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CTTCS: Brian Kelly's UNC Week Press Conference

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Brian Kelly took to the podium on Tuesday to discuss focus, consistency, and personnel matters.

Somebody give that kid some gloves
Somebody give that kid some gloves
Jonathan Daniel

Cutting Through the Coachspeak

Winning is a wonderful thing. It soothes the savage beast. Brian Kelly's press interactions since his team vanquished the Stanford Cardinal in the cold South Bend rain Saturday evening have been exceedingly calm. The gathered press corps lob a few questions here and there at the Irish head man, but overall, this is a very WYSIWYG team. Other than the shroud around the 5 players being withheld from competition, this week appears to be business as usual.

Frozen Five Update

In a move that might come back to haunt all involved, Brian Kelly indicated that decisions are imminent in the cases of these five athletes and he expected that imminent probably meant a day or two. You could almost feel the Irish fan base setting their alarms as the words escaped Kelly's mouth. In truth, all Notre Dame has said is that the hearings are complete as of Friday 10/3. Between that point and resolution, you still have to finish deliberations and come to a decision within the committee and then formally notify the students of your findings. While it appears to be in everyone's best interest to quickly reach those decisions, there's no guarantee that the decisions will be straight forward. If one or many of the impacted athletes would be found in violation of the honor code, one assumes they'd have the right to appeal that decision. I think there are a lot of Irish fans hanging their hats on resolution by Wednesday or Thursday of this week, but I wouldn't recommend holding your breath.

From a Football perspective, Kelly was asked several times over the course of the week how he planned to reintegrate the players back into the line-up. Eric Hansen of the SBT asked the question on the Sunday teleconference and Kelly had a more complete answer when it was re-asked on Tuesday. Coach Kelly indicated that he has formed a plan to work guys in. He emphasized that they would play "limited roles," and was quick to point out that everything he's done is "hypothetical right now." He was emphatic that there was no way any would come back and start on Saturday, but he'd like to "get them an opportunity to contribute" when he can.

Several of the OFD staff members have been asking the obvious question of how to integrate these guys in. One the one hand, you have a defense that is playing lights out right now, but on the other, you have a returning All-American candidate in the defensive backfield that you want to have in the mix ASAP. If you read the tea leaves in Kelly's Tuesday presser, you can start to see the edges of some of his plan with CB KeiVarae Russell. Kelly discussed the staff's increased confidence in Devin Butler, and that they like to shift Cody Riggs into the nickel position and have Butler out wide with Cole Luke in those situations. The staff likes Riggs at the nickel corner spot, so I would expect the guy who will lose reps to Russell early would be Butler. However, I have no clue what that means for the resurgent Matthias Farley. Hopefully, one of our film junkies is down in the OFD Films bunker working all that out right now.

If you take a step back from this situation, it is pretty amazing that we have this tremendous controversy, ridiculously long process to sort it out, and the absence of one of ND's best defenders; yet the outrage has managed to stay at a low simmer. Winning soothes the soul.

Focus

Obviously, this weekend's game versus the University of North Carolina represents all sorts of "trap" potential. Sandwiched in between the emotional victory over Stanford and the looming showdown versus Florida State University in Tallahassee, the Tar Heels have a real chance to catch the Irish napping. Luckily, the topsy-turvy nature of this past Saturday's CFB games gave Kelly "great copy" to get his team's attention.

To address any trap game dangers, Kelly reiterated a line he's used consistently this season. The Irish head coach preaches to his team that they will "fall to the level of their preparation" rather than "rise to the level of their competition." Along with "accountability," "consistency," and "doing the little things," this has become one of the pillars of Brian Kelly's teachings. He uses the phrase to help even out his team and prevent them from getting too high or too low at any point. Again on Tuesday, Kelly pointed out that you can't let any one game count for more than it is at Notre Dame, because there's always another tough one around the corner, and if you get too caught up in what's in the past or the future, you'll stumble.

