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Football

Kelly discusses mindset heading into week 1 matchup

| Thursday, August 29, 2019

After nearly three weeks of training camp, the Irish are slated to begin their 2019 season with a Labor Day matchup against ACC-foe Louisville. Head coach Brian Kelly met with the media Wednesday to discuss Monday night’s season opener.

Despite the Cardinals’ troublesome 2-10 season in 2018, Kelly is making sure that his team doesn’t take their opponent lightly.

“This is a program that expects to win in all phases. All of their programs are quite successful. This is a winning environment at Louisville, and they have high expectations. We’re going to be prepared for that,” Kelly said in his opening remarks.

After hiring former Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield in the offseason, Louisville is looking to reestablish itself as a perennial contender in the ACC.

“Satterfield has done a great job where he has put together certainly the pieces at App State,” Kelly said. “He has some pieces here at Louisville that he’s going to put together a really, really good football team.”

Kelly also focused on the athletic and playmaking ability that this Louisville team presents on offense. He spoke highly of junior left tackle Mekhi Becton, calling him a player that could make things difficult for Notre Dame’s edge rushers. Kelly also had high praise for Louisville’s receiving corps.

“I think the receiving corps is as good as there is in the ACC,” he said. “Maybe Clemson has a better corps, but I think when you look at [redshirt junior Dez] Fitzpatrick and certainly [senior Seth] Dawkins, [sophomore Tutu] Atwell, this is a very talented group of wide receivers at the highest end in the ACC.”

Those receivers will catch passes from junior quarterback Jawon Pass, who Kelly described as “a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball.”

One of the first things Kelly was asked about by reporters was his team’s depth at the cornerback position, which was exposed in last season’s loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal. Kelly displayed confidence in his secondary and named some of his starters for Monday night’s game.

“I think the depth is outstanding,” he said. “We have [senior] Donte Vaughn, [sophomore] TaRiq Bracy, [graduate student] Shaun Crawford. I think you’ll see all three of those guys playing.”

Emma Farnan | The Observer

Irish senior cornerback Donte Vaughn looks to wrap up an opponent during Notre Dame’s 19-14 victory over Pittsburgh on October 13.

Kelly was also questioned about the Irish’s offensive depth. After suffering broken collarbones in practice, top tight end Cole Kmet and starting wide receiver Michael Young could miss the first few weeks of the season. The Irish receiving corps suffered another blow on Monday when sophomore Kevin Austin was announced out for the year. Speaking about the adaptability of the team’s offensive scheme, Kelly mentioned that the Irish could compensate for these losses by moving their running backs into the slot frequently at the beginning of the season.

“[Freshman] Kyren Williams and [junior] Jafar Armstrong are also playing some slot receiver for us,” he said. “It offsets a little bit of that. One of the things we’ve done really well is from an offensive perspective, we’ve got some versatility that if we are down a player or two, we have some other talented players that we can fit into a system that’s flexible enough to be able to do that.”

Observer File Photo

Irish junior tight end Cole Kmet runs a route during Notre Dame’s 24-17 win over USC on November 24 in Los Angeles.

Kelly also mentioned how impressed he was with sophomore slot receiver Lawrence Keys III’s development in the offseason. The New Orleans native will start on Monday and could be a player who helps fill the initial void at receiver.

“Everybody can see that when he touches the ball, he’s got great speed,” he said. “One of the things that he does that’s a little bit different than all of our guys is that he catches the ball at full speed. Some guys have to throttle down a little bit. He can catch it at full speed. That’s a great trait to have.”

Kelly knows that his team has to be prepared to win games on the road to have a successful regular season, and Monday’s opener is no exception.

“There will be a great amount of excitement in the stadium,” he said. “We will have to match that with really a fine performance, but more importantly poise and confidence, discipline, all the things that you have to have when you go on the road. That’s important in an opener.”

Monday’s game will kick off at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

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