Brian Kelly got back to answering questions from the media on Monday as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish prep for their rivalry game against the USC Trojans. Considering the inconsistent quarterback play from Notre Dame this season, and the events that unfolded in Blacksburg, everyone is just trying to get a better grasp of what the rest of the season may have in store at the position.
He’s still the starter
Jack Coan has been the starter at quarter back since game one. Nothing has changed on that front, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been somewhat fluid for the past six games.
“I think from a quarterback standpoint, Jack Coan continues to be the guy that we feel like gives us the best chance to win. A mixture of him with Tyler Buckner, I think both of them. Drew has done some really good things for us. If we feel like we’re in a situation where we need to call on him, we would. But I think right now, as we look at it, it’s probably in my mind, and I know Tommy’s, that Jack would start and we’ll continue to get Tyler more playing time.”
Against Virginia Tech, we did see Tyler Buchner operate more as a quarterback than as the wildcat option, and we hope the playbook is opening up a little more for him as the season continues.
“Let’s look at it from this perspective when he looked really good late in the game. Those defensive linemen are chasing Tyler Buchner and they are tiring out a little bit so that pass rush is not quite the same in the first series or the second series, as it is in that last series. There’s a little bit of that where Jack speeds up a little bit in those those late drives, where the ball comes out a little bit quicker. There’s more of a sense of urgency. I think it’s a little bit of both. I think the pass rush tends to break down a little bit later in the game as those guys are running sideline to sideline having to chase all game and then I think Jack’s sense of urgency, in terms of getting the ball out, is a lot more deliberate. I think we cleaned up a lot from that on our bye week in terms of what we needed to work on maybe earlier in the game, for Jack and being more efficient.”
Our friend Greg Flammang has a great saying that goes, “Tyler Buchner unlocks Kyren Williams.” It’s a very true statement, but we still need more out of the runniung game with STARTER Jack Coan in the game.
“I think it’s a process for us that we feel better about right now. I think, obviously, we’ve made some changes on on the offensive line. We think personnel makes a difference. We think that certainly Tyler adds a little bit more balance there because when you have to defend the quarterback, obviously, you can get more diversity. I think you’re going to continue to see an uptick in terms of the running game and its consistency and that’s what we’re looking for.”
With all of the uneven play and uneven snaps coming out of the quarterback room, the general line of thinking is that it may cause some issues internally for the Irish and the position group. Brian Kelly, however, doesn’t think so.
“Well, I think it starts with who you recruit to Notre Dame and the character of the kid makes a lot of those things go away, right? The issues of being selfish or not wanting to see others succeed. That selflessness has to be part of what you’re looking for when you recruit. Now, they’re all competitive and all want to play, but I think if you’re transparent with them and you’re face-to-face with them and what you see is what you do, you build that relationships with them. Then you’re going to have a room where the guys will work together. I don’t think you ever get to where it’s like, ‘I’m so happy not to be the starter.’ But you get respect and those guys working together. Those guys cheer for each other. If Drew Pyne goes in there, those two guys will want him to succeed because they genuinely respect him for the work that he does.”
“You have to pick your spots during practice in terms of when you are trying to isolate your particular work for that particular player. We have another guy, Brendon Clark, we’re trying to get ready, too. Most of our seven-on-seven reps against our defense during the bye week, we gave to Brendon Clark because we’re trying to get the rust off of him and get him back. I think you pick your spots during practice to give them the dedicated work necessary to see their growth continue to happen. Tom and I sit down and meet and talk about and have discussions about to make sure that it’s not stalling the overall operation but also making sure that the individual continues to grow.”
Injuries and roster movement
Just a reminder... Michael is back in tome for Halloween.
“I’m not going to be searching, but I’ll give you a Tyree has been cleared. He practiced last week. Mayer looks to be 100%. He weight trained and looked really good. We feel good about him being 100% for us. Cane Berrong tore his MCL in a non-contact situation. Just one of those unfortunate situations. Buchner is good. I wouldn’t say he was 100% last week, but he got a lot of reps and should be 100% for this week.”
Using a young tackle as a tight end option is tradition now.
“I think that with Alt being the left tackle now, Carmody kind of slips into doing a little bit of doing everything for us. I think that that kind of serves in that role for us. He’s a big guy that can add some size into that 13 package for us. When Bauman comes back, we’ll see where we are. But for the immediate purpose of needing that next tight end, he definitely serves a great role by for us.”