When asked if any particular leader would be vocal this week in demanding focus, Kelly gave a very interesting answer. He named the usual suspects as guys who will be vocal: Joe Schmidt, Matthias Farley, and Austin Collinsworth. He also talked about the makeup of this team. This edition of the Fighting Irish has a lot of young contributors who Kelly describes as simply wanting "to get out there and compete." Balancing out this youthful exuberance is a group of veterans that managed to navigate an undefeated regular season, so they "know what it takes" and how to survive that gauntlet.

Everett Golson

As one would expect, the quarterback at the University of Notre Dame is always going to be a topic of conversation. I found it interesting as Kelly waxed nostalgic about his quarterback, he recalled his staff having to work hard to keep Everett off the basketball court in his first year on campus. "In his first year, he was a handful," the Irish head man shared with the gathered press corps. The next step in Golson's progression is a common theme with Kelly: consistency. Kelly continues to challenge Golson to bring a winning attitude and consistency to every practice and every snap. The Irish head coach described his quarterback as extremely creative, and as everyone saw on Saturday, that creativity can bring brilliance. It is clear Kelly is looking to pound a base of fundamentals into the psyche of his young signal-caller to allow that creativity to flourish consistently. Kelly's development mindset was on full display when discussing Golson.

Anyone secretly pining for the backup can also simmer down. Kelly came right out and said, "I don't think I'd take Everett out of the game unless he was injured." Without an experienced back-up, there is no temptation to pull Golson from the field - a stark contrast from 2012.

Three Running Backs

Starting on Sunday, Kelly began seeding his conversations with the press with "production vs. potential" talking points. Fan cries for more touches for Greg Bryant and/or Tarean Folston over Cam McDaniel hark back to 2012 discussions of Cierre Wood vs. Theo Riddick. Kelly once again showed consistency in his approach. He noted his confidence in Bryant's potential and was sure that experience and seasoning would eventually bring out his best. Folston suffered a thigh contusion in the game and was a bit dinged up. Even with those things factoring in, Kelly felt the game plan vs. Stanford required more 4 yard runs and consistently staying on schedule in the rushing game. To that end, he felt McDaniel's experience and production trumped the home run potential of his younger backs. Kelly is seeking to balance those touches in a way that best compliments his game plan for a given opponent. Versus Stanford, that game plan favored McDaniel's skill set and experience.

Odds & Ends

  • No injuries of note that would require anyone to miss practice. Folston was moving fine with the training staff.
  • Using the laces of the ball continues to be an "ongoing conversation" with Golson.
  • Kelly favors using a holder that focuses strictly on holding because the special teams guys spend an incredible amount of time together and form a very tight bond as a unit. Holder Hunter Smith and long snapper Scott Day live together and are incredibly close. In addition to joking about the radical innovation of gloves on the holder during Saturday's presser, Kelly shed more light on that situation on Tuesday. He noted that the first snap was a touch off, and on the subsequent one, Day fired a wicked fast ball that was difficult for Smith to handle. Kelly emphasized it was a partnership between the two, and was quick to voice his confidence in that unit moving forward.
  • Corey Robinson's value in the office seems to increase when the Irish move from a more "run first" attitude to a "pass first" one. Kelly said this explained Robinson's emergence in the 4th quarter of the Stanford contest.
  • Kelly talked about how sons of professional athletes are drawn to schools like Notre Dame and Stanford because their parents understand the value of a lifelong education and network after experiencing the ephemeral nature of a professional sports career.
  • In discussing the progress of the program, Kelly talked about how a tough game like Sunday would have, in the past, caused Monday to be a "hot tub and Jacuzzi" day. However, this team treated it very much as business as usual.
  • Kelly noted he was happy with Matt Hegarty's improvement as the game progressed Saturday. After noting Hegarty's play improved through the 3rd and 4th quarter, the head coach said this week's mission is to "eradicate the bad misses."
  • Ben Councell saw limited action in the game Saturday because Notre Dame's defense was able to follow the game plan and keep Stanford out of 22 (2 TE, 2 RB) and 32 (3 TE, 2RB) looks. With Stanford forced into 11 personnel, Councell wasn't required nearly as often as was originally anticipated.

FIDM Video - Tuesday Presser

Transcript here