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Notre Dame Football: Brian Kelly speaks on Navy, defensive line depth without Julian Okwara, Alohi Gilman and more

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After improving to 7-2 this past weekend with a comfortable 31-point win over Duke, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish move forward into one of the toughest weeks on the schedule. It’s Navy Week.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Duke
Brian Kelly sealed his seventh season with seven-plus victories at Notre Dame with a 38-7 win over Duke on Saturday night.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.

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.

It won’t just be Alohi Gilman, Kyle Hamilton and Jalen Elliott at safety this week

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.

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.

(Other injury updates)

A fun exchange

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.

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:

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.

It’s kinda funny how this keeps happening

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: