The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been practicing for 10 days already, but the ND annual Media Day was held Tuesday, and Head Coach Brian Kelly, was in rare form. His opening included joke
I will start by saying that they are ticketing out back. I am a big proponent in ‘quid pro quo,’ meaning I can take care of a lot of tickets here. If you want to make that first article… That’s Latin guys. I thought you would be all over that (smiling).
Well I guess you just had to be there. Kelly was very jovial and upbeat about the season; but he also said a lot of blatantly honest things about his college football team. Here are some of the highlights:
Winning six and eight games doesn’t fill you up. They want more, and you can see that in their focus.
Love that quote; exactly what football is all about.
The #1 topic on everyone’s mind is the quarterback situation, with four guys vying for the job, and two separating themselves. Kelly had an update:
Dayne [Crist] and Tommy [Rees] have separated themselves from the other two. Both guys can take the whole offense and run with it. Both can play championship football for us. There is the slightest of margins between the two right now.
The other two guys [Andrew Hendrix and Everett Golson] haven’t mastered the entire offensive system yet, but excel in certain parts, and I’m confident, if asked to contribute, can do those certain parts of the offense well.
He explained what is going into his QB decision and elaborated further:
He must be a master of the entire Offensive system. He must be efficient in all areas: Play-calling, getting the right protections set up, getting the right people the football, and taking great care of the football, something we definitely had to improve from last year.
Here’s where we are. Let me help everybody out so we can stay away from questions that really are not pertinent to what we’re doing.
Crist and Rees have separated themselves by virtue of their knowledge, by virtue of their ability to manage the offense and structure that we have. They can take the whole offense and run with it, both those kids. So you’ve got two quarterbacks that I have great trust and confidence that they can play championship football for us.
Then you’ve got two young guys that have not mastered the entire offensive structure but have excelled in small doses of what we’re doing. So if either one of them would enter the game for whatever the circumstances are, they would not be able to run the entire offense that we want to run against South Florida. I can tell you that with great certainty. However, there are some things that they do very, very well, that if they had to enter the game, we would move towards what their strengths are. That’s really where we are
Kelly also was blunt about his team’s main weakness (the greatest example of this is in the lack of depth at tailback) Pretty rare that you get a coach to release kernels of honest truth like this beneath all that coachspeak:
Offensive skill position depth. Last season we needed to add depth defensively immediate, so we focused all our attention there. We have that now, so this recruiting cycle we’ll focus on the offensive skill guys. We can’t ‘roll out the next guy’ yet, but we will. I’ll put my 22 against anyone else, but the game isn’t played with 22. Depth is our main weakness. That’s not going to be good enough. Have to develop that next level of players.
It wouldn’t be ND Media Day without the Michael Floyd question
Q. I have a question about Michael. As you kind of distance yourself from the day he was reinstated to the team, do you talk to him, the coaches talk to him about what happened on a daily basis, or do you try to distance it?
COACH KELLY: It’s part of who Michael Floyd is for the rest of his life because of mistakes that he’s made. He’s always carrying that with him. We don’t go back and relive that. We look at how Mike handles himself every single day. I think that’s what I focus on more than anything else, knowing that every day Michael, he’s part of our program, he’s got to live up to the standards that have been set.
I don’t think you forget about it; you don’t just throw it under the rug. But you don’t spend time every day gnashing your teeth: Michael Floyd, what did you do to us? It’s past that in that sense. But he’s got to do the right things every day, and I think he has.
Or my question; which is always ultra-specific and detailed.
Q. Both of your starting defensive ends are on award watch lists for the position, probably also the position that is the deepest in your recruiting class. How are you going to get all these guys on the field? Are we going to see a lot of these guys become 3-4 outside linebackers?
We really believe that Kapron Lewis-Moore and Ethan Johnson had to take too many snaps last year. I think it was reflected mainly in third down scenarios where if there was an area that we needed to address, it was third down. That occurs through depth and situational substitution. We didn’t have that versatility last year.
So that depth that we have is going to allow Ethan and Kap, who are starters, to be fresh on third down, take a blow here or there, so we’re really coming at you for four quarters. That depth allows that as well as versatility.
Now we can look at situational substitution in certain times within different packages we have defensively. We didn’t have the ability to do that last year. We had to be in a couple of fronts, this is what we did. We had to live with that. It gives us a lot more versatility.
And finally, we needed a Q&A that looks at the college football earth from 30,000 feet above. Trying to articulate where tings are headed.
Q. Coach, the landscape of college football is seemingly changing by the hour. Where do you see college football headed in terms of the formation of super conferences and how will that impact Notre Dame three, five, seven, nine years down the road?
Yes to all that (smiling).
Q. Thank you, appreciate your time (laughter).
I think we have to be cognizant of what’s going on out there. There’s no question. I think there are implications. I think it’s pretty clear that television contracts and affiliations, we’re seeing individual networks pop up with schools. It’s no longer Notre Dame. It’s a number of schools.
All those things, those shifting sands that you talk about, we just need to know that we can hear the tree falling in the forest, so to speak. We’ve got to have our ear to the ground and be aware of all those things. And I know we are.
Full video/transcript available und.com.