FIDM Video Coverage (transcript here)
We all know that Coach Brian Kelly spends a good chunk of his preparation combing through OFD for critical content and information. It seems Larz's OFD Films article on the running game made its way into the Gug and Kelly is in the process of working with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand to find the right mix of personnel to execute in the trenches. Aside from using an opportunity to poke at the SID office's Michael Bertsch, who published a OL depth chart in the Syracuse game media package, Kelly made it clear there is still work to do in sorting out the depth chart and positional roles among ND's offensive linemen. Physicality and experience were key talking points for Kelly as he addressed the work-in-progress nature of his o-line.
That was only the first of the many land mines Kelly managed to navigate during his 40 minute session...
This Saturday will mark the return of Safety Austin Collinsworth to game action. Kelly noted that his senior leader had returned to practice and was pleased with his performance. When asked if the elevated play of Elijah Shumate would create some playing time challenges at the back of the defense, Kelly was quick to say, "I don't think so. I don't think it affects Elijah's situation at all." As a coach, this is always a sticky situation. You don't want your players fearing a loss of "their spot" when they go down to injury, but you also owe it to your team to put them in the best position to win. Does Kelly risk the progress Shumate and partner Max Redfield have made in their communications and performance by introducing Collinsworth? Does he measure Collinsworth's snaps early on? How will the mix play out? This is something to watch going forward.
Torii Hunter will also open his account as an Notre Dame receiver vs. Syracuse. With Amir Carlisle out this week, and questionable for Stanford, Hunter will go from "experiment to experience" this Saturday. Should Hunter live up to his considerable hype, how will the mix between Hunter, Carlisle and C.J. Prosise play out as the season wears on? Here's to hoping that Carlisle's somewhat star-crossed time at ND picks up right where he left off to start this season. He was looking fantastic prior to his injury.
When you watch Kelly address these issues, you start to appreciate the overall health of the program. Deciding which of your 3 great RB's should be getting touches and whether or not you should pull one effective player off the field for another effective player who has stepped in are good problems to have.
As we've said before, Coach Kelly is conscious to throw out as many soundbites as possible about the challenges of playing ND's schedule. I'm sure manor98's mole in the CFB playoff selection committee is listening. This week, Kelly talked about the challenges presented by ND's brand and media appeal. With nearly every road game played as a night game in prime time, the Irish have had some challenging travel and time situations for the team. This led to two very interesting dance moves by the Irish head man. First, he took an ACC question and twisted it into this time challenge statement. Second, he used some clumsy language when using "nationally televised" as shorthand for primetime time slot games. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle when he questioned "maybe we shouldn't play all these nationally televised games..." I'm sure a lot of college programs would love to have that problem. I think Kelly might have appreciated a mulligan on that one.
"The Five Players that are Currently Suspended"
That's how Kelly referred to the group frequently referred to as the Marooned or Frozen Five or 4+1 Coursemen. In this press conference, Kelly demonstrated the range of emotions many Irish fans are experiencing. On the one hand, Kelly played the role of company man very well. It is clear "consistency" is a talking point around this process and the handling of it. Kelly specifically addressed the communications chain, and how that does not include the parents, as a way that this situation has been handled with consistency.
However, Kelly also showed the building exasperation that comes with a long, opaque process. You can see him grab his tie and give a bit of a smile as he prepared to give his answer to the first question on the topic. Kelly then delivered a well rehearsed and factual response:
Friday of last week I was informed that the academic committee has been formed officially and that they will, if all things move in the manner that they're hoping, and that they're able to get through all of the information, that the five student athletes will get their hearings concluded by the end of next week.
Later, when asked his opinion on the whole process, Kelly gave a big smile, strongly indicating his desire to launch in to an unfiltered rant - a feeling I'm sure many of us can relate to. To his credit, and the value of a deep breath, Kelly gives the perfect PR answer:
I don't have an opinion, and I really wouldn't want to share it publically.
I can't decide if I admire the reporter for asking this question or not. On the one hand, it is a very valid question, but there's no way Kelly ever shares his opinion or personal thinking on this topic. It isn't a question he can answer, and everyone in the room knows that.
By the third time this topic came up, Kelly became more visibly exasperated, and near the end, he admits, "You guys are wearing me out today!" I'll save my own opinions on the matter for the comments section, but suffice to say, the Irish head man is justifiably worn out by this situation. Notre Dame sits undefeated, in the top 10 in the polls, and facing four week stretch that will provide a stern and season-defining test, yet here he sits trying to deal with his team, these 5 guys, the administration, and the press on an issue that many believe should have been put to bed weeks ago. A football man wants to talk football, not the timing of administrative processes. This much is clear from Kelly's performance.