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Cutting Through the Coachspeak: Brian Kelly's 2014 Fall Camp Opening Press Conference

Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media prior to heading to Culver academy to begin the 2014 football season in earnest.

Jeff Zelevansky

Brian Kelly met with the media on Friday afternoon to discuss the upcoming 2014 season and in preparation of fall camp.
Here are the highlights from Kelly's presser:


  • Extremely energized as players and staff to begin a new season with the high expectations and opportunities present at Notre Dame.
FOOTBALL IS HAPPENING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Feel like they have accomplished all of the strength and conditioning goals over the summer, thanks to June workouts and Paul Longo's hard work. Really sets the table for Fall Camp.
As always, Paul Longo has done a great job getting the team bigger and stronger. Such a huge difference from the previous regime, and it is looking like Notre Dame will be able to press advantages deep into games.
  • Looking to build leadership in the ranks of the team; that will be an ongoing process. Brian Kelly and staff are seeing people emerge into those roles, and a lot of them are the best players.

Always interesting to watch the leadership battles shake out during fall camp. Early leaders in the clubhouse appear to be Nick Martin for the OL, KeiVarae Russell for the defensive backfield, and Jarrett Grace for the Linebacking corps.

  • Jarrett Grace in a great position; will be close to ready to go for the opener against Rice.

Great news for the Irish defense here. Grace provides experience and leadership to the side of the ball that desperately needs it.

  • Mike Heuermann will be lost for about another month due to hernia surgery, they will have to count on Luatua, who had a great summer according to Brian Kelly.

One of the more interesting battles this fall camp will be the other TE spot beside Ben Koyack.

  • Tony Springmann suffered a setback; will be unable to play this season due to a lingering back issue. He will no longer play football, but will be involved with the program moving forward.

Unfortunate news for Springmann, hopefully he has a good impact in his new role with the team.

  • Work ethic of players, including Nick Martin & Ben Councell, for those coming back from injury has really set a high bar moving forward for the rest of the team.

Just more praise for Paul Longo as well as all of the doctors on the training staff.

  • Installation is complete, and practice scripting is done - they are ready to get the guys in and do some work and teambuilding at the Culver Academies.

The extra time the coaches were able to spend with the team in June should prove to be of immense help getting going

  • All players in good standing with the university following Summer classes.

Everyone knock on wood immediately.

  • Daniel Cage and Pete Mokwuah are providing solid depth at nose tackle, and Utupo can provide additional depth if needed. Cage and Mokwuah have come in stronger than any freshman they have had in that position, according to Paul Longo. Cage and Mokwuah won't make or break the ability to play 3-4 if they aren't ready to go football-wise. There's enough flexibility in the front to make it work.

A lot of discussion this season will revolve around the young players on the defensive side of the ball and how well they perform under pressure. I am really looking forward to who steps up and makes the biggest impact.

  • Nile Sykes departure - Just wasn't the right fit here at ND, he's in a situation now that he feels is a much better fit. Did nothing wrong, and CBK provided him a great recommendation.

Best of luck to Mr. Sykes.

  • A handful of freshmen have jumped out already defensively - Nick Watkins, Niles Morgan, Jhonny Williams, Jonathan Bonner. Still looking to see them in pads and see if they can pickup the system. A lot of freshman that have the physical tools to compete for spots.

A lot of praise for the freshmen - especially Bonner - in this press conference. Really looking forward to the first practice in pads to see who steps up.

  • Ideally, the coaches would want one QB who is "the guy"; the coaches will not create artificial competition. At the moment it is a real competition and they are waiting for the main guy to step up and show the separation.

I think this is BIG praise for Zaire, as I expect EG to be the guy coming out of camp. The fact that it is even a competition goes to show just how much the depth is improved at the QB position.

  • They are ready to move into a higher level of competition right out of the gate, if the June workouts took. BK expects practices to be more crisp.

The June workouts provided a great opportunity for the coaches to do a little extra installation, and it should let the staff jump right into some real work this August.

  • The staff has looked at a lot of things to change (self-scouting) for special teams and offense; far more than he has done in a number of years. Really looked hard for areas to improve in, and they have goals for improvement moving to 2014 season.

As we have seen in past seasons, Brian Kelly and his staff are willing to look inwards to improve their methods and ideas. Constantly looking for improvement is something I really appreciate from this staff.

  • Davaris Daniels is more mature in how he handles himself, displaying leadership. Looking to see that improvement and attitude every single day moving forward.

Hopefully DD can step up and be that leader that the WR group needs now that TJ Jones has moved on.

  • EG's development is an ongoing process of understanding "the move before the move is made" -- he knows the playbook, etc.; now just looking for the "why" and "what the next call is".

To me, it seems like EG has the "micro" aspects of being the QB down, but now needs to start learning the "macro" involved in adjustments that will be made against him, and the adjustments to those adjustments that he will have to make.

