly's weekly media session may have only been 38 minutes long this week, but the Head Coach of the Fighting Irish was able to toss in a bunch of outstanding coaching platitudes while handing out some Holtz-ian praise of his opponents from the podium (He called IU and Pitt "great wins"). He also provided some insights into a few OFD discussions that we'll dive in to.
- Chris Watt was described as probable and moving well.
- Ishaq Williams is out.
- Sheldon Day is probable. He had an MRI on his balky ankle, and what they thought was a high ankle sprain turned out to be a bone bruise and he's now progressing nicely.
- Ronnie Stanley will practice Tuesday, but had to get the "Zaire treatment" for tweeting about getting treatment.
- Louis Nix III was described as "questionable" by Kelly. Kelly said he was progressing well and working out, but also said he was not prepared to play anyone against an option team that didn't practice during the week.
No, Kelly wasn't getting defensive, but the defense was a major topic of discussion in the press conference. As Burger mentioned in his excellent OFD Films piece, Kelly highlighted the difference in Navy's offensive execution vs. the AFA's version of the option. Kelly noted specifically AFA's use of the power play, and said if we see that this week vs. Navy, it would be the first time. Fans of coach-speak about "precision" and "small adjustments" will love Kelly's description of the difference between these two option attacks. Read Burger's article first to educate yourself, then dive in to the section about 1/3 of the way thru the video for BK's explanation.
Later, Kelly is asked to recall his statement after the OU game, when he declared the defense was good enough to win all the remaining ball games. Since then, the Irish D has been outstanding. Kelly attributed that declaration to the gold standard in coach-speak: "Fundamentals." Thankfully, he expanded on that gem as he went. Other than the 2 big plays vs. OU, that he deemed "correctable," he saw his team playing well against the run and playing well on the edge. He's seen the markers of success, and as young guys continue to step up and progress, we're seeing the results.
The head coach talked about KeiVarae Russell's personality helping him make the transition from offense into an outstanding CB. His ability to absorb highs and lows has helped him become a great athlete playing corner, but Kelly has recently observed Russell becoming a "student of the game" and working on his craft at the CB spot. This is fantastic news and indicates a great future for a really interesting and exciting young man.
Kelly also talks glowingly about freshman sensation Jaylon Smith. Asked if Smith has "stopped surprising" Kelly yet, the head coach responded that he hasn't. Smith continues to show the things "that are hard to teach." His instinctive play and improvement within the AFA game show the immense depth of both his physical and mental talents for the game.
Kelly dropped an interesting tidbit regarding Kona Schwenke. It appears that the Hawaiian defensive lineman is drawing some NFL interest and will have a chance to play on Sundays.
The Most Interesting RB in the World
Kelly provides some of the lighter moments of Tuesday's session when discussing a certain photogenic RB. After joking that ND Football Media Relations man Michael Bertsch was headed to NYC to try to get on GMA, Kelly also admitted that if he were in the locker room after Cam McDaniel's Today Show appearance, he'd be giving the TX RB a hard time. One of my least favorite writers then went on to make a solid comical contribution asking if ND equipment man extraordinaire, Ryan Grooms, couldn't find McDaniel a helmet that fit or a chinstrap that worked. Kelly of course quipped that Grooms must be getting a cut for every cover photo McDaniel makes.
Run CmC wasn't the only RB getting some air time from the head coach. Like me, Kelly thought Folston looked good. While the staff wants to see more of "the little things" from Tarean and he needs to continue to focus on ball security, he's certainly "fun to watch."
Other offensive players getting mention in this Tuesday's session included Mr. Catch Radius himself, Corey Robinson. Asked if there was a point Robinson may grow out of his WR role, Kelly surprisingly did say that if the freshman started to pop up to 7 feet, like his famous father did, he was concerned Mike Brey would be the better one to talk to. (Seriously BK, the front court could use some rebounding help right now). It is easy to share Kelly's excitement over Catch Radius and what will happen with another year to with Coach Longo. Getting him stronger to "hold his line" and stay on his feet is the top priority for young Robinson.
Can't have a Tuesday without talking about the QB. Towards the end of the video, watch for Kelly describe his QB's "legacy" as, simply, "Fighting Irish." Even when it doesn't "look the greatest," Rees keeps working, fighting, and representing things this coaching staff loves.
Frankly, there's some other stuff in there regarding depth and grinding into November, something Kelly and his staff seem very good at. There's also some talk about reshaping goals after the 2nd loss with no conference championship to play for. Both Kelly lovers and detractors alike will find fodder in those answers, but I tend to look at Kelly's results vs. previous regimes. That certainly plays in favor of Kelly and his approach.