Brian Kelly's Michigan Week Press Conference

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

OFD cuts through the coach-speak as Brian Kelly holds his Tuesday media session leading up to Saturday's game between the Fighting Irish and the Wolverines.

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After starting the 2013 campaign with a win over Temple, Brian Kelly and his Fighting Irish football program spent the past few days going over film and preparing for one of Notre Dame's most important rivals "great and historic rivalry." Coach Kelly emerged from the film rooms and practice fields to spend about 35 minutes with the media today. The full video, thanks to our friends at FIDM is included at the bottom of this post.

Those of you that enjoy thinking BK likes to occasionally troll the fan base and the media will certainly get a kick out of the first few minutes of the video. Kelly's smile and chuckle as he asked everyone to "dispense with the nonsense" after calling Michigan "a great and historic rivalry" was classic. He got every bit of mileage he could out of the manufactured controversy before tamping it down a bit. Later, when asked about his relationship with Brady Hoke, Kelly made it clear that he and Hoke hadn't specifically spoken about the end of the series between their schools. He went on to say that he knew "Brady isn't someone to show disrespect." Kelly blew off the "chicken" comments as typical bluster that is fed to alums.

After channeling his inner Holtz and talking up the Michigan players, including a comparison of Devin Gardner to Randall Cunninham, the floor was open for questions...

Health Issues

  • Davaris Daniels was expected to practice Tuesday.
  • Malik Zaire is cleared for cardio, but not for "competition" because of his spleen function.

Scheduling

  • Asked how ND would find a balance in the "other 4" games left in the schedule after 5 ACC games and historic rivals (not Michigan) of USC, Stanford, and a BigTen game (again, not Michigan), Kelly responded that they're trying to "keep a national perspective." Michigan might be going off, but Texas is coming on. The program wants the Shamrock Series to play a key geographical role. They may be looking for "balance," but still need quality so that the selection committee can look at the "schedule in whole" for the 4 (and in his words, someday 8) teams for the playoff.
  • Asked a follow up to see if SoS will "make the difference" in selections, BK responded with a rousing yes. Both BK and Jack Swarbrick believe SoS will be an incredibly important selection factor.

Specific Player Questions

  • Ronnie Stanley played like a first time starter and will benefit greatly from the snaps, but he has to get better.
  • Jarrett Grace graded out well. Temple did a lot of things that put the Mike in to challenging run/pass reads, but he did well.
  • Chris Brown is evolving from a single route guy because of confidence that he can make the plays. He's also very motivated by the depth and knowing that when his number is called, he needs to make things happen.
  • Regarding Louis Nix III's frustration (as expressed on Twitter), Kelly was quick to point out that the whole D-line needed to play more disciplined football and use better technique on a snap-to-snap basis. He appreciated the effort, but said there was a clear need for improvement. He also was quick to point out that LN3 was asked to play a far greater volume of snaps and responsibilities than last year. Kelly acknowledged the need to get LN3 into more single gap situations for Louis' own benefit. He also said the D-Line had great meetings and thinks they'll make a big leap this Saturday.
  • Kelly also heaped praise upon TJ Jones and his burning desire to "be the best." TJ hasn't missed a practice this year and is demonstrating he wants to be the best every single day.
  • Troy Niklas was singled out for major progress, as best represented on the long gain by Jones. Hercules' ability to operate in space vs. attached to the line was a major sign of his development as a complete TE.
  • Kelly responded to a question regarding his evaluation of Rees after seeing the film by heaping praise on his senior QB. "His strengths continue to be his strengths," noted Kelly. Tommy got the team in the right plays and protections all but once in the game. He threw the ball with great efficiency. In Kelly's evaluation, Rees must be efficient because he "isn't going to do some other things." Tommy's improvement area for this week is consistency in the shorter/easier throws. Kelly felt Rees had a performance to build on.

Game Management

  • When asked how long it had been since he didn't call plays in a game he coached, Kelly quickly responded, "23 years." He and Martin are in constant communication during the game, but Kelly's input is more general regarding if they should keep it on the ground or mix in a screen than calling a specific play. Given down & distance, field position and time of the game, there are only 4-5 calls in each situation, not 36+. Kelly thought Martin called an excellent game.
  • Kelly heaped praise upon Martin for how he handled the sack situation. Managing a long second down to get into a 3rd and short was exactly what the head coach wanted to see from his OC.

Running Backs

  • Kelly said countless times that the RB situation is far from settled. There were multiple references to this needing time to "work out." When asked about any gap between the group of juniors vs. the freshman, Kelly was quick to say they all need work and will all "have some growing pains at the position. He's still willing to play them all and leverage their strengths to "make it work."
  • I found this to be a fascinating topic, because in last week's press conference, Kelly said that RB's typically need until week 6 to contribute meaningfully. I think we'll find out quickly if that's true or not this weekend. The popular theory that the staff treated the Temple game as a glorified scrimmage would explain why Bryant and Folston only really saw touches at the end of the game. Watch to see if either gets carries on Saturday, or if Kelly will give his star duo more time to bake in the oven and observe from the sideline.
  • Kelly clearly values the RB "closer" more than the guy who takes the first snap. He noted Theo was clearly the closer last year, and this year's guy has yet to be identified.
  • Efficient 1st and 2nd down passing is a major area of focus for the Irish offense. Expect Martin to keep dialing up early passes for his senior QB, hence the value of efficiency for Tommy.

Michigan Tackle Taylor Lewan

  • When asked to compare the difference in preparation for getting ready for a guy like Zack Martin vs. Lewan, Kelly was quick to point out that there wasn't a guy on the demonstration squad who could simulate facing Lewan. Kelly noted that his defense would have to be good on the edge and work hard to scheme to keep the ball inside.
  • According the Kelly, there definitely will be times where Lewan and Stephon Tuitt will be lined up, but that will mostly be dictated on what ND's front calls are for the defense.

Responding to OFD Defensive Concerns

  • Our own Big E has been postulating that our defense may be over built and too slow to play effectively. Kelly hit this issue straight on in the press conference. He was clear that the team is intentionally built that way. Kelly wants the MLB's playing at 250, not 225. He wants a "bigger, physical football team that prefers that kind of matchup." He talked about facing teams, like Stanford, that utilize the fullback and play power football being ideal matchup for his defense, but quickly added, "We can adapt, but we're structured, physically, to play that kind of football. We don't go in to this week feeling undermanned."
Between the no-tie look and the wink-and-a-smile troll attitude regarding the "rivalry" issue, BK looked like a man at ease with his contract situation and his football team. Let's hope that confidence carries ND through the week with success.

Press Conference Video

Turning Points Video

Our friends at FIDM have also produced the "Turning Points" video from the Temple game with a closer look at Troy Niklas' TD to end the first half. Good stuff here.

Trick Shot Monday

Trick Shot Monday also returns with this week. There's a lot to love about these videos, but my favorite part of this one is to see Danny Spond with his team at the end.

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