There is a ton of information here so I will keep my thoughts short and to the point. There is enough meat in here to make for plenty of good discussion in the comments section.
-On overall preparation for the BCS Championship Game.
I assume that's what we want to talk about. I'll begin by saying that after our last game, the number one challenge that we had was to prepare our football team for this game. We didn't talk about the long layoff. We just talked about what we needed to do to win this football game and be the best football team on January the 7th.
There are a lot of pieces that go into that, and I think I it began for us with getting our football team back in the weight room and really looking at this as a preparation for a one game series. That means our guys have to get back to conditioning element. We have to find our timing as it relates to practicing. And also be smart enough to know that we certainly want to peak at the right time.
I love that Coach Kelly is talking about peaking at the right time. Furthermore I believe that he knows how to actually ensure that it happens.
-On the schedule for the next few weeks leading up to the game.
We're done with exams. This week we'll be doing some community service work couple times this week and we'll practice a couple times. Then we'll let our guys go home for the holidays, bring them back, and then two full weeks of preparation for Alabama and the National Championship.
I like this. Give them a little break then bear down and go hard for 2 weeks of focused preparation leading up to the game.
One, Ronnie Stanley, offensive lineman had surgery on his elbow to repair a ligament, so he'll be lost for the bowl game. That was a condition that he had going into the season.
And Matt Hegarty had a procedure as well, which will put him out of any practice or bowl opportunities. But we're very optimistic that he'll be back with us come spring
We wish both Stanley and Hegarty speedy recoveries. Both of them could be contributors next fall.
-On the NFL Draft.
On the other side, couple of guys that give us some good news moving forward. Zack Martin has announced to me that he will come back for his last season of competition. He will not wait for the NFL to give him a draft status
Also not waiting for the NFL draft evaluation is Louis Nix. Louis will be coming back for his third season next year. We're excited about getting Louis back.
And then Cierre, Cierre Wood, is going to wait for his evaluation before he makes his decision.
Boom! Getting both Z-Ma and Irish Chocolate back in the trenches for the 2013 season is huge. I would also still love to see Cierre come back to South Bend for another season. Who wouldn't? Granted we have a quality group of backs returning but keeping #20 in the rotation for another season would give us a truly known quantity. I will be very curious to see how that shakes out.
-On the short term.
Other than that, our coaches are back off the road, we were in a dead period right now. I know from my standpoint as well as our coaches, we got of the circuit of the Manti award ceremonies that went on cost to coast, deservedly so, on a number of awards that he won. And our coaches recruiting, we're all back here and working on our football team. So it's a good and exciting time for us.
Getting back to work. I like it. As always an obligatory hat tip to Manti from us here at OFD. We miss you already #5.
Begin the Q&A period.
-On Davaris Daniels and his recovery.
Yeah, we're in the fifth week now, so he was involved in all of our drill work. He was non-contact last week; he'll be in a contact situation next week. So he looks really good. He's going to be able to be a key contributor for us.
That's great news. Having Daniels back in the mix against Bama is big. Daniels was really starting to emerge a little bit as a real playmaker prior to his injury. He will be a welcome addition as he re-enters the rotation.
-BK also gave some Kudos to Paul Longo.
We certainly wouldn't be the football team that we are today without our strength and conditioning program, and in particular the leadership that Paul brings us. He's been with me the last three stops, knows exactly what I'm looking for in terms of developing our players, not just in the weight room, but outside the weight room.
-On Stephon Tuitt's development.
Yeah, I don't give much stock to the All American status. We respect that and we are happy that he's an All American, but we look at it a whole lot differently.
So how we evaluate our players, there's no recognition that changes the way we look at them. Stephon's process in terms developing into the player that he is today has been one where he had to be unselfish first and foremost. He had to be a guy that was committed to being solid against the run and not just, I want to be an edge player.
