Kelly Opening Statements"We are in our preparation for Alabama and for us it's been a long layoff but one that we think that we will be properly putting the pieces together leading into today and tomorrow, which are really intense practices, physical practices. We're out there in contact, doing the things that we need to do to prepare for Alabama through tomorrow. Then we'll go into situational practices. Then prepare when we get to Miami.
"All of our work up to this point has focused toward peaking on (game night). As you can imagine, today and tomorrow will be really probably be the two most contact days that we have with our football team since the USC game. That's a long time. We've been working at really getting our football team as close to January 7th being in game-ready condition as possible. If we did all the work that we're doing right now on the first week of December or the second week of December, I don't believe that it would have had the same effect.
"We've kept timing and we've kept conditioning as the focal point as well as incorporating every player on the roster in the first three weeks. You've had a lot of guys like Gunner Kiel and Will Mahone and Connor Hanratty and Jarron Jones, a lot of those guys that have got a lot more work, a lot of the young guys in the first few weeks. As well as timing for our veterans, 7-on-7, 1-on-1, some inside, tag-off work as well as conditioning.
"Now when we sent them home for the break and brought them back, the weight training and conditioning one day, yesterday we were just trying to get the timing element to make sure that was still there, which is was, then got in full gear, banged them around pretty hard. Those guys that follow us on the regular beat, it would kind of been like an Intense Tuesday and tomorrow will be like a (Working) Wednesday.
"It's all about Alabama and then we've done a little bit of 11-on-11 work because I want to keep that speed that you need against a great team like Alabama. We did a little of "Ones vs. Ones" today at the end of practice just to keep the speed in the game as well. I don't want to the practices to slow down. When it becomes all scout team it has a tendency to become a little bit slower pace.
"That's what we've been doing. What have you guys been doing?"
Question: An update on DaVaris Daniels? (broken collarbone on November 10)
"He was in contact for us today. He's good. We would not put him out there unless he was cleared. Now, he practiced the last three weeks, but in a red jersey. We just didn't want any contact. I wanted him to be involved in all the timing work, but nobody could touch him. Now he's off of the red jersey, He's cleared to play, jump get hit, fall down."
Q: How much can you get out of a guy like that considering the layoff?
"I think we'll be fine. He's a really good player that understands that his reps are going to be based upon how he practices and how he performs. I'm certain that he'll play a role in the game."
Q: What role does going up-tempo play as it relates to chunk plays?
"I think there's a time and place for all of that. Are we going to be exclusively in tempo? No. I like to pick our spots. Part of our offense now will reflect that more at times during the game. It won't always be that way. We'll pick our spot to use some tempo that can be beneficial for us. As you know, personnel, moving personnel in and out of the game, we'd like to match up some of our guys that we think we could have a match-up problem with when you have multiple tight ends on the field."
Q: When you're playing an Alabama is there a need to go up tempo just to break out of the wrestling match that it can be?
"I definitely think it's something. Look, when you go up-tempo you simplify some of the calls. There's a chance there could be confusion on the other end. There's no question that up-tempo is beneficial during the game and we're going to utilize it. But our whole game plan won't reflect that. We'll pick our spots where we'll use it."
Q: There's a feeling on the outside that what Texas A&M did with Johnny Manziel can be a blueprint. Is that the case?
"I just think there's a lot of things that you have to do. If you go in there and just say, ‘We're going to play the game between the tackles,' you're in for a long day. I think we have to utilize the 53 1/3 by 120. We've got to be attacking all areas and getting the kind of matchups we need offensively. We've got to get big chunk plays. I'm just going to tell you that right now. They know that, we know that. What are they, 2.5 per play that they're giving up? If you think you're going to win the game just trying to pound it in there, you're not going to win the game. we've got to find a way to get those chunk plays.
Q: What does Alabama's defense do better than maybe anybody else you've played this year?
"Up front they're athletic at 290 pounds. Their athleticism plus their size, the combination of both up front make them very difficult to go against and they're well coached. Very disciplined group and they're athletic at the backend of the defense. It's just a really good football team.
"I think there's some other teams across the country that you could take one player and go, ‘Wow, that's a pretty good player.' There's not one of the 11 guys that you can go, ‘Let's go attack him.' Where other weeks we'd go, ‘Let's get No. 4.' There's not a guy of the 11 that you could say we're going to do this. Nor on the other end could you say, ‘Well, we've got to double this guy and we've got to take him out of the game.' They're just a good football team from one through 11 on the defensive side of the ball.
Q: What have you been able to do during the break to improve special teams?