  • Can Ben Councell slide to SAM backer? Yes, its a possibility, depending on the offenses they face. Councell and Grace healthy are two big pieces that allow them to get big if they need to in the linebacking corps.

Flexibility in the defensive positions will be very important this season - especially if Brian Van Gorder is willing to move pieces around to the positions where they will have the most success.

  • KeiVarae Russell is ready to play more man, and the coaches believe he has the will to become that Revis or Peterson type player. They are excited to coach up a player that has that type of passion.

I fully expect KVR to live up to the hype this season. He's going to be fun to watch shut down opposing teams' #1 receivers.

  • Malik Zaire is pretty good at the "why", but sometimes reverts back to the freshman mistakes. They are working towards cleaning those up -- need to keep him focused on a day-to-day basis and staying in the system.

Definitely getting excited for the future with Zaire. Hopefully he finds the time to develop and gets some good work in.

  • Having two quarterbacks with the same skillset provides a great advantage - both QBs are running the same practice scripts; allows consistency from the top down, across all positions.

Finally, we get to see how well the offense can be run when they aren't learning 2 different offenses at once. The shackles should be off this season - let's see what we can do.

  • The coaches certainly want to have a QB at least 10 days out from the opener, but if they know who the guy is going to be, they will make that call earlier.

I expect the "announcement" to come around the same time it always has, before the opener.

  • Cody Riggs fits in very well at Notre Dame, handles himself with great maturity. He brings a lot of veteran experience -- he was a little bit out of shape when he arrived, but has been brought up to speed. He has the ability to play CB, NB, but they haven't really discussed him playing safety at Notre Dame.

I would expect Riggs to make an immediate impact at the nickel back position, especially against more spread-based teams.

  • Bringing Christian Lombard back healthy is a huge plus for the offensive line. Four starters returning on the OL is a great place to be, and just need to find out who that 5th starter is. Hegarty, Hanratty, and McGlinchey are outstanding candidates for that position. As a whole, the coaches view the OL as setting a standard for the entire team. Last year no one was their peer, this year they are having some competition from the DL.

The OL and DL are truly the foundation of this team. We are spoiled, folks -- I'm looking for good things out of both groups this season.

  • Every year now the goal will be getting into the national playoffs - that is the mark now. That is how the coaches will mark the program from now on.

The next step is to always be in the conversation for the playoffs. Multiple winning seasons in a row is good, but Notre Dame needs to take the next step.

  • Defensive scheme and substitutions will take on a little more importance as they look to utilize the strengths of some individual players. BVG has the ability to maximize the player and getting them into the right positions.

I am really interested to see the personnel side of BVG's system -- what interesting pieces he will move to odd positions to create some advantages. The creativity is something totally different than what we saw with Bob Diaco.

  • Coaches aren't concerned with naming a starting running back, they expect all three to contribute greatly.

Tarean Folston will most likely take the majority of the carries if he can be productive. It will be interesting to see exactly what Greg Bryant will bring to the table this season as well.

  • Looking to get off to a great start against Rice, and they realize they have to ramp up immediately due to the tough schedule.

Water is wet, fire is hot, ND's schedule is difficult.

  • The strength of the offensive line is the group, but Nick Martin is ready to step into Zack Martin's shoes as the leader.

Hopefully Nick has learned well from his brother -- keeping the OL at as high of a level as it was the previous seasons will be huge for the success of the offense.

  • The coaches hope that all three phases will complement each other this season. They aren't looking for one group to carry the team.

For all of the "offense will have to carry us" discussion around the program, that's not how Brian Kelly views this team. Improvements in special teams and defense can provide the nudge the team needs to become an elite team this season.

  • Ishaq Williams has done everything the coaches have asked, and he now as the opportunity to finish his career in a positive way. It's time for him to get out and prove it.

Last chance -- use it, and give us a season to remember, Ishaq.

  • "We need to score more points" - There will be some games this season that require the offense to step up, and will have to be more productive across the board.
  • Proliferation of talent on offenses, mobile QBs, etc. are making plays that are hard to defend. ND needs to be a part of the rise in scoring.
  • ND is better suited to run uptempo than any time since Brian Kelly has started here. Looking to play faster this year.

Three comments about offense and finally seeing the uptempo no-huddle that we have all been waiting for since Brian Kelly came on board. I, for one, welcome our new uptempo overlords.

  • Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua will both perform well as in-line blockers this season. Smythe is tough, competitive -- competed with Jaylon Smith in OTAs in a "tire war" and proved his mettle.

High praise from Brian Kelly for Smythe, hopefully he can become that nasty in-line blocker that he really likes to use.

  • Pecking order at WR starts with the consistent leader Chris Brown. Davaris Daniels, Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, Torii Hunter will all play big roles. There is plenty of depth at the WR position that will allow the offense to get the ball to all of those tools.

Chris Brown and Davaris Daniels are going to have to step up this season, and I expect both of them to do so. The depth behind them is impressive -- a lot of toys for the QBs to play with this season.

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