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Football

Kelly talks injuries, preparation, and New Mexico in press conference

| Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ahead of No. 7 Notre Dame’s home opener this Saturday, head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media in his weekly press conference.

Before taking questions, Kelly addressed the team’s mindset being idle in week two, and he talked about New Mexico’s team coming into Saturday.

EMMA FARNAN | The Observer

Irish senior wide receiver Chase Claypool cuts to the right during Notre Dame’s 35-17 victory over Louisville on Sept. 2.

“New Mexico, for us is, you know, when you have a week off, you look at certainly this early in the season, at yourself and what you need to do to continue to build on your football team,” Kelly said. “We spent the last week in working on ourselves in terms of things necessary to continue to build our football team. It was a good week.”

Kelly emphasized that Saturday’s matchup is about continued progress that he hopes his team carries throughout the season.

“I think if you ask our players, they were challenged this week physically and mentally, and as we go into our preparation for New Mexico, which we got a little bit of work on, New Mexico last week, it is about living up to a standard. A standard we have set here at Notre Dame and then playing to that standard against New Mexico.”

Former Notre Dame head coach and current New Mexico head coach Bob Davie will not be on the sidelines come Saturday as he is currently recovering from a “serious medical incident” he suffered following the team’s season-opening win over Sam Houston State on Aug. 31. Kelly said the uncertainty of the Lobos provides a unique challenge in his team’s preparation.

“You know, certainly with an interim coach in [Saga Tuitele] is now going to be charged with bringing his football team here, they will be excited about the opportunity to play against us. They have got some talented players on the offensive side of the ball, three quarterbacks that we have to prepare for, and all of them are extremely capable. You know, I really like the wide receiver corps, they have a transition going on defense with a lot of new faces that we’re trying to on film watch in one game, a new defensive coordinator, so there is a lot of things that we have to, you know, manage there. More importantly, it is about, you know, what we do and how we do it. So that’s been the focus for us relative to the standard of play that we have to live up to.”

Kelly went on to offer updates on several significant injuries the Irish have faced this season.

On junior tight end Cole Kmet’s prognosis, Kelly appeared optimistic.

“[Kmet’s prognosis looks] really good. He was involved in practice last week, seven-on-seven drills, some teamwork,” Kelly said. “You know, we’ll make a decision, you know, at what level we want to engage him this week, but his X-rays looked really good, significant growth relative to his injury. That’s going to be a day-to-day situation as to how we see how far we want to accelerate him. He’s been cleared to do quite a bit of the football related work within the practice.”

Kelly said there is even a chance Kmet could see the field on Saturday at some point.

Kelly also spoke on junior running back Jafar Armstrong, who will be out for an extended period of time due to a groin injury.

“Certainly we’ll be without him for a few weeks,” Kelly said. “You know, that’s an injury that, you know, again I think requires some time, but to put an exact time on it, you know, it’s hard to say. Julian Okwara did not have surgery but had some similarities in terms of the injury. He was about four weeks.”

The changes to the depth chart have sparked Kelly and his staff to make some personnel changes as they try to find the best unit to take the field.

“We moved [junior cornerback] Avery Davis back over to the offensive side of the ball to give us another complement to that piece,” he said “You know, Avery again can catch the football for us, [he] has the ability to do those things that Jafar did. He gives us another piece at that position that we think can fill in nicely.”

Kelly then went on to specify that Armstrong’s injury is a “torn rectus abdominis,” and Armstrong has already undergone surgery.

Kelly then commented on graduate student cornerback Shaun Crawford, who has struggled with a number of injuries throughout his career, expressing his confidence in the graduate student’s mindset and physical health.

“Physically he came out outstanding,” Kelly said. “I think mentally is where he feels really good. He did a lot of really good things for us at corner and at safety. Moving forward, he continues to, you know, obviously get back to where he was after a year of fighting through the injuries. So an important piece to what we’re doing in the back end of our defense.”

Despite the injury concerns after only one game, Kelly said the team practiced hard and physically during its time off before the New Mexico game.

“They were long practices, they were two practices. It was a physically demanding and mentally demanding week for our team,” he said.

Lastly, Kelly talked about the numerous advantages that come with playing at home.

“Well, it’s always great playing at home,” Kelly said. “I mean, sleeping in your own bed, we have got a great routine, the home-field advantage is real with our fans. It has gotten better and better in my time here in terms of, you know, just the support that we have. Our students are great at the games, a part of it. Certainly the video graphics, the Jumbotron, just all of those things add to the game day experience that we’re feeling.”

While the fan engagement is essential to the team’s performance, Kelly talked about how his team hopes to give back when they take the field at home.

“At the end of the day, you have to play exciting football and you’ve got to play good football to get everybody enthusiastic,” he said. “So it is our job to put a great product on the field, one that’s exciting, one that people want to see and our players recognize that. It’s important for them to play well at home. They talk about we talk about protecting our house and quite frankly, it is part of the things we do in our summer work that they want to be in our stadium and they want to play their very best in front of the crowd.”

The Irish will face off against New Mexico at Notre Dame Stadium this Saturday, with kickoff at 2:30 pm.

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