"We think it's all hands on deck for our special teams, first of all. It's a one game deal where we could certainly add to the personnel on our ST and we'll probably look to do that. We have not been spectacular, but we haven't stunk the joint up either. We just need to continue to hold serve in ST and maybe we can catch lightning in a bottle on a return or get a block, something to that effect. Our concerns are just making sure we just take great care of the football and flip the field when we need to flip it.
Q: Specifically, who could be someone that you add to that special teams mix?
"I'm not going to get into the specifics, all I can tell you is we're going to put all guys on deck in terms of trying to get the best players on the field. We don't have to worry about the next week or the week after or them getting too many reps, including ST.
Q: How critical is first down for your defense, keeping Alabama to second-and-long?
"Each and every week has been the focal point of our defense. Coach (Bob) Diaco and our defense does a great job of formulating the first down plan. Our first down plan is crucial. It allows us to do a lot of other things. It's not enhanced nor is it any less important in this game. We have to do a great job on first down. We have all year. The times that we haven't, we haven't got off the field quick enough. There's no question there's a lot of focus on first own for us.
Q: What mentality do you want your guys in when they get off the plane in Florida?
"I'll give you an example. I've always felt like in bowl games, you kind of let your guys go down on the first night or two and you kind of let them get out there and have a little fun and reward them for the bowl game. Maybe I had a 2 a.m. curfew of something like that. We're 11 o'clock. This is not a bowl game, you know what I mean? You're playing for the national championship.
"We'd rather play right here in South Bend, but you've got to go down to Miami to play. I don't know why you've always got to go south. We'd like to play here. We're there on a business trip and that's kind of how we've approached it. I've told them it was gonna get to this. You have to let me know if you want to do this because when we go down there, here's the rules. They all understand what it's all about going down to Miami. It's not enjoy South Beach, this is about preparing for a national championship game.
Q: Have you started preparing for the heat and humidity?
"No. Not yet. We'll wait another day. We'll crank it up and then we'll just use the five days down there to acclimatize.
Q: Do you have a New Year's resolution?
"No. When is New Year's? What day is it? Is it Tuesday? I haven't really thought about it to be quite honest with you. Coach a good game? Don't screw it up.
Q: Where is Everett Golson in using the bowl prep to improve?
"There's so many practices there that you're just looking for continued leadership and growth and a recognition of what you're trying to accomplish. I see all those things every day from him. I think now he's probably at that level of needing to bring it every day. He gets it now. He knows what's expected of him.
"Now it's about bringing it every single day. Not just physically because he's got the physical tools. But bring that mental edge every single practice. That's hard to do as a young guy, but I think he's starting to understand that. I think that's kind of his growth.
Q: Just a house keeping question with your second-team offensive line minus Ronnie Stanley, Tate Nichols, Matt Hegarty, how has that group shaped up over the last few weeks?
"We've had to be very careful in what we've done relative to contact with that group because we're very limited right now. I think Nick Martin has played every position on the offensive line. He's been our versatile guy across the board. Mark Harrell has played a lot at the No. 2 center position. He's done a nice job for us. It's just been really trying to manage the guys at this point where we're not overtaxing them. It's been a bit of limiting situation for us.
"If there's probably one thing that has affected some of my thought process relative to engaging our O-line live against our D-line, it's been that we're a little thin on the offensive line.
Q: Once you get down there, it is basically Nick is your second-team tackle and Connor Hanratty is your second-team guard?
"Pretty much. I would say that that's a fair statement.
Q: A little bit nostalgic, but is it odd that when Notre Dame hired Tom Beck in '91 that is kind of set off your coaching career?
"I did because somebody asked me about it, they were doing a story about my time at Grand Valley State. It kind of got me thinking that the reason why I got the job at Grand Valley State was that Tom Beck became the offensive coordinator here. I did not know Lou Holtz at all at the time, but when I saw Lou in Orlando (at the college football awards show) he reminded me that he started my career. Of course that's Lou. He didn't know me, but he got my career started.
"I got a chance to think about that that the one time that was brought up. I see it more as it's only 90 minutes away. To have your career be within five or six hours, Cincinnati, Central Michigan, Grand Valley and Notre Dame, I think that's been pretty neat.
Q: Talk about the value of Kyle Brindza.
"He's been clutch for us. If there's one word, he's been pretty clutch for us. When we've need that big kick when the game was on the line, he's delivered every single time. he's a guy, what I like about him, he doesn't get rattled. He may miss one here or there, but there's generally not a pattern for him. He break that pattern of missing one and he'll come back and make one. That's good to have somebody that doesn't get down on himself and can fight through a miss here or there. And he's only going to get better.
