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Kelly on defense: ‘It will have more of my stamp on it’

| Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Four weeks into Notre Dame’s season, Irish head coach Brian Kelly has already made significant changes to his team.

Kelly fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Sunday, replacing him with former defensive analyst Greg Hudson. In addition to the coaching shakeup, Kelly said there would be roster changes as well, as he looks to get more out of his defense.

“You can’t take somebody that’s had no reps and give them 70 on Saturday. That’s impossible,” Kelly said. “But what we can start to do is put a depth chart together that gives a young man a look at saying, ‘I got a shot, here. I’m part of the solution.’ I want guys to feel like they’re part of the solution here. There is going to be a lot of those guys that are going to feel like that they now can be part of the solution, both in a defensive standpoint and, in some instances, on the offensive side of the ball.”

While Kelly did not say what specific personnel changes he had in mind, he did say he plans to give more players a chance to see the field on game day. Kelly listed junior defensive lineman Jay Hayes, junior linebacker Greer Martini and sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal as candidates for increased snaps.

Irish sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal tangles with a Duke defender in Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday. Kelly said Tuesday that Bilal will see more playing time as the season progresses.Chris Collins | The Observer
Irish sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal, left, tangles with a Duke special teams player in Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to the Blue Devils on Saturday. Kelly said Tuesday that Bilal will see more playing time as the season progresses.

“We’ve got some guys out there that are dog tired trying to do things,” Kelly said. “They got too many reps and we got too many good players sitting behind them watching, and we’ve gotta get them in the game and we’ve got to trust them and we’ve got to coach them and get them in the game. And that’s on me.”

Following VanGorder’s departure, Kelly said the defense for the rest of the season will reflect his personal modifications, with Hudson being put into a motivational, cheerleading role as new coordinator.

“[The defense] will have more of my stamp on it,” Kelly said. “Greg has been empowered to bring the energy, the enthusiasm, the passion, the morale [and] the camaraderie. I need those things from Greg. That’s what I need. I want our kids to be excited when they step on that field against Syracuse. I’ll worry about the implementation, the scheme. I’ll take care of that for him right now. As [Hudson] gets more comfortable with what we have and what our system is about, then he will be much more involved in what we do.

“But right now, you know, we’ll write the music, and he’ll be the lead singer. If that’s a — I don’t know if that’s a great analogy — but if that makes any sense. He’s going to be out front, but he just got here. He’s just — in terms of being, you know, assuming this role, he’s learning everything as well.”

At his press conference, Kelly also answered questions concerning his postgame remarks following the team’s most recent loss to Duke and responded by saying he did not think he was too critical of his players.

“I don’t know that I was that tough on the roster as much as I was tough on my coaches,” Kelly said. “I think when you tell your coaches that they’re on a job interview for the rest of the season, that seems to be pretty tough, more so than saying there is a standard of play at a particular position.

“But you guys can interpret it any way you want. It’s my team, and I don’t think that I’m too tough on them. I think there is an expectation that you have at Notre Dame, and that you need to play that way.”

One player in particular Kelly said he feels needs to step up is quarterback DeShone Kizer. Kizer went 22-of-37 for 381 yards passing against Duke, including two touchdowns and an interception.

Notre Dame junior quarterback DeShone Kizer fires a pass during Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to Duke on Saturday. Chris Collins | The Observer
Notre Dame junior quarterback DeShone Kizer fires a pass during Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to Duke on Saturday.

“[Kizer’s] standard of play is not where we want it to be for him,” Kelly said. “I think I made that pretty clear after the game. There is a standard that is set for a player, and that standard is based upon what he believes and what we believe should be acceptable for him, and turnovers and his ability to continue to grow as a quarterback sets that standard. If he was a first-time starter or he didn’t set the pace that he had set last year, maybe the standard would be a little bit lower. But he has set a standard of play that we believe he needs to meet and exceed every time he goes out there.”

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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