Brian Kelly provides updates on Miami, Adams and injuries
Daniel O'Boyle | Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly discussed his team’s performance against Wake Forest, their top-10 showdown with Miami (FL) this week and junior running back Josh Adams during his Sunday teleconference.
The Irish had not allowed more than 20 points in a game all season before hosting the Demon Deacons, when they gave up a new high of 37, including four touchdowns in the game’s final 18 minutes, after the Irish had built up a 34-10 lead. Kelly said he believed he and his team may have overthought the rematch with defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s former school, getting away from what they had done previously, while a loss of focus may have also contributed to the underperformance.
“I think it starts with, from a coaching standpoint, if we had to do some things differently, we definitely would have done them differently,” Kelly said. “Maybe got too cute in terms of what we were trying to accomplish. Maybe trying to cover up some things that we thought they knew about us. Didn’t do what we normally do. We’ll take some of the blame for that in terms of coaching. I think that’s part of it. Then we got up 41-16. We didn’t handle ourselves in a manner to close out the game the way we have all year. So a little bit of coaching there, a little bit of having a killer instinct on defense, and Wake Forest executing extremely well.”
The Irish will face Miami (FL) this week in their first top-10 matchup since the Fiesta Bowl at the conclusion of the 2015 season, and first regular season top-10 game since 2014. The stories history of the series has attracted extra attention to the game, with parallels drawn to the 1988 “Catholics vs Convicts” matchup that the Irish won, 31-30. However, Kelly said he was not too focused on the historical aspect of the game.
“In ’88, I was a graduate assistant at Grand Valley State,” Kelly said. “I really was more worried about cutting up film and getting my job done than watching what was happening between Notre Dame and Miami. Most of our guys, they know the history of the rivalry certainly. It really doesn’t impact what they do in terms of their preparation.
“These are two programs that have great traditions, that have won national championships. You would think sooner or later they’re going to meet again with something that’s on the line. We’re excited that we’re back in that position for our university. Other than that, we don’t spend much time thinking about the past.”
Instead, Kelly’s focus is on the 2017 Hurricanes, which he said brought a high degree of talent and experience, especially on the front seven.
“It’s a heck of a football team,” Kelly said. “An experienced offensive line, the quarterback is extremely productive, athletic defensively, all over the place. Lead the country in tackles for loss. Just a team that obviously is very confident. It’s going to be a great matchup.
“You’re talking about now the Sam, Mike and Will linebacker with Pinckney, Quarterman, McCloud, all back for another year. The safeties are back. It’s just a much more veteran group. The front seven is all intact from last year. Just more experience. Nine returning starters on that defense. That’s a pretty experienced group.”
Junior running back Josh Adams left Saturday’s game after only five carries with what appeared at the time to be a head injury. However, Kelly said after the game that the back was in good health and just needed rest after a busy week. The Irish head coach reiterated that point with a reminder that Adams did not go through concussion protocol
“Josh Adams, I want to make sure that everybody is clear on this, because I saw reports out there that he was in a concussion protocol. He was never — I repeat — never in the concussion protocol. He felt great today. He’ll continue to practice and be ready for Miami,” Kelly said.
However, Kelly also said it was important to keep him in the best condition possible, even as a Heisman Trophy campaign started to build around him in the leadup to the game.
“His individual hype never comes into it,” Kelly said. “When somebody doesn’t feel quite right, whether it’s concussion or otherwise, we’re going to make sure we do the right thing for the student-athlete first.
“I think, more than anything else, our medical staff will make those decisions. The head coach and assistant coaches are out of that decision-making process. Here at Notre Dame, our staff is solely the ones that are the decision makers as to putting players back in the game.”
The Irish have mostly had excellent luck in avoiding serious injuries to key players this season, but several players have dealt with minor issues in recent weeks. Kelly said he expects almost of his injury worries to be healthy Saturday, including junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who left the victory over the Demon Deacons late in the second quarter before returning, but did have concerns about junior running back Dexter Williams.
“Brandon Wimbush has a bruised left hand,” Kelly said. “He checked in today, ice pack on it. He’s good to go. Khalid Kareem had a hyperextension of his knee. He’s a little sore, but he won’t be limited this week. Alize Mack will lift with the team and will be practicing on Tuesday.
“Nick Watkins had tendinitis. As you know, anybody that has tendinitis, it’s something that flares up from time to time. This is not going to inhibit him from playing at a high level. That was more of a coach’s decision to play [junior cornerback Troy Pride Jr.] a little bit more in the game. Nick is fine. We have a great deal of confidence in Nick. It was a situation where Nick and Troy were kind of splitting that position.
“Dexter Williams, I don’t know, to be quite honest with you,” Kelly said. “It’s not his ankle. He’s had a quad contusion. It’s an old injury that has been one that has popped up here and there. As you saw in his long run, it affected him.
“He’s a day-to-day kind of guy. We were kidding, we’re going to need our own medical temp on the sidelines for the running backs. It’s a day-to-day thing. We’ll just have to see how he responds on Tuesday.”