Brian Kelly Transcript
"I'll begin with what is apparently old news: the practice yesterday, Lo Wood suffered an Achilles tendon rupture, he'll be out for the season, he'll have surgery on Wednesday.
"Relative to the practice itself, first day outside of camp, guys back in their own dorm rooms, some of them off-campus, a little bit lethargic, we expect a better day today.
"We're still working on getting better as a team as well as integrating Navy into our preparation so there's a little bit of both going on right now. Quarterbacks are still developing, we're still seeing progress in particular the two quarterbacks that are getting most of the reps, Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix continue to get better every day. We give them different circumstances and situations, we'll start to give them a little more Navy today in their preparation
"Regarding Lo again, I feel terrible for him. He's a young man we all wanted to see get this opportunity that he worked real hard for. I just feel terrible for him, but I feel really good about the other five corners that we have as well. We have five scholarship corners that we believe can play the kind of football necessary for us to be successful. We'll move forward at that position, we think we have enough depth there to play very good football.
"I think as we move through the week you'll see a little more preparation towards Navy and we'll get into some of our bench control situations that we like to rehearse (also) later in the week and focus directly on our opponent in Ireland. "
How was Wood injured? "Just backpedaling out. One of those things that, you know, you just go through camp and expect everyone is good to go and you work so hard to keep guys healthy and safe. He's backpedaling, he turns to run, and he feels a pop."
Is Jamoris Slaughter an option at CB? "That's really off the table right now unless we're devastated with more injuries, I don't expect that to occur. Jamoris is handling the safety position, as you know we're developing a third there, Matthias Farley has done a really nice job for us. I think that stays where it is now. I think you'll see a lot more this week with Keivarae (Russell) and Josh (Atkinson) and Jalen (Brown). We're working Elijah Shumate there as well. We think we have enough there.
Do you flip-flop boundary and field responsibilities with them? "We'll have to flip them. It depends…this week is a different game plan (Navy). But as we move to Purdue and Michigan and Michigan State then we'll have to settle in on who's field and who's boundary.
Does having inexperienced guys change what you do? "Lo didn't have a ton of experience either. He played a little for us last year. I don't think we felt when we met last night that the learning curve is such that we have to make changes relative to what they've been doing. We want to continue the consistency of teaching that we've established the last two-and-a-half weeks. The guy that has the most flexibility and experience is Bennett (Jackson). He can play both wide and the boundary; we'll see how this plays out over the next few days."
Does this raise the emphasis for getting the nickel and dime ready? "I don't think so. From the beginning of camp we've installed our nickel package and we feel very comfortable with who that is and who's going to be playing that position. This has been about developing not just corners, but safeties as well. I think we have a comfort level with the third-down package and this doesn't affect that third-down package.
Can you take us through (safety) Matthias Farley's move up the depth chart? "Getting him into a position where he could actually get meaningful reps. He played on the offensive side of the ball (in camp last year) and then he was a Scout Team player (for the 2011 season). So he really didn't have an opportunity to show himself. I think, and I mentioned this earlier, he came in this summer really committed, he's in the best shape of his life and quite frankly we have two outstanding coaches back there in coach (Kerry) Cooks and coach (Bob) Elliott, they can get kids ready in a very short period of time.
"I think the combination of getting that coaching and getting that opportunity, and physically being in the best shape of his life in the position he knew he was going to play; he came in with (questions), 'Am I a receiver, am I a defensive back?' And I think all of those coming together at once have allowed him to grow as a player."
Has the kicking situation been settled? "No, we'll have two more auditions. We talked about (Nick) Tausch, the consistency he's shown. We think Kyle (Brindza) might be a guy that kicks from a little bit deeper, and then from a kick-off standpoint we want to put that thing out of the end zone. It still not decided totally but I think we have a good idea of who those guys are, and I think of course Ben Turk is going to be our punter.
"Kyle Brindza gives you a lot of flexibility because he can punt, kick-off, and do your field goal/extra point work. If you're looking towards next year there's a guy that could compete for all three of those positions so we're in a pretty good position to have some depth there."
