Respect is a word that many players and coaches will throw out during the week they play one of the service academies on their schedule and for Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly, that was a common word used during his Monday press conference in preparation for No. 21 Navy (in the AP Poll) on Saturday afternoon.
“Respect” mentioned in the first 10 seconds of Brian Kelly’s Tuesday press conference looking ahead to Navy.— Pete Sampson (@PeteSampson_) November 11, 2019
Kelly, who holds a 7-2 record against the Navy Midshipmen, including a five-game win streak from 2011-15 (if you include previously vacated victories in ‘12 and ‘13), wasn’t short on praise of his team’s opponents this weekend.
Navy sports a 7-1 mark at this current mark of the season, including a 56-10 blowout of Connecticut in their last contest before a bye last week. Malcolm Perry has shifted to a new position in the Midshipmen’s lethal rushing attack as the signal-caller for one of the American Athletic Conference’s front-runners.
Speaking of Perry, that’s the main subject Kelly spoke on during his opening remarks on Monday, along with the usual array of subjects that range from injuries, to the meaning of this rivalry game, to academics and more.
Malcolm Perry or Jerian Grant? It’s tough to tell.
Brian Kelly on Navy QB Malcolm Perry: "He's dynamic, explosive, precise ... he's a point guard."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
Like most of the Navy offenses that Kelly’s teams have seen during his tenure with the Irish, the quarterback is a weapon and that’s certainly the case with Malcolm Perry, who comes into Saturday averaging 6.6 yards per carry and has rushed for 1,042 yards and 16 (!) touchdowns already this season.
BK on the QB/FB debate in the option attack: "I think it's all together and in itself, the most difficult. You have to defend inside and outside. When you have a guy like Malcolm Perry, he's somebody that makes them very dangerous."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
It won’t just be Alohi Gilman, Kyle Hamilton and Jalen Elliott at safety this week
BK on Houston Griffith and the safety depth the Irish have: "We really like what we see from him in practice."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
Says "this is a week that you're going to see a little more of him."
Kelly noted the importance of depth against an option attack on the defensive side of things, precisely with the safety position, where he mentioned not being able to play and compete with just “two of them back there.”
Obviously, super freshman Kyle Hamilton will see time on Saturday behind former Navy safety and current Irish star Alohi Gilman, but so will Houston Griffith, who has made the transition back to strong safety behind Jalen Elliott.
Kelly also spoke on what made Gilman stand out when he played against the Irish for Navy before transferring to Notre Dame.
BK on current Irish safety Alohi Gilman (a Navy transfer): "Extremely active, very good tackler. He's someone that got our attention immediately."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
No more Julian Okwara at Notre Dame and that really sucks
If you hadn’t heard by now, Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara is officially out for the remainder of the season and done as a player in the Irish program after breaking the fibula in his left leg against Duke on Saturday.
Kelly was asked not only about Okwara’s impact during his time in the program, but how the Irish would replace such a stellar piece to their defense. He gave two answers on that front in the form of Ovie Oghoufo and Adetokunbo Ogundeji.
BK on Julian Okwara being done for the season and at Notre Dame: "I think he brought a lot of notoriety to our defensive line."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
Kelly on replacing Okwara: "Ade gives us versatility at that position. He's long, athletic, was extremely disruptive (at Duke)." Oghoufo will get more time as well.— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) November 11, 2019
(Other injury updates)
BK on Lenzy and Wilkins: "They'll lift today."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
Wilkins has a "soft-tissue issue", while Lenzy is having issues with fatigue.
Those issues are not related to the concussion he had earlier this season.
A fun exchange
The great @46Sports points out that two area high schools play the option very well.— Angelo Di Carlo (@angdicarlo) November 11, 2019
Brian Kelly with a big laugh: "I'd rather play them."
Kelly was asked about the local flavor of option teams being that it’s Navy Week and Mishawaka High School, one of the best teams in IHSAA Class 4A football a season ago and a regional finalist this year, had a clever response for the Irish head coach.
@CoachBrianKelly we might be able to fit you on the schedule soon https://t.co/sAnFQsbpEu— Mishawaka Football (@CavemenFB) November 11, 2019
Kelly was made aware of Mishawaka’s response to his comment and said Thursday would probably work for his guys, leading Mishawaka to respond with this:
We were thinking more like conference championship week. We have a pretty big game Friday. Gonna need our rest https://t.co/sDSGVJrX1M— Mishawaka Football (@CavemenFB) November 11, 2019
A slight jab at Notre Dame still not technically being in a conference? Doubtful, but I’m here for the savagery and the fun.
BK on two big offensive pieces
Kelly almost went a full 30-minute presser without a question about the play of Ian Book this week, which probably would’ve been a first since Book became the full-time starter for the Irish at quarterback, but discussed his play from Saturday, along with a status/confidence (?) update on running back Tony Jones Jr.
BK on Ian Book (first question on him!): "I think there was some significant progress and maybe he got back to the starting line for many people that were viewing him."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
Kelly on Tony Jones: "He wasn't certainly the Tony Jones that we saw running against USC." Should be "back to 100 pct this weekend."— Mike Berardino (@MikeBerardino) November 11, 2019
It’s kinda funny how this keeps happening
BK: "I think this is the sixth team that's had a bye week (before playing ND)."— Michael Whitlow (@couldbelikemike) November 11, 2019
If you want to watch Kelly’s press conference in full where he touches on other topics, such as Notre Dame’s scheduling, Chase Claypool, Drew White and more, you can watch it below: