Team OFD, I am back on Tuesday presser detail this week so I will cut to the chase. We have much to discuss. Coach Kelly dropped a fair amount of information on us this afternoon and even tossed a few zingers out to the anti-uniform change crowd. The full transcript is available at UND.com.
Diving in. (Not in the Weis way)
"Maryland will play their very best against us, as has every team we've gone against; they've played their absolute best game of the year."
He goes on to say...
"I know Randy Edsall. He's a darn good football coach, and he'll have the memories of coming in here and beating Notre Dame and playing physical. That's what his teams will do."
Translation: This game isn't a free W, and we are preparing accordingly. And in case you forgot UCONN came in here and beat us a couple of years ago. Coach Edsall is still the same guy and he's planning on doing the same thing again this week.
All thoughts of that UCONN game still haunt me. Man that was brutal.
"Braxton Cave will be out for the season. He is going to get surgery here in the next few days."
"Theo Riddick will not play this week. He has a hamstring injury"
"Ethan Johnson is going to be able to play for us this weekend"
This led to several questions about how Cave and Riddick being out of the lineup would affect the depth chart.
The Cliffs Notes answer: Mike Golic will start at Center. Andrew Nuss will be the #2 Center and Bruce Heggie will be the #2 Left Guard. Robby Toma will start for Riddick in the slot and T.J. Jones will also shift over and see some time there. When that happens John Goodman will fill in at the X.
Golic played well in relief of Cave last weekend and should fill in nicely. I do think the team will miss Cave's leadership though. As for Nuss and the original RKG Heggie, I hope that those two guys are ready to go. I just had to look at the roster to remind myself what number Heggie wears. Be on the lookout for #51 on Saturday night.
Fan Favorite Robby Toma will be fun to watch. I will also be interested to see if Mike Mayock fawns all over him for four quarters. Every time Toma has seen the field during an NBC broadcast this season Mayock has commented that he deserves more reps. It will be interesting to see how the miniature version of #9 does.
Kelly also said that Te'o will practice this week but did not elaborate on how active he will be in practice. I honestly wish they would give Manti the week off and let him get healthy. Who backs him up? Oh yeah, whoever it is never sees the field. Manti will be out there hopping around on one leg before he comes out of a game. He's as hard as nails.
In response to a question about playing a "home game" in an opponent's back yard.
"They make the decisions and they tell me what bus to get on. I have a card that tells me what seat to sit in, and I show up. I look at it, as I said, as a road game. We're excited. Listen, playing on the East Coast, part of our recruiting, it's a great area to recruit, get great exposure on NBC in primetime. We're really happy about those things, but we're treating it as though we're going to play Maryland in Maryland."
Translation: None required. He loves these "barnstorming" games for obvious reasons.
Moving on, he answers a question about whether or not Cave's absence will put more of the onus on on Rees to make reads and decisions prior to the snap.
"Well, certainly some of that falls on the center, but not all of it. Trevor Robinson has been making most of our calls during the year in terms of changing any protections and trumping any of Tommy's (Rees) protections. Braxston (Cave) recognizes the front, but Trevor has been making most of the final checks, so that's still in place for us. So we're not asking Mike (Golic) to go in there and do all those things. He just has to concentrate on his specific assignment and snapping the ball."
Very interesting tidbit. I miss Trevor already.
On the hot topic of the uniforms and people criticizing them for assorted reasons.
"No, look, the only people I care about relative to the uniforms are the 105 guys that were in this room when we showed it to them, and they were excited. All due respect to everybody else that has an opinion, I really don't care about theirs, I care about what my players think, and our players love it. We're going to stay with those kinds of things that still fall within our color schemes and our logoing, and kids like that stuff. So if our kids like it, then I can tell you I'm certain that the recruits like it, as well. And that's really the only people that measure for me relative to who likes them and who doesn't like them."
Another insightful comment on the players feelings about the uniforms.
"I would tell you this: If they didn't like what we showed them, I would not even touch the topic again. But they're the ones that generate this. The players come to me, they see what other teams are doing and what other programs have, and they bring it to them, and I shoot it up the flagpole and see if anybody likes it and then go from there."
Translation: The kids love them, the recruits love them, I'm all about it because it makes our players happy and helps recruiting. Hell I push the damn ideas for the uniforms up myself. There is no telling what the hell we might wear during my tenure here. Now stop asking me about it!
After some back and forth about the greatness of all things Harrison Smith, the Q&A turned to some back and forth about the improvement along the defensive line.
The Cliffs Notes: We intentionally set out in recruiting to build our front 7 first. We are now working on phase 2 which is the secondary.
Anybody that follows Notre Dame recruiting already knows this. Despite that fact I still find it to be alarmingly refreshing every time that I hear it. This is one of those things for me that jumps out as a key indicator that this staff has us heading in the right direction. I'm not in love with the helmets this weekend, but I am absolutely in love with the idea of a championship caliber D. I'll take that package deal any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
In response to a question about player comments regarding the staff making great halftime adjustments against Wake, Kelly in turn throws the bone right back to the players.
"I don't think we are these gurus at halftime. Our guys made plays."
This talk about halftime adjustments and the Wake game went on for some time and is worthy of a skim. One thing out of that conversation that I did find pretty interesting is a comment about the tempo that ND employed in the second half.
"Well, they were checking everything from the sideline, and so any time if you're going to spend a lot of time trying to match our formations, we'll move a little bit quicker. I'd like to move like that all the time. We're not able to do that yet. We will."
I found this comment to be both honest and enlightening. There have been a few times this season during games where I felt like the offense needed to pick up the pace and never did it. Good to know we are still working towards being able to do that.
Walk on Offensive Tackle Dennis Mahoney will be traveling with the team this week. Good for him. Kelly explains why.
"Yeah, Dennis has been extremely valuable to us, especially this week. He's going to travel with us. He'll be in the depth for us. We'll give him some work. We're at the point in the season where we don't want to jeopardize any of our young players by putting them in the game, so Dennis is going to provide a real important piece for our program, and that's really that's been Dennis."
Safe to say that if they haven't played yet this season they aren't going to. BTW Mahoney rocks #71.
What do you all think?