He's seen, by the number sacks that he has this year, that he can be both. So the transformation for Stephon Tuitt for us is that he's embraced his role of being a guy that will play the four technique and be a two gapper were against the run and also be able to rush the passer and do both.
Tuitt really did blow up this season didn't he? I am beyond psyched that Notre Dame is going to have both he and Nix in the trenches for another season.
-On whether or not EG can handle the spotlight of the title game.
I don't know if you can say for certain that there won't be some nervousness there, but he's been on some big stages. I mean, the USC game was a pretty big stage, you know, to go undefeated, to be on national television.
Heck, the kid started I think three or four games that were on national television, and in pretty hostile environments. At USC, at Oklahoma, at Michigan State. He's got enough seasoning. I would be very, very surprised if he can't handle the moment.
-On how Bobby Elliott fits in with the defensive staff.
He's somebody that has a great deal of experience as a coordinator on the BCS level, incredible amount of experience, and he doesn't have an ego. He wants to just fit into the staff dynamics. For us, that's one of our key ingredients to success is to have a staff that puts their egos aside and really works on the development of their players.
He's done an incredible job.
To me those comments speak volumes about this staff as a whole. A few years down the line I think we will look back at this staff and marvel at the group of coaches that Coach Kelly was able to assemble.
-More on Golson's development and why he will be ready for this game.
There are a lot of things. I think those comments that he made at that time had a lot to do with him not finishing some games leading up to that. As you know, we had to take him out on a couple occasions.
Now, we did that to win the games. If you think of it just from an Everett Golson standpoint, there had to have been, at times, questions about, Does coach Kelly want me to be the guy here? Is this my job or Tommy Rees' job? Even though we told him it was his, those actions probably weren't clear enough for him.
I think once he knew after the Oklahoma game that he was the guy, the confidence level and the trust builds and builds and builds. I think that's why I'm confident that the moment won't be too big for him, because he knows that we've got 100% confidence and trust in him that he can go in and win us a National Championship.
I think that really summarizes exactly what we have all observed from EG this season. Oklahoma really was the tipping point for him and from that point forward he just kept getting better. I have given a ton of thought to the BCS Championship and the more I think about it the more I think that EG will be the key to the game. If he can be efficient, make good decisions and get the football to his playmakers the Notre Dame will be in a position to win. I can't wait.
-On a Notre Dame secondary that was considered a weakness, especially after Jamoris Slaughter went down with an injury.
Yeah, three wide receivers recruited as wide receivers that are playing for the top defense in the country. Bob Elliott and Kerry Cooks have done an incredible job back there in developing those players. I would also say you know, it's ease to talk about Matthias Farley moving over there and KeiVarae Russell is a true freshman. Bennett Jackson hasn't played a lot, and more importantly Zeke Motta has played incredible football.
-On the way that he called the offense this year.
So we had two things going on there. We had, We're going to play a freshman quarterback, and we're not going to say, It's a transition year. We're going to give him experience, take our lumps, and move forward. I've just never operated that way.
So with those two things coming together, you have to find a way to win those games, manage those games, limit possessions, hold on to the football. So because those were the two immediate factors, then you have to adapt to the way you run those games. That's how we came up with the formula this year to play the way we've played.
Next year might different depending on what those key factors are.
No surprises there, I think we all saw that exact thing. The defense got there quicker than the offense but the offense is definitely coming. I expect the offense to take a major step forward next fall, but I also think they might surprise us all a little bit on January 7th.
Several other assistant coaches and players were interviewed today and several great quotes were flowing across the Twitterz. My hands down favorite was this one from Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco. It was from Hamilton but it was just too good to pass up.
#NotreDame DC Bob Diaco on comfort level with Brian Kelly: "It's Batman-Robin. Obviously he's Batman. It's the best."— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) December 17, 2012
UND.COM also posted a couple of short pieces with Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco, Zach Martin and Louis Nix III. Enjoy.
*Late addition: Irish Illustrated also hung several interviews with players and assistant coaches on the IrishIllustrated.com YouTube channel.