Q: Third-year coaches, everyone's talked about it here. Nick Saban won his in his third year, that seems to be a defining year in this day and age. Can you explain what it is about that timeline?
"I've been asked that so many times. You know, it takes some time obviously to get all the pieces from top to bottom. It's not just about players, it's about leadership, it just takes some time. If you have a plan that you believe in and you stick with it and everybody stays together and you have a good mix of good players and good coaches, then you have put yourself in position to be successful.
"Does that mean it's a national championship? No. There's only a few people who can say they've ever done this. We bring them up so it seems like everybody does it. There's only a few who have ever done it. The three year is not magic as much as if you have good people and you have a good plan, then it generally takes a little bit of time to get that plan together. It seems like that three-year window is when it starts to come together.
Q: What's impressed you the most about Matthias Farley this year?
"There's a lot of things that I could say. First of all he was a wide receiver that moved to safety. He's not afraid of anything. Any challenge. If you tell him he's got to take Portuguese, he'll learn Portuguese. You know what I mean? There's nothing that he looks at and says, ‘I can't do this.' He's got so much pride and so much confidence in himself that any task that you ask him to do, he's going to find a way.
"Kid broke his hand, had surgery, played the same week. Now, first half he didn't play very well because he was still thinking about his hand. He was challenged at halftime. He came back, he played great football in the second half. That's just the kind of … he's a special kid that when you challenge him, he's going to come through for you.
Q: How do you keep the team from psyching themselves up too early so they peak on Jan. 7?
"I think the way we've coached them. We've coached them in a sense that we're waiting to crank it up too. Every day hasn't been a baseball bat to them. We've kind of paced ourselves. We've coached them, we've taught them, we've made sure that we hit gears that needed to be hit in terms of tackling and timing and conditioning, but we have to build up as well. If it's game day right now then we're not going to be where we need to be. So it's getting a sense from the coaches and myself that we lead them up to that crescendo as well.
Q: Any update on Austin Collinsworth?
"I don't know that this has been talked about, but he had a second surgery. He had back surgery as well. Successful back surgery. He had a lingering … he had a discectomy, kind of like (Tyler) Eifert had. I can't give you whether it was the right or left, but he needed that tended to. He got that taken care of. He feels great. So we think we've got him put back together. He's chomping at the bit.
Q: How much ones versus ones are you trying to do in this last little bit before you play?
"If you take an hour-and-a-half practice, we're probably taking 10 minutes of that to go ones versus ones. I would go a little bit more, but we're thin on the offensive line. I can't afford to lose a guy there. We've been cautious there on the offensive line.
Q: You mentioned the young guys in practice early, anybody jump out at you?
"I don't know that I was really looking at that as much as we wanted to keep some of the guys fresh. I like a lot of things that I saw. A guy that got a lot of work, Jarrett Grace, because Manti was on the Manti Awards show circuit there. He showed up nicely. Jarron Jones looked good. There was a number of guys. I didn't look at it as like a spring ball where we were trying to find somebody. Gunner came in there, did a nice job. But there was nobody that I would say, ‘Man, he's a can't miss guy.'
Q: When you got here did you think that you could get to this point in three years?
"I didn't think that we couldn't. I've always thought in terms of what are the impediments, what are the things that will cost you. You come here because you want to play for a national championship. There was nothing that I saw other than practicing and playing the game the right way and developing our talent, that was the only element and that was only a matter of time. I didn't think there was anything there that said we couldn't do it.
Q: Talk about the progression of Mike Golic Jr.
"The progression? First of all, physical strength has improved probably the most. He's got a stronger lower body that he can get in there. That was something that needed to be addressed. I think he and coach (Paul) Longo did a great job of addressing it and I say both, both of them addressed it.
"I think that was important. I think the other thing was opportunity. He got opportunity. Sometimes you can be good enough to play and you don't get opportunity. He got opportunity last year when (Braxston) Cave got hurt and that gave him the chance to be the starter in spring and he held on. And he just kept working. He's been an experienced football player. He's had so many snaps that it'd be hard to unseat him.
"I just think he brings all the other things. When he handled the strength issue and he got opportunity, then all of his strengths came to the top. You know what his strengths are. The kid is sharp. He's very, very smart. He does not miss an assignment. He comes to work every day prepared and ready to go. Once he got the strength and the opportunity, all the things that he had now get a chance to show themselves."