Notre Dame officially kicked off fall camp on Saturday with it’s first practice. A day earlier though Brian Kelly spoke with the media about the upcoming season – his first as the head coach of the Fighting Irish.
Here are some highlights from Kelly’s presser.
On the goals he discussed with the team:
No, we have not gotten into any specifics relative to what our goals are other than we’re here to win championships. We’ve talked about working on winning every day.
We’re here to win and they know that. But to get to the specifics, when we get into unit meetings, we’ll talk about some specifics relative to, you know, turnovers and takeaways, hidden yardage, special teams. We’ll certainly have goals that allow us to evaluate the jobs that are being done.
On what he learned from taking over the last two programs he was at that he will use at Notre Dame.
Well, first, this one is totally different than any of the other jobs that I’ve had. It’s unique in every facet. But the one consistency here are the players. The players are the same in terms of what they want to achieve under my leadership, and that is they want to be successful. So we’ve got the same thing we had at Cincinnati. We’ve got a bunch of kids that want to win.
Now, we’re going to do the same things that we did. This job is different, but we’re going to do the same things behind the scenes we did everywhere along the way.
On the development of Dayne Crist since the end of spring ball.
I think a lot of it had to do with the fundamentals more than anything else. One thing that we wanted to certainly see him improve on day to day was taking over that offense in a leadership position. Obviously he did that this summer with our seven-on-sevens and our workouts. It was Dayne that was running it. We developed that end.
But from a skill standpoint, it was from the spring the detail work, his footwork, his drops, consistency in throwing the football. So that will be work in progress for Dayne.
I’ve heard great reports from the summer relative to his leadership, which is great that we’ve gotten that developed. Now I think as we get into camp, we’ll be really focused on his skill development at the quarterback position.
On what he wants to see from the wide receivers.
Well, pleased relative to where they need to go is really what my response to how they played overall. They have a big goal in front of them, and that is when you’re in a spread offense, no-huddle, you’ve got to have a great work volume. And we lack that. I know Coach Longo has done a great job of working with our players in the summer to get to that work volume. I’m certain by the time we’re ready to play Purdue I’m going to be a lot more pleased with our wide receivers.
On who excelled in the weight room this off-season.
Well, I’ll give you a couple of examples from testing results. Chris Stewart, for example, here is a young man when he came in could only do about three or four chin-ups. He did 23 chin-ups at 362 pounds. His body fat composition went down almost 4%. You know, those are the kind of stories.
I’ll give you another example of somebody. Ian Williams, a very, very dynamic player for us. He’s a 600-pound squat now. He was 485. Here is a guy that’s going to play on the center and is now a 600-pound squat. He went from 302 to 313 and dropped his body fat composition.
Those are examples of the big guys losing body fat, not losing weight, and gaining strength. That trickles down through the entire roster as we go through here.
I think the last thing I would put out there that was very, very impressive for us was Ethan Johnson, who is a 395 squat who is now 550.
On what freshman he has his eye on.
Yeah, you know, I think there’s a couple. Bennett Jackson has impressed in terms of his workouts, his work volume. Austin Collinsworth has been impressive in his workouts. Certainly both the quarterbacks are going to have to be in the mix in some fashion giving them a real good eye.
I think that other than that, we’re in a developmental kind of mode with the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen. But a couple of skill guys. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either one of those guys, Jackson, Collinsworth, in the mix to get on the bus.
On how much of the offense will be installed throughout camp.
You know, that’s still yet to be determined. We’ll have an installation package, but it will be thin. We’ll lay down kind of the basic things that we need to beat Purdue.
As we move forward through camp, we’ll decide, I like the way we look, let’s focus on more run game, let’s add, you know, a little bit more run game, or I like this kind of matchup that we could get at the tight end position, let’s ad-lib there.
The base will be laid down for us to be successful against Purdue. We’ll add, based upon what I see on a day-to-day basis, their ability, what our strengths eventually will be.
On if he thinks he was the right man for the job.
Well, I think the jury’s still out. I mean, I think I haven’t won a football game here. That’s a huge part of this. Clearly it’s graduate your players. We’re off to a good start there. We won the academic achievement award. I didn’t have much to do with that.
What I’ve had a lot to do with is really getting out and being an ambassador for the university. I think I’ve done well in that respect. But the reason that we’re having a press conference with everybody here today is about winning football games and doing it the right way. The jury’s still out on that one.
On what he needs to see from the defense to know they’re ready.
It will be a process. This won’t end on the 3rd of September and say, We’re ready. This is an evolving process.
I think what we need to see more than anything else from our defense is the ability to stop the run on a consistent basis. Physically inside playing the 3-4 defense. Your inside backers have got to be able to press guards, they’ve got to do a great job there. I think what I’m looking for is that physicalness, that short tackling. I think when we start to see those components, I think we’re going to be very pleased because I know we can bring pressure from the edge with our athletes. We’ve got to be able to hold up inside out. We’ve got to be able to do a great job of tackling.
I’ll be able to see that and sense that as we work our way through camp.
On the interesting position battles.
Yeah, I think there are. McDonald, Posluszny, Paskorz. That’s going to be an interesting one. I think the one that really you have to look at is the offensive line. I really believe there’s 10 guys in there that can compete for a starting position. We’ll have some guys that will have a little bit of an edge going in.
But if there’s going to be a fluctuation on the charts, it’s going to be on that offensive line because it’s such a competitive environment. Then the safety position. McCarthy, Motta, Slaughter, Harrison Smith. There’s four guys there, there’s only two spots for them. I think that would be the other area.
On if any OL could be moved to the DL.
No. Very slim. Very slim chance. That’s why there’s that vulnerability. We have to develop some of the players that are over there. Sean Cwynar has got to come up big for us, Hafis Williams has got to come up big for us, Brandon Newman has to come up big for us. Those are the guys we have to develop. It becomes a vulnerability. Hopefully it turns into a pleasant surprise for us more than anything else.
On the running backs.
Again, I think the runningback is a guy that needs to run the football first. So we talk ad nauseam, You’re in the spread offense, you run the ball. You can’t win unless you run the ball. If you just throw it, you’re not going to win all your games.
We’re here to win all our games. I don’t know if anybody knew that. We’re here to win them all. And to win your games, you have to run the ball.
Each one of them starts with a unique ability to run the daylight. Some are faster than others, some are stronger than others. Each one of them can do things in our offense and complement what we do. We will try to insert those players when we’re obviously running schemes that we think that fit them best.
But we’ve got, you know, really four different styles at the runningback position. But they’ve got to run the ball first.
On the return game.
No. I’m actually excited about our return game. We’re going to be dynamic there. We’ve got some dynamic players. I feel really good about that. Not that I don’t feel good about our kicking and punting game, but right now we’re working on three kickers. Obviously from a punting standpoint, we feel pretty good about Ben Turk having that position. But I think Tausch and Ruffer, you know, we may see one on field goals, one on kickoffs. So we’re dealing with three quick kickers right now. That is work in progress for us but I think they’re all talented and can do the job.