Kelly discusses bye week benefits, Philadelphia homecomings, rough road slate
Mary Green | Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Notre Dame’s bye week came and went, and Irish head coach Brian Kelly said it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for the team.
This season, the week off fell on the second Saturday of the University’s Fall Break, after a grueling stretch for players that included midterm exams followed immediately by a home showdown against rival Southern California.
“They needed just to get off campus,” Kelly said at his press conference Tuesday. “They had been here a long time. A change of routine was all that they needed, and really, more of an academic break than a football break.”
Many members of the team left campus for the break, with some going home and others opting for more unique routes, such as freshman defensive lineman Jerry Tillery going to Dublin, as shown in Tuesday’s episode of “A Season with Notre Dame Football.” However, Kelly noted the exodus wasn’t because his team was burnt out from the season.
“They like to play football. If we told them we were going to play football for 45 minutes, and it was going to be seven-on-seven and maybe a little bit of pass rush, they probably would have went out there every day,” he said. “But they needed a break from all the other things that they are required to do, and they got that, and I think that that was probably the energy that they needed to get restored.”
One player who especially benefited from the time off was sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer, Kelly said.
“He was running on fumes and not just the academic,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot thrown on him, being the quarterback at Notre Dame; this was all new to him, having a camera [on him], being the center of it. He needed a break. There’s a lot more pep in his step, and energy and confidence, and it was a welcome break for him.”
A few Irish players and Philadelphia-area natives will get to return home for Saturday’s game against Temple at Lincoln Financial Field: junior receiver Will Fuller, junior offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey and freshman running back Josh Adams.
“Those are three of our better players,” Kelly said. “They very easily could be three of the best players that we have on offense if you really squint. Those three guys from that area just tells you about the kind of players — they are national recruits, and they come right from that Philadelphia area, so I think that speaks volumes about the football in that area.”
However, Kelly said he wanted to make sure the trio doesn’t get caught up in the setting in their homecoming.
“They will have to settle into the game, and they will,” he said. “They have played in some big venues. They understand that there’s going to be some excitement about it, and I’m sure they will be excited, but they are going to have to settle into the game. We’ll have a conversation, and I know I’ve already talked to Mike about it, but Will and Josh, they are going to need to settle into the game because they are going to have to play well for us to win.”
Kelly said the team flies in to the City of Brotherly Love on Friday and will have a walkthrough Saturday morning at McGlinchey’s former high school, Penn Charter, before the 8 p.m. kickoff.
Stacked second half
Saturday’s matchup marks the first in a series of four games on the road the Irish will play over a five-weekend span, followed by contests at Pittsburgh, home against Wake Forest, in Boston against Boston College and at Stanford.
Kelly said Notre Dame will try to avoid familiar miscues that contributed to last season’s second-half struggles.
“Our kids have been prepared, played hard. But when you go on the road, you have to take care of the football. That’s the most important thing,” he said. “And you’ve got to have a mindset when you’re on the road that you’ve got to play from behind at times, and you’ve got to overcome the crowd and all those things and officiating, and our guys are tough-minded about that. So we just talk about really taking care of your own business, and if you do that, play hard for four quarters and get it to the fourth quarter, you have a chance to win.”
In the long run, the coach said a successful stretch during this period — with three of the five games against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 — will help prove Notre Dame’s worthiness of a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“I think when you look at the kind of football teams that play late, and I say late, December and January, they have to have these stretches,” Kelly said. “They have to play well on the road. You can’t just sit at home and play at home. So I think the really good football teams have to prove themselves.
“You know, I think for us, it will be, ‘October is for pretenders and November is for contenders,’ and we’ll show ourselves in that regard because of our schedule in November.”
Graduate student safety Avery Sebastian is still about two to three weeks away from being able to play, Kelly said Tuesday.
Sebastian suffered a foot injury in the season opener against Texas on Sept. 5 and has been sidelined ever since.
“Just one of those things where bone growth has been slow for him,” Kelly said. “He’s been on a stimulator for bone growth. It just has not come back to the level that most do.”
If Sebastian, who transferred to Notre Dame from California this season to take his fifth year as a graduate student, does not play the rest of the season, he would be eligible for a sixth season because of consecutive years with injuries, according to Kelly.
“If we can’t see progress in the next couple of weeks, then we’ll have to decide,” he said.
Quote of the day
“I think we’ve eliminated that word from the vocabulary of Notre Dame football.” — Kelly on the word “relevant”