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Football

Kelly discusses Shaun Crawford, missed targeting calls

| Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Tuesday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed a number of points as Notre Dame (3-1) prepares to face the RedHawks of Miami (OH) at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.

Targeting

Although it wasn’t called, there appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on Irish junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush during Saturday’s 38-18 win over Michigan State. Kelly said he was disappointed that the penalty was not called and stated the NCAA still needs to determine how to fairly call the targeting rule.

Irish junior cornerback Shaun Crawford celebrates after stripping the ball on the goal line and recovering the fumble in the endzone during Notre Dame’s 38-18 win over Michigan State on Saturday.Rosie LoVoi | The Observer

Irish junior cornerback Shaun Crawford celebrates after stripping the ball on the goal line and recovering the fumble in the endzone during Notre Dame’s 38-18 win over Michigan State on Saturday.

“It’s extremely frustrating as a head coach in this profession that you see — where I really have a hard time with this whole targeting rule in itself is that young men don’t get many opportunities to play this game,” Kelly said. “I think I was watching a game on the way back on the bus, and there was a young man thrown out of the game trying to make a tackle, just trying to make a tackle and then we have this instance when this young man was not trying to make a tackle.

“We can’t seem to get that right, and we have a replay official that is supposed to be looking for that. That is extremely frustrating when somebody has to be thrown out of a game trying to make a tackle, somebody is still in the game and he’s not trying to make a tackle.

“It just needs to be fixed. It’s right now not in a very good place and needs to get fixed.”

Line play

 While Notre Dame’s offensive line was expected to be one of the team’s strengths this season and has so far lived up to many of the expectations, the defensive line has surprised many with its play so far this season. Despite heavy rotation and relative inexperience up front, the Irish have been able to consistently pressure the quarterback and contain the run game.

“I’d give them an A-,” Kelly said on the group. “You know, and I think the minus is probably lost a little bit of focus here and there at times, but their technique, their ability to use their hands, play with a much better discipline in terms of how they fit in our front seven is probably an A+, and then just, you know, maintaining that intensity, that endurance — that mental endurance that I talk about.

“ … We’re getting some pretty good edge pressure from our front four. We’re getting batted balls, and we’re getting the kind of integrity that front four needs relative to the run fits. [Defensive line coach] Mike Elston has done a terrific job with that group.”

On the offensive side, Kelly praised the consistent improvement of the unit, not only from the preseason All-American duo of graduate student Mike McGlinchey and senior Quenton Nelson, but also with the younger players as well.

“I’m seeing, comprehensively, each player do some things that is a carryover from what we’re seen in practice,” Kelly said. “[Sophomore] Tommy Kramer and [freshman] Robert Hainsey, for example, that tandem, is really now almost seamless in terms of how they’re working together. Tommy — look, extremely physical, and that showed itself on film. He’s throwing guys around, literally. Hainsey is a beautiful pass setter. He’s about as flawless as a pass setter as there is in college football at his age. I mean, he’s a young player. So that’s showing itself in practice, and it’s translating into games.

“[Senior] Alex Bars stays on his feet and plays with great balance and leverage. That wasn’t necessarily the case last year. We’ve already talked about [senior] Sam [Mustipher] in terms of his endurance. And then those other two guys on the left side, stay away from those two. I mean, they just — each and every week, they have a mindset of wanting to dominate, and that’s a pretty good thing.”

Shaun Crawford

Junior cornerback Shaun Crawford continued to build on his performances so far this season against Michigan State (2-1), coming up with a momentum-shifting second quarter strip and recovery of Spartan running back LJ Scott at the goal line, as well as an onside kick recovery and four tackles to help him earn the game ball. For Kelly, Crawford deserves everything he’s received so far and more.

“I knew what we had,” Kelly said on Crawford. “ … I recruited him personally because of what I felt were his traits. We weren’t unanimous on the recruiting of Shaun Crawford. That was a head coach take. And I’ll take credit for it 100 percent. And I’m not here — and I don’t mean that in any other way — I’m not trying to pat myself on the back. I’ll take credit for it because there’s more to this game than just, you know, looking at the size of one’s stature. I mean, the kid plays the game in a manner that is so smart and savvy that I hadn’t seen before. He had those traits that overcame two or three inches.”

“ … He just proved that the other night with the punch-out and then staying with it right through the end. I love Shaun Crawford.”

Relationship with the RedHawks 

Although the Irish haven’t played the RedHawks (2-2, 1-0 MAC) in 108 years, there are still several connections between the two programs. Current Miami (OH) head coach Chuck Martin has an extensive relationship with Kelly, as he served as an assistant coach at Notre Dame for four seasons.

“You get to know coaches so well that there’s a familiar face that you know and have been around and have probably either played golf with or have chummed around with in the offseason,” Kelly said on his relationship with Martin. “But you know, I think it ends there. This isn’t — Chuck and I are not going to be playing the game. I know how he is going to prepare his football team. He knows how I’ll prepare my football team. I think that’s probably it.”

Additionally, legendary Irish head coach Ara Parseghian, who passed away in August, graduated as a three-sport athlete from Miami (OH) and will be honored Saturday.

“ … I’m sure that there’s a great deal of pride in both institutions, where he started and where he finished, cradle of coaches, and then arguably the greatest college football tradition, and to be on both ends of that spectrum, I’m sure it’s satisfying,” Kelly said on Parseghian.

“[It’s] fulfilling in so many ways that Ara is at the center of that this Saturday.”

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About Tobias Hoonhout

Toby is a junior PLS/Economics double major from Smithtown, New York.

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