NOTRE DAME COACH BRIAN KELLY
December 29, 2013HOOSIER SPORTS 365
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
NOTRE DAME – 29
RUTGERS - 16
Q. Coach, first, what did you say to the team sending out the seniors with a win, and also, the suspensions, how did that affect you?
COACH KELLY: Well, I first wanted to thank our seniors for what they have given to our program both on and off the field. They have been great examples of what student?athletes are at Notre Dame, both in the classroom, and certainly have set a high bar: Four consecutive bowl games, played for a National Championship, 21 wins over the last song. But they'll leave an indelible mark in our relationship here among not only the staff and myself, but the younger players that we hope they'll carry with them.
Second part of the question, those were violations of team rules. What we were more concerned with were the 16 players that were sick prior to the game. We were battling pretty strong Influenza. Rob Hunt and our training staff got the game ball, so it was a pretty good effort on their part. It took a lot of guys to pull through, and we had a lot of guys out there not at a hundred percent, but did a great job battling through.
Q. Specifically what was your message to Tommy after the game?
COACH KELLY: We really haven't had a chance to talk other than we got an opportunity to say thank you and I'll be a Tommy Rees fan for life. But we didn't get much of an opportunity. I've been with the entire team really and all our seniors in particular. So we'll get an opportunity to spend a little more time.
He's going to go keep chasing that football dream. He's going to play the East?West Shrine game, and he'll keep trying to play the game as long as he can. But I told him he's got a bright future as a graduate assistant for Brian Kelly anytime.
Q. TJ Jones looked like he banged up himself and ESPN reported he wasn't coming back in. What happened there that he was able to come back in?
COACH KELLY: He had a second?degree shoulder sprain he was treated at halftime?? excuse me. He was treated during the game. He continued to play with the second degree shoulder sprain. Probably contributed to the drop in the end zone there. The ball was thrown a little bit behind him. He normally makes that catch. He was in a lot of pain. He's probably going to be limited in terms of what he can do for probably the next three or four weeks.
Q. Then it looked like everybody had trouble, especially Kyle Brindza. Can you talk about what's going on?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, he did. The field, it was interesting. We changed spikes. We had our molded on and we changed to all screw?in after our pregame warm?ups because we were not able to get any hold on the field. It was hard, so there was a hard frost on it. Then the sun began to soften it up, so there were some areas that were a bit slick. Didn't affect the outcome of the game in any fashion. We've played in worse conditions than that so I'm not going to get into that. We played in worse conditions is all I would say.
But we had some slick spots. You saw us lose some footing because there were some areas on the field that were frozen. But Kyle Brindza, when we need a kick, he drills one late in the game. I mean, I was talking to Jack Swarbrick, our athletic director. Late in the game there I gave it some thought to maybe just run some clock and go for it on fourth down, because I'm worried about getting a blocked kick there, get it returned and put them back in the game, but he is so good in the fourth quarter. Regardless of what the distance is you've got to put that guy. He's the best kicker. I've got to put him on the field, and he goes and kicks the field goal regardless of the conditions.
Q. Could you just reflect on what Tommy was able to accomplish not only today but all season for your football team?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, a nine?win season against great competition, beat some top opponents. Just like today. He ran 90 plays and an offense that's really a different offense. He hasn't run this offense since two years ago, really. We were in spread virtually the whole game.
You know, he's so smart. You can go in and run a system with him. He's so bright. I think what he's most proud of is that the longest run from scrimmage since 2011 was five yards today. He made sure that he made me realize that that's part of his package.
He just has the ability to pick up all the things we can do offensively, and today was a case in point. We were able to do some things we haven't done in a couple of years and it looked like it was pretty easy for him.
Q. Zack Martin won the MVP. For a fifth year senior, offensive linemen, a guy that had a great career but doesn't always get that much attention. What was that award sort of mean to you him getting it?
COACH KELLY: Well, he's not only the best offensive lineman that I've ever coached, and I've coached some great ones. I think Joe Staley obviously is in that category who is a great player with the San Francisco 49ers. I've had some great ones.
But that, in terms of his play, right, is one thing. But he's had three first?time starters with him for most of the year and now four. It's amazing how his influence very rarely do you have that?? I call it the Larry Bird effect, where an offensive lineman can make others better around him. He does that. He's made that offensive line?? now, Harry Hiestand is an outstanding offensive line coach. But Zack Martin needs to have some of that credit hoisted on him as well. Because those linemen play so well because of his leadership as well. He's an outstanding and a unique player.
Q. In light of the second to third round rating for Stephon Tuitt, would you anticipate him being in uniform here again, number one, and number two, where do you go from here in terms of red zone offense which has been a struggle for a couple of years?
COACH KELLY: Our red zone offense today was simply catching the football. We had great looks, exactly what we wanted. We ran a boot. Came out clean, overthrew them. We actually came out with the next play and Troy Niklas fell down. Had another opportunity and at any time get it to T.J.