Why change practice times this week from early AM to standard late afternoon? "I didn't want to get to a point where our guys were fatigued. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning, I was concerned. We had a really good schedule, our guys felt good, their legs felt good, I didn't want to mess with that even though the master plan looked really good when we put it together (pre-camp). As we go through weeks of practice and you get a good sense of where your team is, I didn't feel it was necessary for us to go (early) this week. Of course, it's on our schedule for next week and I think that's more prudent to get them up earlier to get ready for that 9 am start (South Bend time vs. Navy). Getting a feel for it, we didn't need to get up that early this week."
Could you run down the freshmen corners? "I'll start with the guys that were here: Josh and Jalen have improved dramatically through, and I mentioned this with Farley, the ability to be coached; they've taken to it very well, their technique is much better.
"There's one thing that scares me the most and that's when you have slow corners; we don't have any slow corners. Jalen can run; Josh can run, Elijah -- all these guys have athletic ability to play the position. Now its about honing their skills. The freshmen that are going to be playing and those guys that didn't play last year that will be in their first season of competition, can certainly do the job. Now its a matter of how quickly they can pick up the technique and discipline which is so important playing the position.
"I think at the end of the day what we're talking about is very talented players at the position that need the experience and an opportunity.
Do you hope one steps up and takes the job from the outset? "I think its like any position. You want someone to rise from the top but when you have younger players its not as easy to take hold of it because you're all learning at the same pace, you're all going through experiences that you haven't had before. I would say looking at the group all have made camp, for us, with this injury, a lot better that we know we have corners that we can put out there and compete at a high level.
How long will Wood be out? "Four to six months. We expect him back for spring football, certainly."
How has Ishaq Williams responded to the competition at Cat linebacker? "He's done well, and you'll see a lot of him in our nickel as well. He's been a top pass-rusher for us in camp. The thing that Ishaq gives you is great length. He's a guy that can come off the edge, as well as when you drop him into coverage, he can cover some space. We're very pleased with the depth, we're going to need them all, they're all going to have to play a lot of football for us."
Has Amir Carlisle progressed enough to practice intermittently? "Not yet. No, we're on a timetable there that probably puts us into next week before we start to run him out again. His spirits are good. He's confident in the plan that we have. A lot of times you have to have confidence in the plan that you put in front of the young man and he feels really good about where he is, and he expect to get back in the mix last week.
Any thought to moving Davonte Neal to cornerback? "He was an option for us (in the pre-season). That decision was made when we moved (running back) Keivarae Russell over to defense (instead of) Davonte. We had those conversations about (Neal's) ability to play both sides of the ball but we weren't going to move two players to offense. I think that's already been answered. From an offensive standpoint he's an electric runner with the ball. He's exciting with the ball in his hands. He's learning; every day is a new experience for him.
"He comes with a great attitude and he loves the game. If there's one thing that I really enjoy about our freshman class is they love to play. All of these guys are not afraid to step out there and compete."
Fewer 11-on-11 reps now with the season coming? "Yeah, we have to because we need to get Scout Teams prepared and that means you're not going to have as much time going 1s vs. 1s. We'll still have a little; I've always maintained that for the season just for the speed of the game. But that definitely starts to cut back; it started today for the first time and we'll continue until we have a balance of Navy vs. Notre Dame and Notre Dame vs. Notre Dame within the practice structure."
Have you adjusted the Golson/Hendrix reps yet? "No not yet. We're still pretty balanced, we had some more things that we wanted to see. We saw some areas of improvement that we needed so, both of those guys received very similar reps the last couple of days. We're still not there yet but we're moving in the right direction.
What is Nick Martin's long-term position? How's Tate Nichols progressing from his knee injury? "(Nichols) started moving yesterday. I would say he's at least -- I don't see him ready for Navy. He's a couple of weeks from getting in there and competing. With the knee we'll have to be careful with what we do with him to have him ready on Saturday's, but I expect he's not ready for Navy, maybe the week after.
