Brian Kelly met with the press ahead of spring practice - Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Brian Kelly met with the media on Tuesday to discuss the Irish as they head into 2013 spring practice.
Leading into the press conference on the stream, they showed the same intro video they used in the MNC. Jumbotron-worthy. Just saying.
Lots of questions around the question marks heading into the spring. I'm most excited to watch the RB and CB battles play out. Talented players WITH EXPERIENCE getting a chance to compete for starting roles. This is a good problem to have, people.
Here's some of the highlights of the presser; as always, let us know what you think in the comments:
-With respect to 2013 being a new year:
The personality of (last year’s) team is gone. We're in the process of not only developing our football players physically and skill‑wise, but we're developing leaders within our group, we're developing position groups and depth within the ranks, and developing an identity of the football team.
It would be easy for me to talk a lot about the individuals today and the progress they've made in this first stage, and we will. But for me it is about developing the identity of this football team, developing the leadership within the group. Certainly the players that are on hand in the spring are the primary focus in developing our depth for 2013.
So leaving spring ball, we want to set our football team and the depth within the ranks. This is not about, ‘Well, we know we have a number of young men coming in in the fall, they're at this position.’ They come in and they fill in at the back of the line. We'll see how that takes form when they get here. My point being that we're setting our roster based on the players we have on campus right now. That's the work in front of us, which starts tomorrow.
New year, new team. The similarities between this and Saban's "that year is over" talk are pretty striking.
-With respect to year 4 in his system:
Before we get to tomorrow, we've had some great progress in a number of areas. The first one I would point out, going into year four, our systems are in place. When I say 'systems', how we operate on a day‑to‑day basis from our coaches and directors on down to sports training,weight training, conditioning. All those things are in place. Our players know what to expect on a day‑to‑day basis. For me it's very assuring that we've got a program now that just continues to build on itself.
Consistency breeds success, especially when you have it on all sides of the ball. Recruiting, playcalling, everything is improved with consistency.
-On Strength & Conditioning improvements:
I think some of the things that are exciting for me would be just some of the weight gains that we've had, strength gains at really key positions. Just to highlight a couple of them, and this does not mean they'll are First Team All‑American, this just means that we have addressed some of the areas that we think were very, very important.
[See full presser for raw numbers]
All these guys are up across the board. It's the process of the physical development within our program going into the fourth year where these guys are getting stronger physically, and a lot of that work now is starting to show itself.
The numbers he throws out in this section are awesome if you're a jimmies and joes type of fan -- the high-level? We're fixin' to be a large, strong, team.
-On Injuries Leading into spring ball:
What have we done over the last six weeks, seven weeks? Developed the strength, the conditioning level, and the health of our football team. So I'll touch upon the health first of all of our football team.
Matt Hegarty was a guy that went down for us, had a potentially serious impact to whether he would play again. He's 100 percent cleared. He's had a great off‑season for us. He's been able to do all the things we asked him to do. He'll be an important player in getting on the field on the offensive line.
A number have asked, I appreciate this, about coach (Bob) Elliott. He had a kidney transplant. He is doing extremely well. He's been at our morning conditioning the last couple weeks. He's looking great. He's back to being a pain in the butt, so we know he's doing well.
As it relates to some of the players that had surgery after the season, really pleased with Bennett Jackson and the strength he's been able to put on. I think when you look at an injury, sometimes it puts them back a number of weeks in the weight training, conditioning process. Our strength and conditioning and sports medicine, our directors work hand‑in‑hand, and those players have made great strides. It is an injured body part; it's not a player that can't work out. I think that's an important distinction to make in that Bennett Jackson is stronger, more physical. You look at Dan Fox, the same thing, relative to his shoulder. Ronnie Stanley has put on weight after elbow surgery.
CBK would also go on to mention that Austin Collinsworth was 100% cleared as well. Knocking on wood for no spring injuries this year. ONTO THE Q&A!!