Much of the reason that Notre Dame has had to use Alt and now Carmody at TE is because of Kevin Bauman’s injury. Kelly gave an update on him.
“We think he’s within two weeks, give or take. He’ll have another bone scan this week and then I think we’ll have a really good sense of where that leaves us in terms of an exact timeline.”
Jacob Lacey has played really well this season, but an injury might keep him out against Southern Cal.
“I’ll have a better idea today when we move him around. He has an ankle sprain. We put him in the boot for three days. He was out today. Weight trained. We do a short 20, 30-yard movement and he looked pretty good there but we got to put them out on the field before I could get a better sense of where he’s at.”
On Southern Cal
Even when USC is having a bad year, they still put up a hell of a fight against the Irish. Brian Kelly understands this as well as anyone.
“Now we get to get back to it and play our rival in USC. Obviously we didn’t play last year. Excited to get this going again, especially back here at home. A talented football team every year. I think we say the same things. Certainly this team is one that if your name is London, you’re really good, both on offense and defense. Certainly Slovis is an outstanding quarterback. Again, USC is going through a coaching change. We understand that. But this team plays extremely well against Notre Dame. It’s a rivalry game and they played very well on the road I’m sure that’s because they can get away from the distractions that they’re dealing with on a day to day basis. So, we expect to get the best version of USC, which will be a very good football team. Having said that, this will be a great challenge for us, as I said. From from a defensive standpoint, Jackson, an outstanding player, the middle linebacker is really good, this is a veteran team. They’ve got a lot of starters back on both sides of the ball. The return game is really good. Slovis and London are obviously an outstanding duo. Our guys are excited to get back out on the field. Certainly looking at the second half here with some home games here the next three weeks and a really good challenge to see where we stand at the big way.”
Trojan WR Drake London is an absolute beast. Kelly was asked about “slowing him down.” He was also asked about how London compares to Purdue’s David Bell.
“Well, we’re just going to do what Stanford did. I don’t know. Maybe still a couple of their — he had four catches against Stanford. Certainly you can’t do what Stanford did, but this is a really, really good football player. You have to have a plan for him, just as we had one for Pittman and the other players that they had. If you just line up and just say, Okay, we’ll live with what the consequences are. It’ll be like George Karlaftis at Purdue. We couldn’t just line up and say George just rush the passer. We had to have a plan for him. So, we’ll have to have a plan for him as well.”
“They’re similar in their competitive spirit. They’re great competitors. They’re different in terms of size. They’er both, for me, guys that just have such an incredible, high football-IQ. Understand the game, body leverage, and the yards after catch are what scare you the most. Pittman was a guy you couldn’t get deep enough. I think we played our free safety 27 yards deep. I think it was the deepest we ever had a safety. We may not play 27 yards deep, but he’s 6-4, so you’ve got different kinds of issues with him. I think both of them are outstanding players but I think this kid is just a ferocious competitor and he’ll block you. They use him quite a bit in the blocking bit. He’ll run you out of bounds.”
Notre Dame hasn’t had this much success against USC since the Holtz era. Brian Kelly is 7-3 against Southern Cal, and if the Irish would have played them last year — it’s hard to imagine it would have been anything but a win. So what’s BK’s special sauce?
“It’s a rivalry game. We’ve had good players. I think in these kinds of games, it’s a tough trip across the country. We’ve got to go to Stanford. I get asked the same question, why we don’t play well going to Stanford. It’s not that we don’t prepare well. It’s a tough trip to make and it’s a good team you’re playing against. You’re going on the road. Again, it’s a rivalry game. Our guys get up for the game. They’ll be up for the game. Again, I think it’s one where I think they want to get out of LA. They want to get away from the distractions, so I think this will be a heck of a football game.”
”I’ve had a couple that have just been amazing. I don’t know if I could pick one. We’ve had two undefeated seasons at USC. Those are pretty special. It’s hard to separate those two. Then the first victory for me in the rain at USC was pretty special, too. The most special would be beating them Saturday, that’s for sure.”
As far as facing yet another interim head coach from Troy...
“They’ve been consistent. They’ve played great one week and not quite as well the next. They’re talented as a football team. If you go with win-loss, win-loss, this should be the best version of themselves this week against us.”
You can watch the whole presser which includes more from Kelly about the team during the bye, Logan Diggs, and more.