"As it relates to Nick, I think we'd like to settle on one position, we just don't have that luxury right now. Next year as you know, we'll have a better situation with the depth on the offensive line but I think (Nick Martin) knows he's going to have to be prepared to play both (guard and tackle) this year and next year, we can be more definitive as to where he plays."
Do you know who's going to replace Lo Wood yet? I'm sorry, did you already answer that? "I'm absolutely sure who's going to replace him. Just a matter of where and when that decision is going to be made. We know we have four corners outside of Bennett that are going to compete, now all of them are on stage. Now they get an opportunity over the next 10 days to determine who that's going to be?"
"Keivarae (Russell) has been getting a lot of the (second team) reps (field) and Jalen and Josh have split (second team reps on the boundary). All of them know that they're right there. It won't be a surprise. When we go out on the field today I don't think that's going to be the end all as to who that starting corner will be?"
Flip-flopping boundary to field and vice versa? "There's a very small learning curve for the field, there's more you need to know into the boundary because you're at the point of attack. There's more things that you have to be involved in in terms of blitz package and pressures and different things. There's a lot more of a learning curve as it relates to the boundary.
"Now on the other hand, you're into a short field and generally you get help over the top. We can make the case for what's better. I think Bennett understands he has to do what's best for the team. We have to slot the right guy in there for Navy, first, then move from there."
Can you speak to Jalen Brown's improvement since the start of camp? "I think just growing up, maturing, and taking practice every day as an important day. I caution to say anything about these guys (previously) because they haven't got a lot of work. He was on Scout Team. His good days were when he wanted to go against Michael Floyd. It's like that for all these guys: Matthias Farley, Jalen Brown, Josh Atkinson, they really haven't been coached (at the varsity level in practice), now they're getting the opportunity to be coached and they can see themselves fitting in and playing some football.
"I think its just a matter of time. Giving them an opportunity. They're very talented, Jalen Brown can flat out run. We had one time when George Atkinson broke loose and Jalen came all the way across the field and it was like, 'Wow, that guy can run.' The athletic ability was there, now they see there's light at the end of the tunnel and it changes the way they go to practice."
Talk about about Navy: "Well we're much more accustomed to their style of offense now after playing them the last couple of years. Certainly they're still difficult to defend, they're always going to have some new wrinkles. With the quarterback they have this year there's going to be the opportunity to throw the ball effectively maybe more than when they had (Kriss) Proctor who was much more of a running quarterback. That doesn't mean they're not going to run the ball, they certainly are.
"I think we have a very good understanding of their system, its very difficult (to defend), you have to be disciplined. At the end of the day your defense has to play disciplined football. We did that last year we'll have to do that again. That's the tough part about this offense -- you can't let your guard down and we know that.
"Defensively they've run a similar system for a number of years. They're not a big gambling defense. They're going to keep the ball in front of them and minimize big plays. In a sense, if you do score on them, they make you lose a lot of clock. And on (offense), Navy shortens the game as well. The dynamic of shortening the game on both sides is one that has to play into our game plan.
Going to Ireland and balancing work vs. fun: "I love everything about Ireland. I'm not a big fan of playing football games in Ireland, I'd rather play them right here. But its going to be a great trip for our alums, all of those that follow us. It's going to be great for Ireland and we're pleased about that. But as it relates to the game of football, I'd rather not travel six hours to go play them.
"Having said that, Navy has to do the same thing and we have to prepare the best we can for that situation."
What's been key to Bennett Jackson's ascent? "First, a year of mentoring him at the position. He had an opportunity to be involved in every game plan last year. Really knows the defensive structure and what's expected of him. I think we all know he's a very gifted athlete, and he's very confident in his ability. He's a young man that really believes he can be a great player and we believe that as well.
"He carries some of those intangibles that you like in a corner. He has a short memory as well. He can go to the next play and all those things equal to us a first-times starter playing at a very high level."