-On Gunner Kiel:
Q: Brian, can you update us on Gunner Kiel’s situation?
BK: He is no longer part of the program.
Q: When did you give him his release?
BK: We worked on his release last Friday in terms of the compliance. I think we've got a 10‑day window to get that taken care of. We tried to get that all accomplished last week.
Q: Any restrictions on where he'll go, from your standpoint?
BK: I don't think it was a restriction as much as we had an open conversation about the schools. Again, I think the schools that he was looking at were in line with the schools that I thought were appropriate relative to who was on our schedule.
Q: Your reaction, were you surprised? Did you see it coming?
BK: I don't know that I'm surprised. We had kind of created an opportunity for him to compete in the spring. So maybe a little surprised from that standpoint because he was actually told that he would be given an opportunity to compete. Sometimes when you don't hear that, you know what I mean, you wouldn't be surprised because, I'm on the bottom of the depth chart.
-What about the EEs:
I think there's some guys that are mature enough. James Onwualu, physically strong, 215 pounds. He can play with the veterans right now in terms of conditioning and weight training, going every rep. We'll see when we put the pads on. We're going into a different atmosphere relative to playing the game. But he's been very, very impressive.
I would say that I'm really impressed with Mike Heuerman. He's put on almost 15 pounds. He's up to close to 230 pounds. He's got a burst to him. He's going to be a really good player for us.
I like the way they all have trained.
Steve Elmer, I think his numbers right now, looking at another midyear enrollee, Steve Elmer is 317 pounds right now. He's put on a lot of weight since he's gotten here, as well. He's a guy that physically we think can go in there and compete
-QBs beyond EG
I want them to push to be on the field. I want them to go in knowing that Everett Golson has experience, but that's all he has. It's your job to go out there and show us that you can be the starting quarterback, not to settle for being the backup. When you're given your opportunity, to compete and keep pushing.
If you back off at all, you don't want to be the starter, we can make that happen for you. I want Tommy (Rees) to go out there and compete to be the starter. I want (Andrew) Hendrix, Malik Zaire to go out there and compete.
-On the Offensive Line:
I think you have some crossover there. I think [the right side of the offensive line is] going to kind of play itself out.
The first thing we have to do is find that center position, lock that position. Now we have three guys that we feel are physically capable of playing that position. I think that battle kind of takes itself as the primary battle.
Conor Hanratty, we have a lot of confidence in him that he could step in and play the guard position for us. Then that gives us some flexibility that if we feel like maybe one of the other two guys doesn't stick at center can kick over to guard. I think you find the center first, then the rest kind of takes care of itself. Lombard could kick down. Maybe Stanley is a right tackle. Maybe Elmer. There's great competition there. We've just got to sort out the center position. Once we do that, the rest kind of moves in line from there.
-GA3 focused on being #1 option at RB:
Yeah, it's his time. Now, he's got some guys that are going to have something to say about that, as well. We like that competition that we have at the running back position.
But, yes, certainly you would think the things he has to do is obviously be a guy that can be on the field, take care of the football. But he's really committed himself to being that guy. He did not participate in track and field because he wanted to be solely focused on being the number one back.
-On the starting CB spots, with Lo Wood returning from injury:
That's what we're looking for. We want competition. Your program is in good shape when there's competition within. And competition, without thinking about who's coming in. We want that competition. So it's going to be a competitive situation. The best guys are going to play. We'll choose the right 11. Keep in mind we also have to go through the spring and find a Matthias Farley. We need to find those guys that are going to step in and be key players for us during the season. You can never have enough of those guys. We welcome that. That's part of our job as coaches to recruit so there is competition amongst the ranks. We didn't have much of it. Now we're excited that we're gaining more and more competition. Jalen Brown is up to 207 pounds. He's another guy that will be given an opportunity. It's going to be exciting to watch how that pans out in the back end.
