A bye week following a loss is a curious thing. On the one hand, it is a full extra week to get healthy and work out the kinks. On the other, it is a full week to dwell and stew on one of the more disappointing losses of the Kelly era at ND. If you were looking to get a specific read on the mood for the Fighting Irish from their head coach on Tuesday, good luck. The head coach was pretty subdued as he covered subjects from his defense's challenges creating turnovers to whether or not Tommy Rees "maximized" his opportunity at Notre Dame. BYU represents a unique challenge, and fans everywhere are hoping Kelly and his team can shake whatever plagued them in Pittsburgh.
Let's break this bad boy down and relate a few things back to some conversations here on OFD.
Number 11's Final Home Game
Has there ever been a more complex senior day appearance than that of one Thomas, Tommy, Tom, TF, etc... Rees? Brian Kelly has described the Lake Forest, IL senior as "Fighting Irish" in the past, yet conversations here on OFD are worried about a less-than-appreciative response to Tommy's Senior Day moment. Kelly will point out that Rees has won a lot of games and been a consummate good locker room guy in the 4+ years since Tommy's early enrollment. As much as you want to appreciate those things, the missed opportunities and back-breaking turnovers still leave a bitter taste in many fans' mouths.
Kelly was asked if he felt Tommy maximized what he could do at Notre Dame, and this was his answer:
That's a good question. I don't know that I've spent much time thinking in those terms. I think Tommy has clearly we know physically that he's somebody that you can't run zone/read packages and put him in a situation where he's going to get yardage for you running the football.
So I think what you have to do is get the most out of what he can do in terms of getting you in the right play and throwing the football. And I think what we've tried to do is run our offense to fit what his skill set is.
So I think you couple that with the success and the wins that he's had; I think you would probably come close to saying that, you know, we both have probably reached that point where we have gotten a lot out of them. Whether we have maximized it, I think there's probably always room for wanting more and hopefully the next two weeks, we'll be able to answer that question better.
Interesting. There's quite a bit to parse in there. First, is the indication that Rees is physically limited vs. what Kelly wants to do in his offensive design. There's been some discussion here about how well the staff has tweaked and tuned the game plan to match Rees's relatively low ceiling and physical shortcomings. I think this is the clearest indicator that Kelly has developed a system, brought that system to ND, and has yet to have the signal caller in there that matches the system. They've pared it down to just the stuff they can do with Rees, but until we start seeing some more dynamic play and accurate passing from the QB position, we're not seeing Kelly's full system. Those looking to find fault in the Irish Head Coach will be quick to say he should build the system around the players he has and be more flexible. The other side of the coin, of course, is that Kelly has a proven system and just needs the time and pipeline of talent to bring his offense to South Bend. A few weeks back, Kelly implied that the reason his ND offenses were behind his other stops and current offensive juggernauts was simply limited skill at the QB position.
None of this, of course, is Tommy Rees's fault. Tommy took knowledge of the offense and a high football IQ and made the most of it. It was an imperfect marriage from the start, but other than one year with Golson (and even a few times then), were there ever legitimate alternatives?
For me Rees is a great teammate, an exemplary Notre Dame student athlete, and not a BCS caliber QB. The fact he "maximized" his time and gave his heart for his school is more than enough reason to stand and cheer for the guy on Saturday.
As our man E examined this week, roster management is always an interesting topic in college football, and Kelly addressed two very interesting roster issues this week. First, Kelly was clear that Kendall Moore will not be playing his final game in ND stadium on Saturday. He's been impressed by Moore's improving focus and attention to detail and is "trending in the right way" to remain with the team for his 5th year.
Next, Kelly addressed his wayward QB. Never one to miss a chance to throw some snark in to a media session, Kelly confirmed that Everett Golson would be eligible for bowl practice if he is accepted back in to Notre Dame regardless of when the first semester ends. Asked if Golson had been readmitted, Kelly responded:
I don't think that I can make that decision, nor can I comment on that. I think that application process has been submitted, is what I know of, and that decisions relative to admissions happen sometime in the middle of December.
Though, if they wanted to give me the admissions responsibility, I would certainly consider it.
Punctuating it with a wink and a smile, I think Kelly was making his case for a moonlighting gig in the lower level of the admin building.
Other roster notes included that Kona Schwenke and Ishaq Williams both managed to practice. While Kelly was happy with Kona's performance, it sounded like Ishaq was limited but likely to improve as the week grinds on. Anyone who wasn't already flagged as out for the season is ready to play this weekend. Kelly was quick to point out he wasn't saying his team was 100% healthy, just that the guys still standing are all ready to give it a go on Saturday.
Finally, attrition is part of the deal too. Kelly talked about Chris Badger's departure, attributing the safety's departure to being recruited by the previous regime for a different defensive system.
We here at OFD are going to have a bunch of Twitter love for the seniors rolling over the next few days, but Kelly took some time to address guys like Luke Massa, T.J. Jones, Louis Nix III, and his ILB duo of Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese in the session.
Of particular note was Kelly's immediate dismissal of Mel Kiper's prognostication of T.J. Jones going undrafted this coming spring. Kelly is supremely confident in Jones' ability to contribute at the next level.
This is a unique class. Kelly and Tony Alford had to hold this class together following the dismissal of the previous regime and before the full staff was in place. This led to an interesting discussion of Kelly's overall feeling about the class:
You know, this development of relationships with this group was one where they were a group of guys that we didn't have a strong bond with but we had to build one over time, and I think we have. I think we have a different relationship in a sense, a unique relationship with these guys in that they have to trust us, and that in itself as a group is a great dynamic.
He also provided some insight of the evolution of his recruiting since pulling together that first class:
For me it was, again, not knowing everything that I know about Notre Dame now, I think it would have been a lot easier if I had the experience that I do now. I would walk in there and go, are you kidding me, why am I wasting listen, you're coming to Notre Dame, right, here is what you were going to get.
For me, I think it was more about selling myself at that time: Here is who I am, here is my background, here is what I have accomplished, this is why we're going to be successful in Notre Dame.
I think you would go in that a whole lot differently now. You would go in, and if I was to talk about Notre Dame now, it would be, hey, listen, here is what you're going to get at Notre Dame.
So I think the conversations in those homes were more about and same thing probably for Tony, was he knew Notre Dame; he was probably selling me and the leadership, and this is what this guy's done. This is what you can expect at Notre Dame.
Interesting stuff. Kelly also hits on Luke Massa, his contribution at ND and his connection to his classmate Matt James, who passed away before getting to Notre Dame.
This could have easily been my first 10,000 word (aka: Murtaugh-ian length) CTTCS, but I'm going to leave it to you to watch the video and/or read the transcript. Here are some interesting topics you'll find:
- This week's preparation included some live 11 on 11 work with the 1's versus the 1's on Monday. Fitting some scrimmage work in at this point of the season is rare, but helped get the team's "feet under them" for the week ahead.
- Some classic Kelly snark when asked about bowl projections and locations.
- A description of how big a difference Taysom Hill makes in BYU's offense this year vs. last.
- Some great stuff for PunterBro to look at in kick coverage.
- Examination of BYU's previous opponents that had held the powerful Cougar offense in check.
- Discussion of this year's defense, and their challenge in creating turnovers. In particular pay note to Kelly asking his defense simply to "keep the points down."
Give it a listen, read it over, and share what you think fellow OFD'ers...