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Kelly discusses injuries, key players ahead of matchup with Hokies

| Friday, October 5, 2018

Irish head coach Brian Kelly discussed No. 6 Notre Dame’s mentality and preparation heading into its first true test away from home against No. 24 Virginia Tech at Thursday’s press conference. Kelly talked about how despite the comparisons to last year’s 41-8 loss at Miami, his team’s mentality is completely different and focused on the present.

“I’d rather have a confident football team, as long as it’s not a cocky and overconfident team,” he said. “ … They know if they prepare the right way and they eliminate distractions they’re a good football team.”

Kelly said he expects the Hokies (3-1, 1-0 ACC) to give the Irish (5-0) a whole different look from last week’s opponent, Stanford, and is prepared to be challenged on both sides of the ball. 

“They do it differently,” he said. “They’re a team that just runs their offense differently. It’s part of what they do. Much more of a first down, it’s gonna come at any time. With Stanford you knew it was much more of a third-down-and-red-zone.”

He also said his staff has focused on giving junior quarterback Ian Book a realistic taste of what this matchup — expected to be a tough test for the offense — might feel like. 

“There’s everything under the sun to consider relative to what Virginia Tech can do defensively. So you’re preparing for a lot of different things,” he said. “I think the game will dictate what we see because it’s a younger group. You’re not going to see 10 different defensive structures. And then we’ll adapt to it. [Book] saw a lot of different pressures, different looks.”

As the stakes continue to rise with each week, Saturday night’s game is set to be one of the key matchups that will determine Notre Dame’s status in the college playoff conversation. Kelly said he’s optimistic that they’ll be able to adjust to whatever looks the Hokies show them. 

“They’re really good at what they do. They pressure the run game in the line of scrimmage … to do that you give up other things,” he said.

Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish graduate student linebacker and captain Drue Tranquill helps make a tackle during Notre Dame’s 38-17 win over Stanford on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. 

Drue Tranquill

After the captain played through a broken left hand against the Cardinal, Kelly confirmed that graduate student linebacker Drue Tranquill will be cleared to play against Virginia Tech. 

“In the game you play with so much, you know, adrenaline so that was no issue,” he said. “Certainly as it started to swell and was sore and tender … on Tuesday, by today he was back and playing like Drue Tranquill.”

Kelly said although there might be some limitations in his ability to make solo tackles, the potential limitations were not concerning enough to consider not playing him. 

“No limitation to the point that it would be not in our best interest to have him on the field,” he said. 

Troy Pride Jr. 

Kelly talked about the recruitment of Pride Jr., the junior cornerback who originally was heavily recruited by the Hokies. 

“He was a fit in terms of his character,” he said. “We were at a point when we were looking for great speed in the position and he certainly had that.”

Aaron Banks

The sophomore offensive guard has emerged on the scene this season, moving into the offensive line rotation, espcially now that graduate-student and captain Alex Bars is out for the season with a ACL/MCL injury. Kelly said that while senior Trevor Ruhland will start, Banks will definitely see playing time. 

“He’s a big athletic kid that’s gained confidence in his ability,” he said. “ … What we like about him most is he’s adapted well to go from tackle to guard this week.

“We’re set up where they’re gonna have to do some stuff on the move. They now what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do it.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. in Blacksburg, Virginia. 

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