UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 9, 2018
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. I know the sample size is small, but what would you attribute Notre Dame's issues with running the ball so far?
BRIAN KELLY: I don't know what the standard is for running the ball. We're 2-0. Is there a particular number that we're looking for? I think on Saturday there were a number of things that we need to clean up in terms of assignments, not one particular player. I think just being fundamentally better. Those are the things we got to go back to coaching.
I don't think there's like a particular number that we're shooting for other than it complementing what we do offensively so we can win football games.
When we evaluate our running game, we're really looking for the technical soundness of it. We were fundamentally in the positions we needed to be, we just didn't finish out plays.
So that's what we'll go to work on this week in practice.
Q. Could you update us with the injuries from yesterday, the status of those players for Vanderbilt and moving on.
BRIAN KELLY: I think the only one that is of more concern than any of them is Cole Kmet's ankle. That's one that will be evaluated further as we go through the week. But nobody else should be in a position not being considered for Saturday, in other words. Everybody has their typical bumps and bruises from the game. The only guy that will need further evaluation on is Cole Kmet.
Q. What did you learn from the Ball State game yesterday? What did you like, and where do you really feel like you need to improve going forward?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I'd say generally speaking we defended 97 plays, kept a really good quarterback to 46% completion percentage. I think two interceptions. Our front played pretty good. We were physical up front again.
I think we seemed to have one drive that fundamentally we come out of our fits. Just having that consistency for four quarters. But there are enough positives to take from the defensive side of the ball.
I think from the offensive side of the ball, too many individual mistakes. Then from an offensive structure standpoint is really defining who we are as an offense. That's what we're trying to figure out. We have some new players that we're putting in the mix. We're in that process of kind of figuring out our identity on the offensive side of the ball.
Q. Wimbush had three interceptions. Were you contemplating putting Ian Book into the game?
BRIAN KELLY: No. What I wanted him to do is go through his progressions, be better with his footwork. That's really all we talked about on the sideline. Making sure that he was, you know, doing the things that are most important. I think his footwork needed to be better, his read progression and his decision making. We weren't in a position of looking at changing quarterbacks.
Q. What will Wimbush have to do to improve on playing against a formidable team like Vanderbilt next week?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, kind of what I said: his footwork, read progression, decision making has to be better. We put the ball into their hands three times. We cannot turn the ball over three times against Vanderbilt and expect to win.
He was really good with the football against Michigan. We'll have to get back to that kind of really good decision making against Vanderbilt and everybody else who we play on our schedule.
Q. Right out of the gate, scored a touchdown within two minutes. Then it seems like you slowed down a little bit. How do you try to get more consistency on the offense where you can have scoring drives in all four quarters?
BRIAN KELLY: If I had that secret, I probably would have said something about it at halftime, because we came out at halftime and scored, as well.
I just think that's a mindset that your team has to have. We have to develop that with this group, that they come out and execute at a high level. It's focus on one play, then let that play go. We sometimes hold onto the last play too long, whether it's a good play or a bad play. We have to move onto the next play.
We're building that with our guys. They clearly understand they need to be more consistent, and that's what I have to do as a coach, what we have to do collectively as coaches, to help build that with our team. Refocus on the next play because the next play is the most important one.
Q. How did you think Jafar Armstrong progressed from week one to week two?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I would say that he made progress, picked up a couple of pressures. I just think he's going to continue to keep progressing as he gets more playing time.
Caught the ball at the receiver position, ran the ball. He's just learning. He's a guy that plays with a lot of energy. Maybe a little of that needs to continue to rub off on the entire offensive unit, because he plays really, really hard.
Q. You mentioned offensive identity. As your offensive line gets deeper into the season, how can you tell when you've got one where it's evolving and you just have some growing pains, it's going to be fine, versus one where you have to realign things?
BRIAN KELLY: You have four out of the five guys that are starters coming back from a team that played pretty good football on the offensive side of the ball. Hainsey, Kraemer, Mustipher, Bars, those four guys have been with us now and played a lot of football. To go in and pull one of those guys out of the starting unit, you're really taking a major step back to do that because they have so much experience. We have to get them playing at a higher level, more consistent level, and a more physical level.
You're going to live with some of the things, some of the mistakes with Liam, because he's a first-time starter. The five guys that are out there are going to be out there. We just have to at this point coach them. They have to take good coaching. We have to continue to work to get better each and every week there.
Q. A couple of your freshmen, C'Bo, was our first look at them, and Houston Griffith played some meaningful snaps in the first quarter. Could you evaluate them, specifically with C'Bo, if you look to get him in the runningback mix as well?
BRIAN KELLY: There's some things that we really like about C'Bo's vision, innate ability to run the football. We're really trying to get Tony Jones and Jafar in particular, Avery in terms of we're going to keep utilizing him, but it's going to take some time. If we use C'Bo in there, we're taking reps away from Avery. We need these young players to get reps.
It become as part where how can you get all four of threes players experience at the same time? It's difficult right now. So I think you're going to see him in some situations, but they're going to be sparingly.
Houston Griffith, we need to continue to get him more and more reps. He's a good player. We've been cross-training him. I think we got to focus on one position and really get him up to speed where he can really focus in on his technique.
Q. Would that position be nickel?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I think right now we haven't made the decision. We're getting good safety play. Clearly that would be the option we're moving towards.
