Notre Dame Fighting Irish Head Coach Brian Kelly went in front of the media on Monday to talk about the upcoming matchup against the Florida State Seminoles. With the depth chart now in place, we are starting to get a clearer picture of how the season opener may look.
The Irish will be lead on offense by quarterback Jack Coan, and BK is confident that the former Wisconsin player will bring consistency as a veteran of big time college football.
“He’s been really good. He’s been what he has been. That’s the nice part about it. He’s the same guy every day. You don’t go to practice and go, ‘Who’s that guy?’ He is so consistent in terms of who he is and his makeup, his preparation, I think he’s even improved since the spring in a number of the more detailed areas that we’ve asked him to. I think that’s the mark of a very good quarterback.”
“25 games that he’s been in in the Big 10, he’s been in some big games certainly. He’s gonna go out there and he’s been in this environment before. That doesn’t mean he’s not going to have some jitters, but he’s going to know how to get into that zone that I talked about earlier. That’s going to help him execute and deliver high performance when it’s needed. It’s very helpful.”
There’s a hope this year that the passing game will be more dynamic. While a lot of that hope resides in the thought that the Irish will be more efficient throwing the ball deep, an improvement in the passing game while in the red zone is very much needed.
“Let’s break it down and drill a little bit deeper. We were extremely efficient in the red zone running the football. Probably one of the best in the country. We were not throwing it. We were at 10 touchdown passes to 60 opportunities. That ranked as one of the lowest in the country. We got to throw it better in the red zone and we have to be more effective when we do have those opportunities. So, when those situations arise, we’ve got to catch it, we’ve got to throw it, we’ve got to be on the same page in terms of doing it and so what I want to see more than anything else is a higher efficiency in throwing the football and maybe a little bit more balance there. We were stubborn, but we were good at it. We were good at running the football down there, but we weren’t as balanced as I would like to be, so there has to be more balance and that balance comes from throwing it more efficiently in the red zone... We have more targets and I think from from an offensive structure, we’ll put ourselves in a position where we’ll have a little bit more balance going through it.”
Speaking of the passing game... Kevin Austin has finally earned his place as a starter at wide receiver. The fact that Austin is still at Notre Dame is actually quite impressive given today’s climate, and all of his previous setbacks.
“That’s a fair question to ask any elite athlete that has had so many setbacks. I think he has had some good days and bad days in trying to work through it, but I think the constant has been that he’s had great support at home. I think that Del has done a great job of staying really close with him as he navigates not having football. So, what does that mean? How do you handle yourself in the classroom and do the right things when football is not a prime mover in your life. I think he’s had a lot of really good support around him and then his desire to want to play here at Notre Dame. Look, he has an easy story right, as you kind of alluded to that, he kind of transfers and moves on somewhere else, but he wanted to do it here. He wanted to get a degree from Notre Dame and he’s had really good support at home. I think Del has done a terrific job with him in being a great mentor. He’s been strong minded in terms of fighting through some very difficult times to want to play for Notre Dame.”
The defense will see its fair share of newcomers as starters, with a few of those guys being JD Bertrand at the WILL, Houston Griffith at safety, and Isaiah Foskey at VYPER.
“His production, outstanding production, tough, smart assignment-correct, athletic. He has all the tools to play at a high level at that position. We lose a very versatile player in Marist. There’s no doubt about it. But JD Bertrand is an outstanding football player as well. So, next man up in that situation and we’ll get a chance to see him play against Florida State.”
“I think it’s pretty apparent, right? Where Kyle Hamilton is going to be, most people are not going to be. So, that position is crucial relative to getting the ball on the ground and so that’s a tackling position for us. Those guys have to tackle the football. They both had really good camps. You’re going to see them both playing. They’re going to be on notice because most most teams know where Hamilton is and they’re going to attack both those guys and I think they’re up for the task.”
He’s definitely feeling much more comfortable on a day to day basis with the defensive structure, what he’s asked to do his workload, all of those things. I think he continues to grow as a football player. He has not reached his ceiling. I think we all know what his physical ability is right now and it’s outstanding, but I think his football ability continues to grow and I’m kind of excited to watch him play.”
Back before spring ball even started, we knew the offensive line was going to be massively overhauled due to four of last year’s starters headed to the NFL. The only player that remained was center Jarrett Patterson, and at the time it was believed that he would kick out to left tackle. Here we are at the end of August and many tings have changed — including Marshall transfer Cain Madden starting at right guard and true freshman Blake Fisher starting at left tackle.
“Well, I think you start with the end in mind first. That is why did we plant Patterson there. Because he can influence both guards. The center is able to influence two guards that we weren’t familiar with until we got a chance to see them and that is Cain Madden obviously, and then didn’t know what was going to happen at left guard. It’s been Zeke and certainly Rocco has done a really good job there, Andrew Kristofic, we’ve had a lot of moving pieces at that position. JP really does a great job of helping both of those guys to work in unison. Then you got Josh Lugg on the right side, that’s got great experience, that kind of blends in there. Then you’ve got Blake Fisher, who’s kind of a separate entity in itself, an unusual character in itself that he just can go in there and press play at such a young age. So, that’s really the thought process in terms of JP at center. He’s helped both of those guards.”
You can watch the entire press conference in the player below.