Brian Kelly previews upcoming season as open practice comes to a close
Joe Everett | Friday, August 17, 2018
During Wednesday’s media day, Irish head coach Brian Kelly spoke about the close of open practice, key individuals and specific characteristics of the team ahead of Notre Dame’s opener against Michigan on Sept. 1.
Kelly started the press conference by reflecting on positives he’s seen on both sides of the ball.
“We’re striving for consistency in performance now as you get into the middle of your preparation, so you want to see some things that start to repeat themselves,” Kelly said. “Some good things on both sides of the ball are beginning to kind of show themselves as repetitive in nature and reflect the kind of things that we’re looking for to be a successful team.
“I think the play making ability on offense [stood out],” Kelly said. “There’s a number of different guys that have weapons that we can count on from an offensive standpoint, and I think defensively, we’re playing very well at the edge of our defense, cornerback, safety position is very active and you can see that. You can just see it during the practice and seven-on-seven and the one-on-ones that we’ve got guys competing for the football. [I] feel really good about the ability to do some things defensively that sometimes you worry about, putting a guy out on an island. We’re going to have to do that sometimes, and I think we can hold up.”
Strength and conditioning
In the wake of the investigation into Maryland’s football team and the toxic culture created there which resulted in the death of redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan McNair, Kelly commented on what director of football performance Matt Balis has meant to the culture of his squad.
“I think the head coach and the strength coach are extremely important in developing a strong relationship on what you want accomplished,” Kelly said. “Everybody is interested in bigger, faster, stronger; how do you get there? I still think you get there by being demanding but never demeaning. I think that’s the line that’s out there. Our players want — when they come over from a day in the classroom, they want to come over here and get after it, if you will, and get after it in a positive environment where they’re pushed every single day.”
Kelly commented on a couple notable absences from practice: sophomore offensive lineman Robert Hainsey and junior defensive end Daelin Hayes, who were both battling minor injuries.
“We wanted a full seven to eight days [for Hainsey to recover], somewhere in that range, so we didn’t risk inflaming the tendon again,” Kelly said. “We’re on that timetable. He’s weight training, conditioning. He wants to get off the med squad in the worst way. He said it’s harder than practicing. Yeah, but we’re shutting him down until we know that we’ve gone through that window where we don’t re-aggravate the tendon.
“ … Patellar tendonitis [for Daelin]. He’s a little sore. Nothing major. We don’t have anything that’s major other than camp stuff. Might have a tendonitis here or a twist or — but nothing that’s keeping anybody out of long-term competition.”
With senior quarterback Brandon Wimbush and junior quarterback Ian Book continuing to compete against one another for the starting job, Kelly commented on the growth he has seen from both quarterbacks and the confidence he has in each of them to lead the team in any situation.
“We’re way ahead of where we were last year with both quarterbacks, certainly just by experience alone,” Kelly said. “We came into this, we were having this same meeting, right, and your No. 1 and No. 2 quarterback hadn’t played. That’s a different feeling for a head coach than coming in here and they’ve won football games and they’ve had success; they’ve been in the mix. Obviously we’re way ahead of where we were last year, and now you guys weren’t there at the end, but we’re spending most of the time at the end of practice working on situational football, and that’s where we’ve got to be learning at the quarterback position is the situational football, and that was different. We couldn’t do that last year.
“You’re just getting a more mature player that is confident in their ability. So both of them are extremely confident. Like there’s no thought process of Ian is with the ones. Everybody is quite confident in his ability to run our first team. So that’s no longer in effect. If you asked me last year at this time if Ian went in there with the ones, there might be some hesitation as to can he lead us. That obviously is huge for us. As it relates to Brandon, it’s just consistency with accuracy. He’s made progress there. He’s not where he wants to be, but he’s made significant progress even from the spring, and that’s better than what we saw during the year. Incremental progress, I think we’re all striving for better, but again, I think we’ve made the progress necessary.
“Offensively, I think it’s dispersion of the football to a number of different weapons. [Senior wide receiver Miles] Boykin, [junior wide receiver Chase] Claypool, [senior wide receiver Chris] Finke, [sophomore receiver and running back] Jafar Armstrong, [sophomore quarterback] Avery Davis. We’ve got three tight ends, four tight ends that can catch the football, a lot of weapons there, [junior running back] Tony Jones. I could go on and on. We’ve got some pretty good depth in guys that can help this football team.”