On Tuesday, Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish held a Zoom press conference so we could check in with the start of the season just 10 days away. I really wasn’t expecting a whole lot of information, as the format isn’t conducive to the important follow-up questions (like... those ain’t happening). Still, Brian Kelly offered quite a bit for all of us to chew on with his responses.
THE STARTERS ARE KNOWN
With the season opener just a week and a half away, we probably shouldn’t be surprised the coaches pretty much have their lineups set — and yet the bluntness from Kelly was surprising.
“I think we’re pretty much settled. There will be a little bit more competition, I think there’s always going to be some competition at some of these positions we have some depth at. I don’t mean to infer that nobody could get beaten out during the season. That’s not what I mean at all. We have a pretty good idea of who’s going to be the starting Buck, who’s going to be the starting running back, who’s going to be the starting end, who’s going to be the starting corner. We’ve got a pretty good sense and feel — we’re at practice 13, 14, and have a good sense of those positions and who those guys are going to be.”
Of course — WE don’t know who those starters will be, but we can start to put together quite a bit from what Notre Dame and Brian Kelly have put forth. A couple of examples are Kyren Williams at running back and Shaun Crawford at safety.
Kelly slid it in with the subtle smoothness that only a veteran coach can do. Kendall Abdur-Rahman and Osita Ekwonu have both moved to RB from WR and LB respectively.
“We moved Osita Ekwonu to running back and he’s given us a physical presence at that position as well. He’s a big, strong kid that can go in there and and really mix it up for us. We moved Kendall Abdur-Rahman there and he’s been a pleasant surprise for us. His ability to see things, hit the hole with some really good vision and then break some big plays for us.Right now we’re working about seven guys at the position and it’s been a nice surprise for us.”
Now, there has been some clearing up with Notre Dame in regards to Ekwonu. His move was out of a growing need due to the stresses COVID has put on the roster at times, and may not be the full move like KAR. Still, for those of us that still dream of a day a fullback is once again on the field for the Irish, Osita gives us hope at 6’1” 236 pounds.
NEED A FRESHMAN TO WATCH?
Certainly we have all been excited about freshmen Chris Tyree and Jordan Johnson on the offensive side of the ball, but when asked about new guys on the defensive line Kelly praised two other freshmen in Rylie Mills and Jordan Botelho.
I think the guy that probably stands out is Rylie Mills. He’s ready to play this year. Really good pass rusher at his size, 6-foot-6, he’s got some unique traits to him. He can make an impact. Really good football player. Jordan Botelho, again, very twitchy, closes really well. Has got a good IQ for the game. Those two guys have really stood out and could play some football for us this year.
Mike Elston has done an incredible job developing depth along the entire defensive line over the years, and it shows itself to be the case once again.
TEAM SPEED KILLS
Last week we started to hear whispers that the Notre Dame staff are really impressed with the team speed on defense this year — so I asked Kelly what his thoughts were about the possibility that this is the fastest Notre Dame defense ever assembled. He offered more than I expected.
“There are times where you can see it on display. We close and we arrive at the point of contact with a different sound. Look, we’re going against each other, so sometimes for me, I’m at a different position. I want both the offense and defense to do well at the same time. There are times out there where I look at it and go ‘That’s very impressive.’ There is speed on this defense. There is the ability for some collisions that are really impressive. We’re going to have to do that play in and play out against some very, very good competition. We’ll see how that measures up to some really good teams in the ACC.”
Can’t wait to hear that sound.
BK also answered questions about:
- Practicing inside Notre Dame Stadium for that gameday feel.
- Contact and tackling.
- Physical conditioning.
- How serious the team is taking the current pandemic.
- Kyle Hamilton.
- Mike Mickens and the development of the cornerbacks.
- Ian Book’s developing relationship with Bennett Skowronek.
- How the receivers are fitting into the offense.
- Eligibility matters moving forward due to the coronavirus.
- Ian Book as a seasoned vet.
- Are they ready to play the Duke Blue Devils?
- Home field advantage?
- How cancelled practices during the season would affect gameday.
- His growth as a leader during everything that 2020 has given us.
You can watch the entire press conference in the player below.