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Football

Kelly addresses Louisville, young Irish backfield in weekly press conference

| Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the media Monday, analyzing key players in the Irish’s 42-26 win over Florida State while also looking ahead to Louisville and the rest of the ACC schedule in light of the pandemic.

Kelly stressed that Louisville is a much better football team than their record indicates, saying that the Cardinals are a “talented team,” and much better than their 1-3 record represents.

He commended Louisville’s coaching staff and quarterback Malik Cunningham, saying he is well-coached and surrounded by some talented offensive players, and does a great deal of running the offense.

Kelly went on to explain that Louisville has a dynamic rushing attack featuring Cunningham and running back Javian Hawkins, who are, in his opinion, near the top of the ACC in terms of skill.

“[Cunningham] is probably as good as we’ve seen in space, as a skill player, complemented with [Dez] Fitzpatrick and [Justin] Marshall,” he said. “Then you look at the running game and Hawkins, I think he’s third in the country, best in the ACC, and arguably one of the best if not the best in the country. [All in all], its a very talented offense.”

Kelly said he is also conscious of Louisville’s athletic 3-4 defense with talented linebackers.

“Certainly athleticism is — when you look at their defense — the thing that shows up the most,” Kelly said. “They can run, they are athletic, they’ve got some experience in the back end. From a defensive personnel standpoint, we’ll have to do a really good job against their three-four defense and create some unique situations for us. They are a well-coached football team, that, in my opinion, could very easily be on the other side of that 1-3 record.”

Kelly admitted that Notre Dame’s defense needs to have a better performance than it did last weekend against Florida State, but acknowledges that this particular week was a unique situation with the COVID-19 regulations. 

“There were some factors that were unique in that we had a lot of guys that were not practicing during the week, and it showed that you have to practice this game to be at your very best,” Kelly said. “There were some uncharacteristic defensive lapses that occurred that we do not normally see. We will address those and they’ll be corrected for this weekend.”

Before Kelly turned his attention to specific players, he stressed the importance of doing what is best for the team as a whole with the wildly fluctuating circumstances. When asked about sophomore running back Kyren Williams, Kelly expressed pride in his transformation and his self-awareness to seize his opportunity in the backfield.

Kelly has been impressed with the running back committee’s ability to run between the tackles and their “ability to pick up tough yards.”

Patience, maturity and toughness have been three characteristics this season that have stood out to Kelly regarding his young backfield. Kelly attributed it to how the running backs worked over the offseason in their strength and conditioning program.

“It started with understanding that he had to change the way he was living and how he was taking care of himself,” Kelly said about Williams. “Then Coach Bayless, obviously, improved him with our strength and conditioning program.”

Speaking of Jerimiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kelly praised his ability to cover receivers in man coverage as well as effectively rush the passer.

Regarding the image of Liam Eichenberg’s heavily bruised and swollen eye from the FSU game, Kelly expressed that this exact mindset is what makes the tackle a superior leader and presence in the locker room.

“I think all of our guys in the locker room after the game had a lot of respect for him anyway, but I think it just solidifies the kind of respect that they had for him as a leader on our football team,” he said. “He is gritty and is always fighting through to get back out on that football field.”

Kelly hopes to take this grit and toughness into upcoming weeks of the season, but is not interested in in looking too far ahead.

When asked about the standings, Kelly responded that he only pays attention to the teams on the schedule, but did admit (to some chuckles) that Clemson is, in fact, good. Kelly said he just wants to live hour to hour and stay week to week, focusing on the road ahead so that the Irish can be in a good position in the final weeks of the season.

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