-Defensive position notes:
Q: What about other position changes? You might mentioned that Danny Spond could get a look inside? Is that a possibility?
BK: I don't think so for the spring. We really want to continue the continuity with him and Councell out at the dog position. They're going to work there. That will be their primary focus. We're really focused on the Mike linebackers that have been in that position and keep them inside. How things pan out in the fall or during the season, we'll conquer that when we get there. Right now moving forward, he's at the dog position.
Q: You had a bunch of safeties. There's some open spots or some room for competition there. Is anybody moving from safety to another position?
BK: We're going to take a look at C.J. Prosise and cross‑train him at safety and wide receiver. Big‑bodied guy. We're doing it because we got a glimpse of him during bowl practices. We had him at wide receiver and really loved his ball skills. He's a big kid, 218 pounds, got strong hands, a physical kid. So we're going to take a look at him. We think he may be able to help us there because there are so many talented players at that safety position. But we'll evaluate him at the wide receiver position in the spring.
Q: I see Elijah Shumate made the list as a safety.
BK: He's a safety. Here's another guy who came in and has done a great job. He's at 213 pounds at the safety position. Farley is at 204 pounds now. We really like the size there.
-On Joey Brooks joining the team from the Basketball squad:
The kid has worked really hard. We like his attention to detail. Again, we're going to give him a fair opportunity. He's an extremely athletic kid. Here is the bottom line: he's willing to do whatever we ask him to do. It will be fun to watch him go in there and compete and we'll give him an opportunity to do so.
-How did the BCS championship game change things?
My comments after the game and my comments after I got a chance to watch the film were a little bit different. I thought watching the game there were some things there that we weren't in a position yet to even come close to. But we're a lot closer than I thought. On the defensive line, we weren't pushed around, as many people had talked about. That was a concern of mine.
I think looking at where we wanted to go after that game, continue to recruit depth within the program. If there was one thing that stood out for me, we were in that game, and we lacked depth at some critical positions which didn't allow us to do some of the things I would have liked to in that period of time before the game, especially on the offensive line. So in the recruiting process, that's one answer towards that question.
The second answer towards that question is to just continue to build the strength of your football team. We need to continually get bigger, faster, stronger. Year four is seeing those results really hit home for us right now.
-Offensive Philosophy Changes without Eifert/Riddick to dictate matchups:
I think we're going to find out a lot more about that as we go through the spring. As I said, we think we've got some players that can complement the offense across the board. I don't know that we have the kind of singular great players that we had last year. We've got a lot of really good players. I've had great teams that have had great players across the board, then I've had great teams that have had individual players. I think that's work in progress for us to figure out. The spring will allow us a better window towards that.
-Top goals (Main Keys) for offense
I think obviously continuing to work on the offensive line, the center position is a key position for us, getting that settled, then the development of the quarterback position, continue to look towards that elevating itself, then the running back position. I think those are the probably, in that order, the things right down the middle, if you will, relative to our offense.
-Is having more than 4 scholarship QBs on the roster possible?
Well, it's not something that I've actually thought about. But clearly kids want to play, especially at the quarterback position. At first glance you would think that five might be heavy in terms of scholarship quarterbacks.
I think it's something that we have internal conversations about relative to what the right mix there is. But for me to be definitive, I think it depends on what year those quarterbacks are. You got a couple of seniors, you might be able to get away with five.
I think really when you're recruiting, what are you looking for when you're recruiting at that position? In other words, there could be some dual threat guys there. I don't want to put myself at, ‘Hey, I'm never going to get to five.’ But that's a lot of quarterbacks. I think circumstances in terms of class, where they are in the class, whether they're a guy that can maybe play multiple positions, have a lot to say in that as well.
Overall, just a TON of information for us to discuss. Personally, I'm most interested in a couple of the position battles as well as the evolution of this offense with another year of EG and the change in personnel thanks to graduation. That, and I can't wait for the next edition of Chocolate News to come out...