On Monday, Brian Kelly took the podium to take questions from the media about last week’s win over the Purdue Boilermakers, the game ahead against the Wisconsin Badgers, and a handful of other items.
Kelly, like most weeks, was very complimentary of the Badgers — although I don’t think the Badger headline readers will feel like being compared to Navy is any type of compliment.
“I’m excited about going to Chicago and Soldier Field. We got the Shamrock Series back up and running after a couple years off, so pretty excited about that. I know our guys are and certainly the competition. Playing a nationally ranked Wisconsin football team and program that has been consistently amongst the very best in the country. Paul Chryst does an incredible job, year in and year out. Their identity is about being smart, physical, ball control. They had 95 snaps against Penn State. They control the football and really, in a lot of ways had that game in their control. They made some mistakes in the red zone. But really an outstanding football team, it’s a veteran football team, a veteran offensive line that returns, again, we talked about them controlling the line of scrimmage, they are in some instance, we were talking about the coordinators meeting this morning, they resemble Navy in so much that they control the clock and force you to be so efficient on the offensive side of the ball and you got to get them off the field and it’s difficult to get them off the field. Graham Mertz at quarterback, he’s got all the tools. He’s got arm strength, he can run, he’s athletic. He certainly has some weapons around him. Chez Mellusi transfers in, he’s an outstanding running back. They’ve got the physical fullback in Berger, Ferguson at tight end and veteran receivers that are smart and well coached. So, you can see the theme here, smart and well coached. That takes you to the defensive side of the ball. Jim Leonard, outstanding defensive coordinator. He’s got some big fellas up front. It starts with Benton at the nose, who’s a great two-gap player. He’ll be difficult. We’ll have to do some things in terms of neutralizing him. He’s very difficult. I think as instinctive and disciplined of linebackers that we will see this year. Well coached, smart, disciplined, physical, all the things that we all know about Wisconsin, but they come to light every game you watch. It’ll be a great challenge for our football team, one that we’re excited about. Again, going to Chicago, playing in Soldier field. Chicago is a great base for us and Notre Dame fans. So we’re excited about that opportunity and certainly the challenge of playing a very good Wisconsin team.”
“Well, I mean, like anything else, it is getting behind the chains. I think negative plays getting off from what you want to do, right? You get into second and long and third and long is what troubled us the most, so you want to stay on schedule and so it’s important to try to get them off schedule.”
“I would say this about Paul more than anything else is that he is who he is. I mean, his football teams are smart. They’re well coached. They’re physical at the point of attack. They play a style of football that hasn’t changed since he’s been in Pittsburgh and quite frankly, from my perspective, he’s one of the best coaches in the country because he stays true to that. He’s consistent. He doesn’t waver from what he believes in and what’s important to him and I applaud him for that. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Kelly quickly updated the status of his roster’s health and their availability against Wisconsin.
“Good shape. Bumps and bruises. Typical for a game that you play against a Big 10 opponent.”
“So, Prince is available. We’ll work him out today and then we’ll have a better sense and feel for him. C’Bo is not available to us.”
“As I said, it was truly a tight hamstring. We didn’t have a pull, one that we feel was dangerous, but we’re going to be aggressive in the treatment of it. So, we’ll see how he [Tyler Buchner] responds today. I think we’ll have a really good feel for him tomorrow. We expect him to play, however, on Saturday.”
“You don’t get too much intel from those things in terms of what he knows about Wisconsin. I’m not a big believer in that. Like hey, do you know the signals? You got to play the game. Jack is a competitor. He loved his time at Wisconsin, but it’s a new chapter for him. He’s, like I said, very mature, level headed. He wants to beat Wisconsin, but he wants to beat the following week Cincinnati and the week after, so I think we can make as much as we want and make it a story. In the building, it’s not that much of a story to him.”
“I got after him pretty good on the sideline after a couple of passes that were a little bit off, but as I looked at it, the routes weren’t great either. We needed to throw it a little better and run the routes a little bit better. I hadn’t got after him at all and he handled it just terrifically and bounced right back. As we all saw, he had a great second half.”
ALL ABOUT JD BERTRAND AND OMG FULLBACKS
JD Bertrand has been great and has 35 tackles in the first three games of the season. He played in 81 snaps against Purdue, so he’s going to need a break from time to time moving forward.
“He needs a break. We’re hoping that Prince Kollie provides that. We were expecting him to provide that and then the wind blew in. I think it’s just one of those things where I think all of our players — it’s a pretty big grind for us with back to back Big 10 games, an outstanding football team in Cincinnati, then we got to go down to Virginia Tech, it’s a pretty good role. So, making sure that the depth on our football team is utilized wisely is important to us and in that position as well.”
One more reason to love Bertrand besides his tackling prowess, is his role offensively. We are going to call it a FULLBACK.
“I think there’s always a place for somebody that fits that kind of role and obviously in our goal line package JD Bertrand is that guy, but he certainly can’t be on the field all the time. Well, we have a new word for him, right? The best two way player in the country. But I think you’re right, and we’re looking for that in recruiting. Where’s the versatility, but I will tell you this, the NFL is in the same situation. They can’t find the inside linebacker, downhill player that can also duplicate that in the short yardage situation. That’s why Tommy Tremble was such an important guy in the draft. So yeah, I think everybody’s looking for the same guy. If we can find one, we certainly would be on it.”
SHAMROCK SERIES STUFF
While a certain person on this site is extremely skeptical of the overall benefit of the Shamrock Series, Brian Kelly says it’s important to his players.
“We do it in its totality, right? We don’t do it as a one shot deal. But we do it more so over the course of looking at our schedule over the last few years and how many NFL stadiums you’ll get a chance, coming to Notre Dame, you’re going to get that kind of exposure and playing in all these NFL venues. So, if you look at it over a course of your four years here, you’re playing in a lot of different NFL venues that you don’t get anywhere else in the country. Our guys are excited about these opportunities. The shamrock games are important to them. They see them a little bit differently, especially when you’re playing close to home in Chicago, they know the history there.”
A PLACE IN HISTORY
Kelly was asked about what he thinks his place in Notre Dame history will be as it pertains to the head coaches of Notre Dame.
“Yeah, I can tell you exactly where I sit in Notre Dame history, the coach that won more games that hasn’t won a national championship. That’s where I’ll sit. Where I feel like we’ve done is we’ve played consistent football and we brought Notre Dame football back to its relevance of competing for championships. Each year you raise the bar and you continue to build towards that goal of winning a national championship and I think we have steadily worked towards that consistency, year in and year out. Other than that, everything’s judged and rightly so on winning a national championship and I have no problem with that. I knew that coming in.”