Q. Your evaluation so far of Te'von Coney who seems to be all over the place in the first two games, and Drue Tranquill moving to the buck spot?
BRIAN KELLY: Te'von is going to be around the ball. He's got really good instincts. I think we all know that. There's some things that he can continue to get better at. We want him to press the line of scrimmage a little bit more, coverage responsibilities. He's playing at a pretty high level for us.
Same thing with Drue: keep working on the discipline of his eyes in pass coverage. They're playing a lot of snaps, too. We have to start considering how we can implement some packages to take some of the load off them, as well.
They're playing well. They're playing at a high level, making a lot of tackles. Like everyone else on our team, including us as coaches, me in particular, we all can get better.
Q. Are there backups in a at Mike, they can spell them in competitive game situations or is it just to get them a blow?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, I mean, I think that's the goal. We're in week two, right? We want our good players on the field, but we want to feel confident in our backups, and we're getting there.
Q. Talk about the defense because Ball State yesterday was doing a little five-yard passes, moving down the field. Is that something you have to work on next week?
BRIAN KELLY: I thought we got them in a lot of third downs. 23 third down situations. I think we were 8-23 in third down. I think there's always little things that you can do better. Structurally I thought we were in a good place.
Other than the first drive where I think they went 6-10, we really settled into pretty good pass defense, keeping him to 46%. We knew that that was the game plan, they wanted to control the football with short, high-percentage throws. All in all, I thought our pass defense was pretty stout.
Q. Was Wimbush trying to rush the football? Had negative yards rushing. Is that because the defense of Ball State put a lot more people in the box or Wimbush couldn't get any holes to run the football yesterday?
BRIAN KELLY: No, a lot of that was sack yardage. He took some sacks. As he gets a chance to look at the film, I think he probably would say there are times where he should have taken off and run with the football or thrown it away.
I think those are misleading in the sense they weren't rushing yards, per se, as much as they were negative yards as a result of a sack that maybe we could have avoided.
Q. The position of nickel back, how is that package performing for you guys overall?
BRIAN KELLY: Pretty good. We want to be a bit stouter on the perimeter on some of the quick game, screen game. We have to get better there. Nick made a couple of nice plays on a seven cut. Then on the interception, he got his hand on that ball, deflected it.
Houston, when he got a chance to get in there, he obviously has a presence about him. He's a guy that we feel like has a big upside. But he's learning, because we were cross-training him.
I think as we evolve defensively and figure out who we want to put in what position, I think that position will continue to get better and better.
Q. Asmar Bilal was put in coverage positions a few times yesterday. How have you seen him develop in those spots?
BRIAN KELLY: Pretty good. I mean, his eyes are good. His discipline is pretty good. He's got to finish off some plays. He came underneath the screen yesterday and showed great speed, then he didn't finish the tackle. His recognition, awareness assignment, I would say pretty darn good for a guy that's only had a couple of starts. But we have to finish off some of the plays now.
Q. (Indiscernible) kickoff return. Was there something done in the last week that got him that spot rather than a week ago?
BRIAN KELLY: We're trying to figure out who our guys are that have some vision and have some ability to have the ball in their hand. We've seen some of the guys. This was just an opportunity on kickoff return to see another young player with the ball in his hand.
Q. You talked about you didn't see some of the energy from your team you wanted to see. Was that something you told them at halftime? Did you see more energy in the second half?
BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, you must have been in the locker room.
Yeah, we talked about it. Again, a lot of my comments are based upon just my sense and feel. It didn't feel the same as kind of the way they've been working out. It just wasn't at the same level.
I'm usually pretty straightforward and tell them what I think. Just thought we needed a little bit more energy, a little bit more enthusiasm. Some of it has to do with certainly it being a new week. But you got to respect your opponent and play this game with some energy and enthusiasm. I hope we learned a pretty good lesson about that.
Q. With the pass defense in particular against Michigan, you had a couple of huge sacks in the red zone. Is that a particular area you emphasized?
BRIAN KELLY: I don't know. We've been spending a lot of time on it because we've been trying to tweak some things down there. We wanted to get some different looks to complement what we do defensively. I think we've been on body, really good coverage. We force you to get the ball out quick because of our defensive pass-rush.
I don't know that there's anything that we're doing that is a secret, but I think we're doing some things that we haven't done for quite some time. I think it complements well the package that we've put together down there.
Q. After the game you indicated you liked the passing actually of Brandon, but not necessarily the decisions. After having had a chance to go through the film, was it a case more of maybe Brandon not going through the progressions, holding onto the ball too long, or do you think there were too many leaks along the offensive line?
BRIAN KELLY: Well, I think it's all of that. I think his footwork, his read progression and decision making all need to improve. He threw the ball with definitely a sense of purpose. We had not seen that. He threw the ball on the run a lot better. He threw the ball better. That doesn't make you a better quarterback in a sense because you still have to go through all the things that I just mentioned.
Certainly there were some protection issues there, as well. I said this at the outset: I think we need to define who we are. It's important that as we develop our passing game over these next four, six, eight weeks, however long we're playing here, that we are cognizant of who we are, who Brandon is.
We can't turn the ball over three times. Even if you're throwing it better, that doesn't make you a better quarterback.
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