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Kelly discusses line play, secondary and special teams ahead of Ball State

| Friday, September 7, 2018

Coming off the high of Notre Dame’s 24-17 victory over Michigan this past Saturday, and in the midst of preparing for Ball State this weekend, Irish head coach Brian Kelly commended the maturity of his squad and expressed confidence that this team is not taking the Cardinals lightly during his weekly Thursday press conference.

“I think that this group is mature enough and there’s enough leadership that they know that Ball State has got enough weapons that they can put some points on the board,” Kelly said. “And why not go in and play and have fun and enjoy it. And you’ve worked so hard to get to this point. … If they go at this game the way they’ve worked out for me … and everybody, then we’ll play well.”

Kelly also addressed the squad’s pass rush depth, and the Irish head coach ensured that any defensive end who could make a difference would have the chance to play. 

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish graduate student nose tackle Jonathan Bonner and junior defensive end Daelin Hayes rush the quarterback during Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over Michigan on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

“My philosophy has always been that a corner and a pass rusher has never been off the board, even if the numbers aren’t there,” Kelly said. “If we felt that there was a guy that sooner or later could make a difference for us, I don’t think I’ve ever said no to one of those. Now, we don’t want to take a player at that position if we’re reaching, but if there’s a guy on the board that we think can get us off the field, especially at [defensive end], we’ll definitely take an extra player.”

Notre Dame’s offensive tackles faced a tough challenge last week in Michigan’s Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary on defense, but Kelly said his tacklers feel better after being challenged by such an impressive duo.

“I don’t think they feel as though their confidence has been diminished as much as they feel like both of them had a chance to work against two outstanding players in Gary and Winovich, so … I think [they’re] feeling better that they really got challenged more so than they got beat up,” Kelly said.

Kelly also commented on Irish junior cornerback Donte Vaughn, who had the opportunity to play a significant number of snaps against Michigan on account of senior cornerback Shaun Crawford’s injury.

“I thought he had a really good camp. I think he’s a strong corner that has the ability to play both the short sight and the wide side,” Kelly said. “He’s settled down a little bit. I thought maybe we got a little too technical with him at times, we just needed to let him play, get out of his way a little bit. But I think he’s settled down nicely and we have a lot of trust in that he can go in there and play championship football.”

Sophomore kicker Jonathan Doerer also had a chance to make some kicks last Saturday, and Kelly is hoping to see a lot out of him this season.

“He’s going to kick a lot, and we need him out there. And I hope he’s going to kick a lot. I’m confident that we’re going to be able to move the football, and that that’s going to translate into him kicking off. So he’s going to get out there and he’s got to kick,” Kelly said.

Ultimately, everyone will be ready to play this weekend, Kelly said.

“All of our players will be prepared to play. … We’ve prepared them all, they’re all ready,” he said.

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