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Brian Kelly talks injuries, bye week and progress ahead of Navy

| Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with media Tuesday to discuss the state of the team as it heads into this week’s road matchup with perennial opponent Navy in San Diego and the progress he feels the squad has made over the course of the season.

Kelly said the Navy offense has really come into its own this season and, as usual, the Midshipmen (2-5, 1-3 AAC) are a force to be reckoned with.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior wide receiver Chris Finke cuts left during Notre Dame’s 19-14 victory over Pittsburgh on Oct. 13 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“Year in and year out, well-coached football team. They complement each other so well offensively and defensively, what they do,” he said. “Offensively, I think they’ve really found themselves in terms of what they’re doing. [Junior] Malcolm Perry is certainly a dynamic player on offense. He’s played quarterback, he’s played slot. [Senior] Garret Lewis has now seemed to have found himself running the offense. We have to prepare for both. There’s probably [senior] Zach Abey also healthy, he could play the quarterback position. We’re running a lot of different looks at our defense at the quarterback position right now.”

One of the things the Midshipmen do best is control time of possession, averaging over 35 minutes per game with the ball. Kelly said his team is doing its best to make sure it can maximize the impact of each possession, because it does not know how many chances to score it will have in the game.

“They’re extremely efficient,” Kelly said. “They’ve given us all that we can handle year in and year out. There has to be an incredible sense of urgency on the offensive side of the ball by maximizing possessions, quite frankly every snap, because you just don’t know how many possessions that you will, in fact, get. Scoring points is absolutely crucial.”

Notre Dame and Navy are quite familiar with one another, as they face off each year. Most recently, the Irish defeated the Midshipmen at Notre Dame Stadium, 24-17. However, Navy took the victory the previous season, defeating Notre Dame by a one-point margin.

In order to prepare for Navy’s unique format of a triple-option offense, Notre Dame has had three quarterbacks practicing under center on the scout team this week to be ready for each of Navy’s potential three quarterbacks.

“We have three different quarterbacks that are running that offense right now,” he said. “[Freshman wide receiver] Lawrence Keys is Malcolm Perry. We have a walk-on that is Garret Lewis that is doing a really good job for us. Then I think Zach Abey, who is big, physical, we’ve moved a couple of guys in there to give us more of a quarterback sweep load kind of look. [Freshman quarterback] Phil Jurkovec has been in there. We’ve had three quarterbacks in there.

“We’ve done a really good job. We spent a lot of time with that scout team outside of this week just working on the mechanics of it in the spring, pre-season, so when we get into this it’s run effectively, to the level it can be. It’s never going to be as effective. You’re never going to play with the kind of speed that you need to.”


Bye week

Kelly said the bye week came at a good time for Notre Dame, because, as it corresponded with fall break, it allowed students to truly take a full break and get to relax and go home.

“When school closes, it would be awesome to get the kids out of here and really truly let them get home, let them be with their families,” he said. “I think that’s probably the best situation as it relates to physically and mentally getting your team back, giving them an opportunity to really recharge their battery.”

Kelly has a 9-1 record coming off bye weeks at Notre Dame. He said he does not attribute that to the week off completely, but he said there is a specific plan and intentional plan that the Irish go through during the week that has worked in years past.

“There hasn’t been much of a change relative to time off. We try to balance the time off with intentional preparation,” he said. “I think if we played top-five teams after the bye week, maybe the record would be a little bit different. It’s hard to say. I think bye weeks certainly allow you the opportunity to self-scout, to do some things that maybe shore up some areas for you, allows you to get some key players back. But I don’t know that there’s a magic formula per se, other than a system that’s in place that I’ve used for a long time.”


Offensive line

Offensive lineman Aaron Banks is listed as the starter at left guard this week. Kelly discussed the traits the sophomore shows, making him a good fit to start against the Midshipmen.

“I just think he’s been emerging over a period of time. Certainly when [graduate student Alex Bars] went down, it created more of a focus on the position itself,” Kelly said. “Trying to duplicate that kind of size and quickness that Alex has is very difficult. We felt like Aaron has accelerated his game to the point where we feel comfortable starting him at the left guard position. Still have a lot of confidence in [senior Trevor] Ruhland and [junior Tommy] Kraemer. I think [sophomore Josh Lugg] continues to improve, as well. But we think our best chance at playing at the level that we need to put a 6-foot-5, 325-pound lineman that pass protects very well, moves his feet very well and plays with explosiveness now gives us two really big, physical, athletic players on the left side.”

Kelly noted Ruhland and Kraemer will split time at the right guard position Saturday.

“I think they complement each other well,” he said. “I think both of them together give us a really good tandem, if you will, at that right side.”


Injury update

 Kelly said sophomore running back Jafar Armstrong, who has been out after having surgery on an infected left knee, was able to practice Monday and will be active for the first time since Sept. 22 on Saturday.

“I think the biggest issue with him will be volume, how much will he play,” he said. “We had him on GPS yesterday. He ran out at 19 miles an hour. He usually tops out somewhere in the 20s, which is a really good day for his first day out there. We’re pretty excited about where he was with his first day.”

Junior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. will be a “full go” after missing the Pittsburgh game with a mild ankle sprain. Kelly also said senior kicker Justin Yoon has had some time to recover thanks to the bye week, as he was experiencing some discomfort.

“We’d like to make sure that he’s 100 percent healthy. He had a bit of a soreness in his groin, more like a soccer player would. But we feel like he’s going to be fine,” Kelly said. “We just wanted to be careful with him in this off week, make sure he’s 100 percent.”

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

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