So I'm really happy with what we did today in the red zone. We just didn't execute. We've got to throw it and catch it down there. When we needed to run it in today, and we were able to run the ball in, but schematically I know what we want to do down there. We just have to be executing better in that area, and we will. We know what we need to do down there. We need to continue to get better as a group, individually, collectively. But I feel comfortable knowing what needs to happen down there.
What was the other part of the question?
COACH KELLY: Oh, Stephon Tuitt, he'll now focus on making that decision. We've had a couple of conversations, and he knows all of the information. He's got?? my job is to provide him with all the information about the decision that he's about to make, and I'm pretty certain that he'll make his decision here very, very soon.
Q. Coach, can you talk about your ability to run the ball up against a pretty good team against the rush, particularly in the second half?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Rutgers is very good up front. We were?? we felt like it was important for us to make them make a decision as to how they wanted to play us. They had consistently shown all year that if you had attached the tight end, that they were going to drop an extra hat in the box and play a lot of cover one. When you went three open, they gave you better box looks, and then it was a matter of whether they were going to give you some field space with your wide receivers.
In other words, were they going to drop down and play cover one? They didn't today. They had made a decision that's not what they wanted to do. It gave us some match?up looks like we like, so we stayed with it, and it worked to our favor.
Q. Could you just talk about what stood out to you about the defensive performance today and with a lot of guys set to graduate and leave, what maybe challenges that moving forward?
COACH KELLY: Well, Mike Bertsch, our sports information director said to me we played 19 different players this year on defense. We had 19 guys. Am I correct? Different starters, 19 different starters. So with a we'd like to do is next year have some continuity. We've got a lot of young players coming back. So I think it's important for us in this off?season to really develop that continuity and depth on our defense. We're going to have a lot of really good players coming back. I feel really confident in that.
Obviously, we're going to have to make a decision on our defensive coordinator and move forward there, and that will be coming very shortly. Then I think we kind of move forward. But really excited about the prospects next year defensively, and the guys that we have coming back.
Q. How are you going to remember 2013 when you think about it? I know it's just over, but what do you feel you accomplished? What do you feel like you weren't able to accomplish? What are you going to recall from this year?
COACH KELLY: A good year that could have been a great year. You know, some really good victories at home against USC. I like the fact that the last couple of years we've played well at home except for the Oklahoma game where we gave them 14 points early on some things we don't normally do. But I would say a couple of missed opportunities in some games where we could have easily been a team that's looking at double digit wins and that's where we want to be every year.
So a good year, but we want more. It's not enough for us. 9?4 is a good year for Notre Dame. It's not what we sign up for every year. We wanted a little bit more out of this year.
Q. Do you know what you want to do at defensive coordinator?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I've made a decision already. I just can't make it public right now because we're still in the process of finalizing contracts and things of that nature.
Q. Outside hire?
COACH KELLY: Yes.
Q. At offensive coordinator, do you know what you want to do there?
COACH KELLY: Haven't made that decision yet.
Q. A small picture on Redfield, the playing time he's had this year, how did you think he did?
COACH KELLY: He did pretty good. I wanted to see him on the field. I wanted to get him some action. Look, I've made the decision to play him this year. I make all those decisions to play freshmen, and I felt like he needed to get more playing time. You know, when you don't play a kid as a freshman enough, I feel a little bit responsibility for that, so I kind of forced him a little bit on the staff, and we'll see.
I couldn't tell you, really, until I watched the film. But we wanted to see a little bit more of Max Redfield.
Q. Building off that, were there any other type of building blocks toward 2014? Any specific players or things that you saw?
COACH KELLY: Well, certainly the on whole offensive line, right? All those guys are building blocks for 2014. They all return. The tight ends return. I thought Chris Brown was a building block for 2014 in the ball that's he caught today, the action that he got, Tarean Folston, so there were a lot of young guys, Jarron Jones, and I thought KeiVarae Russell was outstanding today. On body, I mean, just how many pass break?ups did he have today where he was in great coverage?
A lot of really good things that we can take and build off in 2014. And our sky kick, I don't know why anybody has not brought up the sky kick after watching that disaster of a kickoff coverage team. My gosh. We've instituted the new sky kick rule. Anything that is a sky kick I'm in favor of right now.
Q. The way you guys won that game has been a recipe, I guess, for the past couple years. Is that what you want the calling card for this team to be moving forward as well?
COACH KELLY: Well, I'd like to play. I'd like to get 90 plays. We got 90 plays in today. We'd like to play a little faster like we did today. We'd like our offense to have a little more multi?dimensional. We had five yards rushing from the quarterback and ran 90 plays.
If we have a quarterback next year that has the ability to run the ball, we'll be difficult to defend. Yeah, we'd like to be that kind of team.
Q. Does George's suspension affect his future and the decision he's making?
COACH KELLY: I haven't made that decision yet.