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Kelly targets special teams for improvement, discusses Swarbrick’s comments about job security

| Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Coming off its bye week and having made adjustments in an attempt to turn the 2-5 season around, Notre Dame will host Miami this Saturday.

“We made some progress,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. “We just haven’t been able to close out games, which has been obviously the story this year. We’re going to. It’s just a matter of time. We’re all frustrated. But the attitude’s been great.”

Irish sophomore wide receiver C.J. Sanders attempts to avoid getting tripped up by defenders in Notre Dame’s 17-10 loss to Stanford on Oct. 15. Sanders returned one punt and one kickoff in the game.Monica Villagomez Mendez | The Observer
Irish sophomore wide receiver C.J. Sanders attempts to avoid getting tripped up by defenders in Notre Dame’s 17-10 loss to Stanford on Oct. 15. Sanders returned one punt and one kickoff in the game.

With the week off, Kelly said he’s had extra time to continue correcting the problems he sees with his football team.

“There’s reasons for being 2-5, and then there’s reasons that you can’t explain why you’re 2-5,” Kelly said. “We looked at all the numbers, the analytics, the film. Part of it is it’s a tough game, you got to make plays. What separates you from winning and losing is a play here and a play there. There’s a number of different things that we have to alter and change how we address game management. … But we’re trying to get to the end, and that is win more football games.”

Specifically, Kelly pointed to special teams as an area the team plans to improve on.

“We have some players on [special teams] that I think are extremely athletic and are talented that have to be a little bit more experienced,” Kelly said. “Then we have to be smarter in some of the things that we do. When I say ‘smarter,’ I don’t mean that they are fundamentally flawed. I mean that we may be a little too aggressive in some of the things we ask our players to do.

“ … We may push the envelope a little bit in asking our guys to do some things that for some young players might be a little bit too much at this point. So we just got to be a little bit smarter in what we do. If you would have asked me where that arrow is, I think it’s up.”

With the focus on making improvements, Kelly said he feels his team is properly motivated for the last stretch of the season.

“All these kids come to Notre Dame because they want to be challenged,” Kelly said. “They have incredible intrinsic motivation every day to get up, to go to class, to want to succeed. It’s why they come here. There’s an immense amount of pride. They want to freakin’ win. They want to win.

“They really don’t care whether they get a Visa gift card in the bowl game. They want to practice more. They want to be with their teammates. They want to be with their guys. They want to win football games. They want to be successful in the classroom. They want to be successful on the football field. That’s why they came here. That’s why I’m here. That’s all we talk about. That’s all we do every day, is think about how we can be more successful.”

A major event during the bye week was director of athletics Jack Swarbrick stating in an interview with ESPN that Kelly will be the head coach of the team next season. Kelly said he was disappointed his boss had to make a public statement, but said he did not ask Swarbrick to make the comments.

“Well, I was disappointed, actually. Anytime that your athletic director has to come out and say that, as a head coach you’re disappointed that any kind of comments like that have to be made,” Kelly said. “I didn’t ask him. That was his decision. But, you know, I clearly understand what he was doing. He was probably sick and tired of being sick and tired, too. But for me, it’s disappointing, certainly, that you have to make those comments.”

Also of note during the break, senior Irish cornerback Devin Butler pleaded guilty to the Class A misdemeanor of resisting law enforcement. Butler, who originally faced two felonies, now faces no jail time, provided he successfully completes a pretrial diversion program. Kelly suspended Butler from the program indefinitely in late August and said today that Butler’s status has not changed —  he is still suspended from the team.

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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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