Brian Kelly Press Conference: September 3, 2013
Michigan “Rivalry” Comments
Kelly started the press conference by addressing the nonsensical debate that has ensued, primarily among ESPN analysts and talk radio hosts looking to stir controversy about his comments on the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry, or lack thereof. Kelly’s exact quote in the press conference was: “This is a great and historic rivalry that we will be playing this Saturday, so let’s get that out of the way right away so we don’t have to answer anymore questions about this rivalry. . . and we can stick with that and dispense with the nonsense.”
I applaud Kelly for taking the high road and backing off his original statements. Kelly understands the media microscope at Notre Dame and the need to keep his players’ attention on preparing for the game instead of answering ridiculous questions on an issue fabricated by certain media outlets. Personally, Kelly was 100% correct in his original statement and any Notre Dame fan knows, that even though we hate Michigan, they are less of a rival than USC, Michigan State and I would even say Navy.
Kelly even took the time to compliment Brady Hoke on his performance at Michigan, and did not take any offense to Hoke’s comments in the spring where he told Michigan alumni that Notre Dame was “chickening out” by ending the series early.
Devon Gardner & Notre Dame’s Gameplan
Kelly compared Gardner to Randall Cunningham and was impressed by his footwork and accuracy. He emphasized that Notre Dame needs to contain the edges and keep Gardner in the pocket. Kelly believed that the structure of Notre Dame’s defense, specifically their size in the defensive front seven, matches up well against a power I offense. But he reminded reporters of the team’s success against Oklahoma’s spread offense last season.
Notre Dame Schedule
Assuming five ACC games and three rivalry games (USC, Stanford and Navy) already scheduled for 2014, Kelly anticipated that Notre Dame will use the remaining four slots to play games that maintain Notre Dame’s national footprint. Kelly discussed the addition of Texas to replace Michigan, a national program for a national program, while the Shamrock Series will continue with high profile venues and “quality” opponents. Kelly specifically addressed his conversations with Jack Swarbrick and their mutual agreement that the team’s strength of schedule will determine their future position in the playoff system and Notre Dame’s desire to maintain a schedule that matches the dominant college football teams.
Kelly described Tommy Rees’ as incrediblely efficient, but he did want Rees to make better decisions on easy throws. Last season, Notre Dame had too many “throw away downs” according to Kelly, and on Saturday they only had one. The improvement should not be a huge surprise as last season Golson was still learning the position and Kelly encouraged him to throw the ball away instead of forcing a bad throw.
Kelly was content with the effort of the defensive line, going against the opinion of most Irish fans who expected a more dominant performance. Kelly attributed Nix’s frustrations to the constant double teams and the fact that he spent more time on the field than in previous years.
Kelly raved about Troy Niklas’ “awareness in space” while blocking. The team knew Niklas could “maul” people at the line of scrimmage, but his ability to use his feet and hands in the open field really impressed the coaching staff, especially blocking for TJ Jones.
Kelly liked the play of Jarrett Grace who “graded out well” during their film review.
Kelly did not back away from his use of five running backs, but he plans to eventually use one of them to carry the load at the end of the game similar to Theo Riddick last season. Kelly liked Amir Carlisle’s acceleration and more importantly his north-south running inside the tackles.
Kelly advised the media that Davaris Daniels will practice all week and will be prepared for next week. A big relief for Irish fans who held a collective breadth when Daniels left the field early last Saturday holding his groin.
Malik Zaire was not cleared to play based upon bloodwork the team received. The specific issue relates to his spleen and whether he is cleared for contact drills.