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Football

Kelly discusses offensive play-calling, players health, recruiting

| Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talked about his team’s blowout victory over USC, the health of his team and new wrinkles in the Irish offense during his Sunday teleconference.

Despite its success in the run game all season, Notre Dame (6-1) opened its 49-14 victory over the Trojans (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12) with an attempted deep pass from junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush to sophomore wide receiver Chase Claypool. The Irish went deep again on their first touchdown of the game to junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and their second, to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson before dominating on the ground for the remainder of the game. Kelly said the team’s bye week before the game gave them extra time to prepare the game plan.

Irish sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr., left, takes a handoff and prepares to give it to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson, center, on the reverse during Notre Dame's 49-14 win over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Anna Mason | The Observer

Irish sophomore running back Tony Jones Jr., left, takes a handoff and prepares to give it to sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson, center, on the reverse during Notre Dame’s 49-14 win over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Yeah, you have a week off, you look at some things that you’ve done and you want to break some tendencies,” Kelly said. “We had a couple things that we wanted to get accomplished tactically with getting their eyes off of some things that we had shown before, quite frankly. And part of that, as you saw, was to add some misdirection within the offense, get the ball on the perimeter and then come back and attack them inside-out.”

“So that’s kind of how we started the game with a little bit of misdirection, get the ball on the perimeter, and then come back and attack them inside-out. And, again, a lot of that has to do with your self-scouting and how you wanted to attack your opponent based upon some of those things.”

Health

Senior linebacker Greer Martini (knee), graduate student wide receiver Cameron Smith (hamstring) and junior running back Dexter Williams (ankle) all missed the victory with injuries. However, Kelly said all three players are expected back to play North Carolina State on Saturday.

“We made a conscious decision not to play Dexter until he got back to 100 percent,” Kelly said. “We think he’s going to be 100 percent for the North Carolina State game. And we’ve got a lot of big football games. We’re going to need Dexter. So expect to see him play a big role in what we do down the stretch here.

“As it relates to other players, Cam had a grade-one hamstring on Wednesday. He just wasn’t 100 percent. We expect him, obviously, back next week. Greer Martini is cleared to practice on Tuesday. We expect him back. And the rest were just really bumps and bruises that we had from Saturday night.”

In Martini’s absence, junior Te’von Coney started at the “Buck” outside linebacker role and recorded a team-leading 11 tackles, as well as two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the opening Trojans offensive play. Kelly said the game was the best of Coney’s career.

“He played his butt off,” Kelly said. “He was outstanding. And not only obviously sets up the biggest play of the game, which was the strip early on in the game, which sets us up in great field position — he had two and a half tackles on special teams.

“He played the whole game. Obviously came off the field when we went dime and nickel, but played that position by himself as well as contributed heavy to special teams. It was his best performance at Notre Dame.”

Two-Back Sets

The Irish employed two-back sets against the Trojans, with junior Josh Adams and sophomore Tony Jones Jr. joining Wimbush in the backfield. Kelly said the formations had been something he had been hoping to use for some time, but Jones’ health meant the Trojans were the first opportunity to do so.

“Well, it’s something we’ve wanted to do, quite frankly, for the last four or five weeks, but we haven’t been healthy,” Kelly said. “Tony provides us another dimension, especially as a blocker and as a pass catcher. He’s a big kid. He’s physical. And Josh, obviously, is a big, physical kid, too. We just think with two guys that are closing in on 220 pounds in that split set, it’s a pretty imposing backfield and gives us another wrinkle within our offense.

“But as you know, Tony has not been healthy. We feel like he’s back at that level where we can feature that formation. That formation can be broken out and Tony can be a slot receiver in it, which, again, we feel really good about his ability to impact the passing game as well. So expect to see more of it.”

Recruiting

The weekend was tabbed as the most important recruiting weekend for the Irish this season, with five-star wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown highlighting the group. St. Brown  —  who also received an offer from the Trojans  —  was one of four California natives making an official visit on Saturday. Kelly said the dominant win could be a huge boost for recruiting, especially among West-Coast-based players.

“Well, it’s obvious that you feel a whole lot better talking about a victory in this fashion, especially when you’ve got a number of kids from the West Coast,” Kelly said. “It’s a long weekend, but obviously one that is very profitable in that sense, because we’ve got great kids on campus and it was a great, great Saturday.”

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

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