As is tradition, Brian Kelly took to the podium to meet with the press on Tuesday, and we here at OFD are here to break it all down for you. Since UND.com did such an excellent job getting the transcript up quickly this week, and our friends at FIDM have posted the video (embedded at the end), we'll just point out a couple of quick hits this week by relating them to other OFD discussions.
MoTS (who has me on the wheel of pain for getting this out late) has been a frequent proponent of getting our RB's into a rhythm. Kelly was asked the value of that rhythm, based on Cam McDaniel's 11 consecutive touches to ice the game vs. Purdue. While Kelly acknowledges the value of rhythm, and notes that RB's like to develop feel over a series of carries, he ended his response with a clear disclaimer that he plans to continue to use all 5 guys week-to-week as circumstances dictate.
Calls from many of our authors and commenters to see more of the freshman RB's were also acknowledged in a few of Kelly's answers. In particular, a follow up question about Cam's performance Saturday elicited this from Kelly:
...let's not write off our two freshmen. I know they haven't played as much but we are really high on those two guys. I think it's still evolving at that position. And I know I sound like a broken record on this. We like them all, and they all have talents or they wouldn't be out there for us.
This was right after praising McDaniel's & Carlisle's work in pass protection. I think Larz has it right in the comments of his excellent game planning article. Kelly wants to be sure these guys can read and provide protection before getting them snaps. Missing a pressure that causes a turnover or injury to a QB is a real concern. During another question about RB roles, BK says:
We're still I think in the process of trying to evaluate our freshmen, as well, and we have not been able to get into the ideal situation to do that, primarily because we have had to deal with so many pressure fronts and so many times where we are calling our backs back in to protect. It has not been the best proving ground for some freshmen running backs. Hopefully as time moves on, we'll be able to do that.
There are questions around different ND websites as to whether or not Brian Kelly "gets" Notre Dame. In the future, I'll direct anyone voicing this concern to Kelly's response to my least favorite ND journalist's question about "enjoying the journey" at Notre Dame. Kelly makes it clear that he's running a different kind of program. The academic and athletic pressures on these guys are tremendous, and Kelly is going to fight to defend and protect them at every turn. He acknowledges the importance of winning and getting that crystal football, but he is sure to remind you that Notre Dame wants to get it done the right way. When I hear Kelly refer to the University's "mission," I think he really "gets it."
Our own alstein, and others, have noted Ishaq Williams in the center of the defense on nickel packages, and Kelly mentioned that's something they're "messing with." The phrasing of that answer built on an interesting theme that ran throughout the press conference. It seems that, one quarter of the way through this season, Notre Dame is still a team "searching" for a winning formula. Kelly mentions several times that he's still looking to find an identity (and impose his own), as well as seeking the right personnel groupings, particularly on defense. Between this defensive search, and the 5 RB situation, Kelly makes it pretty clear that this team is still evolving. If you share alstein's optimism, or subscribe to ConcreteCharlie's view that such optimism is Prozac-fueled, you can find what you want in BK's answers. Either we're still searching, and when it gels, it is going to be spectacular, or we'll spend the year mired in search of that combination and winning formula. Kelly's view is that he wants the identity to be driven by "consistency." His hope is that his team evolves into a group that takes care of the little things, and sees the gap between where they are and where they want to be as being inconsistent on those little things that add up to winning football.
Finally, for those of you interested in discussions of classic Cadillacs, take note of Kelly's answers around the tweaks to game weekends at Notre Dame. He assures us that the changes are done with the players' interests as a central concern, and the players like them. He wants to maintain tradition and build atmosphere, but he also wants to get the guys in a position to win. In the end, isn't winning the best tradition of all?