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CTTCS: USC / Thanksgiving Edition

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While Thanksgiving approaches, Coach Brian Kelly met with the media on Tuesday as the Irish try to get their season back on track against Southern Cal.

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As Thanksgiving approaches, Brian Kelly spoke with the media on Tuesday. In a time of the season where things seem to be getting out of hand, Coach Kelly seemed to put the emphasis on the process and what the team needs to do to gets things back on track and get a win against the Trojans of Southern California.

ON PLAYING USC...

Brian Kelly was very complimentary of the USC Trojans coaching staff and players, mentioning a few key Trojans who the Irish will need to pay attention to if they want to come out of Los Angeles with a win...

COACH KELLY: Coach Sark does a great job offensively mixing things up, very creative offensively. Creates a lot of matchup issues, because he's creative offensively but he's got some balance that (Cody) Kessler's having a great year, 30 touchdowns, four INTs, so extremely efficient with the football, doesn't turn it over. We know about Nelson Agholor, as good as there is out there. A big play, wide receiver. Allen running the ball extremely well for him. So really good balance offensively. Defensively Leonard Williams is probably singularly the best defensive player front guy we'll see this year. He is. He's simply that good of a player.We'll have to find ways to double him and slow him down. He's one of the best defensive linemen I've seen in a few years. He's that good of a player. And on the edge of their defense, (Su'a) Cravens is very active. They put him in great position to make plays. And he does a very good job of that. And Justin Wilcox, an experienced defensive coordinator, does a lot of things in his three down and four down.

Kelly also spoke to the uniqueness of the Notre Dame - USC rivalry and what it means to both programs...

Q. When you took this job the USC rivalry was one of the ones you were excited to be part of. Now just after playing in a handful of these games now, I wondered what's your feel of this rivalry and what it means to this program?

COACH KELLY: I still think it's the rivalry game. How many times can you match up two teams one from the West Coast and one from Indiana at the end of the year? I just think the significance of it historically, tradition wise, geographically, there's no game like it from that perspective...

As the season seems to have been going in the wrong direction the last few weeks, its necessary to remember that there are still goals for this young depleted team this season and it is important to continue to work at achieving those to rescue this season and prepare for a big run in 2015. Beating the Trojans in LA would go a long way to furthering those goals.

ON THE NOTRE DAME OFFENSE...

While it doesn't seem like the Irish offense has been the main culprit in the recent losing streak, (averaging 32.25 points in their four losses) there have still been issues that need to be corrected, including the turnovers from quarterbacks Everett Golson and the lack of a consistent and effective running game to lean on when Golson is struggling a bit. Coach Kelly referenced both of those concerns with the media.

While discussing the turnovers from Golson, Kelly reemphasized that he is taking a zero tolerance policy with regard to careless turnovers...

Q. Saturday on the game telecast, there was an indication that you went into that Louisville game with sort of a zero tolerance towards turnovers, specifically with Everett. And that you wouldn't hesitate to maybe make a change if need be. Was that a consideration at any point on Saturday?And where are you with that? The need for Everett to take care of the ball and fighting that urge to maybe make a change if he doesn't?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think I still carry that. I think the turnovers for me would have to be ones that were careless, sloppy, a disregard for the football. I think in both instances, one, we didn't do a good enough job of coaching him on the first interception where the corner had definitely baited him into that throw. And then the second one where he was trying to get out of a sack. He actually covered up the ball, we felt, very well off of the pressure that he got. And so in those two instances, I felt that he was not careless with the football in those two instances.

Kelly also mentioned that since the Arizona State game, the coaches have begun to call running plays that are more specifically suited to the skill set of tailback Tarean Folston...

Q. Talked to Tarean after the game about the run game and expanding a little bit and play calls. When do you make the decision to do that, I don't know how much it's actually expanded but Tarean felt it's a good fit for his running style?

COACH KELLY: Yeah, we started to add a little bit more to it after the Arizona State game, where we were running some read throws and as you know off of those read throws, we got some balls batted down. And so we eliminated some of those read throws into some locked runs where we're running it no matter if they bring pressure. To do that, you've got to run a little bit more of a gap scheme where you're pulling some people. So we started to get into that and I think that's probably what he's alluding to. And he likes that kind of downpull wrap type of action. And he feels pretty comfortable with it.

ON THE IRISH DEFENSE...

No discussion can be had about the Notre Dame defense without discussing injuries. In addition to Joe Schmidt's season ending injury, safety Drue Tranquill and defensive tackle Jarron Jones (whose injuries are discussed in depth by our very own Youngcurmudgeon here) are also out for the rest of the year.

From that starting point, Coach Kelly laid out what the defense will look like on Saturday. The safeties will include Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate who received very little playing time against Louisville, Austin Collinsworth who has a shoulder injury that he has admitted makes it difficult to wrap up on tackles, and Eilar Hardy who was sitting out for much of the season and was thought to be leaving the team at one point.

In an even direr situation, the middle linebacker spot will consist of Greer Martini for the first half due to regular starter Nyles Morgan being suspended for the first half for a targeting penalty against Louisville. Martini will be the fourth player who will have been seen as the starter at middle linebacker (including Jarett Grace who has never fully recovered from a broken leg suffered last season).  Even with this lack of experience, Coach Kelly is confident in Martini's ability to play with intelligence...

Q. Greer, the example set for him is pretty limited. But as you sort of went over that, talked to Brian about it, how did you feel like he performed and how was he maybe a little different from Niles?

COACH KELLY: He's a little bit more in control than Niles. Niles, as you know is an extremely gifted athlete. But he plays out of control at times, as evident by him having to sit the first half. So with Greer you get a little bit more of a guy that is reading things out, a little bit more in control. Not as good obviously athletically I think Niles brings a little bit more there. But Greer's no slouch either. He can move and run.So I think that's probably a little bit of the difference between the two. Greer will start obviously on Saturday.

Just to put a perspective on the losses for the Irish defense, from the perceived starting defense coming out of fall camp (pre-suspensions) they are missing three defensive lineman (Sheldon Day, Jarron Jones and Ishaq Williams), one linebacker (Joe Schmidt) and the secondary is missing Kei'varae Russell while Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate struggle to end the season. That is a lot of talent and experience to lose on any defense so it goes without saying that they would be expected to struggle coming down the stretch.

In a glimmer of good news, Coach Kelly did mention that Russell, Williams and Davaris Daniels have been in contact with the compliance and academic departments at the university in an effort to make a return to the team next fall.

Hopefully, even with all these losses, Notre Dame will be able to pull themselves together and go out to LA to get a big win against USC.

Happy Thanksgiving and Go Irish!