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Kelly discusses Florida State, Irish comeback in press conference

| Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly spoke with the press in preparation for Saturday’s home game against Florida State. This press conference comes off of a two-week break for the Fighting Irish, and Kelly discussed lessons learned and the wide receiver position.

“Certainly for me and our team, and certainly, our entire staff, we’re excited about getting back into a game week situation,” Kelly said. “We’ve been off now, obviously for those that are following us, the last few weeks.”

The game against the Seminoles will mark the first for the Irish since the Wake Forest game was postponed due to a spike in COVID-19 cases amongst team members. The outbreak amongst the team involved 39 players, with 25 testing positive and 14 in quarantine and isolation. However, a recent press release on Twitter provided updated information. Two positive cases were recorded last week, and a total of 11 players are currently in quarantine and isolation.

“In terms of who’s available, we feel like we’ll continue to test during the week, so the roster is a fluid situation,” Kelly said. “We’re in a very good place relative to our two-deep. We’re going to be just fine for Florida State.”

Notre Dame Athletics
Graduate Student quarterback Ian Book fires a pass downfield against South Florida on Sept. 19 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Kelly summed up the loss of some of the student-athletes to a “celebration” around the time that the Irish won 52-0 against South Florida on Sept. 19. The team also saw incidents surrounding a pregame meal and a sidelines vomiting episode within recent weeks. Despite these setbacks, Kelly remained positive about the upcoming game and reiterated past points on wearing a mask, something he said he reminds his players to do.

“We believe that we sit in a very good position right now and we’re preparing our football team for a very challenging opponent in Florida State,” Kelly said. 

During the conference, Kelly touched on some of the talent within the Seminoles’ offensive line, predicting they will have notable draft picks. Specifically, Kelly sees Florida State’s running backs and wide receivers as key to challenges the Irish might face Saturday. Additionally, Kelly pointed out that, despite some setbacks, Florida State also has a talented defensive line. 

“Again, we’re coming off of a long layoff, and we’re going to have to be at our very best and get off to a really good start,” Kelly said. “We didn’t get off to a good start in our opener against Duke, and it factored into the game. We got off to a great start against South Florida and it did factor into the game. And we’ll need to get off to a good start against Florida State.”

In terms of Notre Dame’s offensive line, Kelly remarked on the potential for the wide receiver position. Junior Kevin Austin, Jr. is expected to be seen in the wide receiver position in a 15 to 20 play range, according to Kelly. Austin underwent foot surgery prior to the season. Graduate student wide receiver Ben Skowronek injured his hamstring during the second half of the Irish victory over Duke but is also expected to be back. 

“Eventually we’re gonna look for some more production from that unit, but it has been, quite frankly, one that has not had great continuity yet,” Kelly said. “We’ve had some guys out and injured. I think what you’ll see is that that unit will be one that provides a little bit more consistency and continuity for Ian [Book] in the passing game. And I do see a unit that will produce at a higher rate. But it’s still going to be one that takes some time. There’s a lot of first-year players that are out there.”

The press conference also included discussion on the scrimmage held on Sunday in order to prepare for Saturday’s upcoming game versus the Seminoles. According to Kelly, the scrimmage also sought to work on timing, pace and tackling — especially when it came to the quarterback position. 

“We wanted to get the speed that you can’t duplicate in just a scout team preparation,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to try to bring that speed, and our defense is a good group to go against. They bring a lot of speed to the equation relative to preparations. It was important on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.”

Sophomore safety Kyle Hamilton was said to have been held out of the scrimmage due to an ankle injury sustained during the Duke game earlier in the season. However, Kelly noted this was a precaution and that Hamilton will be in the game Saturday.

The upcoming matchup against Florida State marks a first for Kelly as a coach. This game will be the first time he’s prepared a football team after having two weeks off after playing two games. However, he said the upcoming game against the Seminoles won’t be like a season opener. 

“It’s really hard to take two weeks off and think that you can just pick it up without a lot of work and attention to detail,” Kelly said. “I think we can go out and play well, but it’s going to require everybody to be really purposeful in their work this week.”

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