Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Brian Polian Notebook | Fall Camp

August 23, 2019

Notre Dame special teams coach and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian provided a few updates his week. 
On putting his kickers and punter in pressure situations:
“Coach (Brian) Kelly and I have gone out of our way to try and create as many pressure-filled situations as we can. We’ve certainly done more organized field goal reps in camp than we have in the previous two. That’s the nature of college football. You’ve got to replace guys, and we want to put them in as many situations as we can. I think everybody has responded well.”

On who could be on coverage units:
“We had a lot of discussions about guys like (Chase) Claypool, (Jalen) Elliott and (Alohi) Gilman. We need to have those guys on the coverage units. Coach Kelly and I were showing some film to the team in Culver, and we are watching Claypool go down and make tackle after tackle on this film that we were watching. We need guys like that on our coverage units. You will again see starters in specific areas. 

“As far as core guys, Kyren Williams, Shayne Simon, Jordan Genmark Heath, guys like Bo Bauer. That group has developed nicely in terms of guys you will see in multiple units. Jonathan Jones has been a good teams player for us the last two years. There’s no shortage of personnel right now. We got a little dinged up at the wide receiver spot throughout camp and a little bit at the tight end spot. You try to be smart and protect guys, but I think overall, we are happy with the people we have involved with the kicking game.”

On who will be the kick returner(s):
“We are still working through that stuff. The loss of Michael Young — Michael did a good job of returning kickoffs last year. We are still working through that process. The good thing about the specialists is that we still have a couple of more practices left before we’re game planning. We still have some evaluation opportunities left as it relates to those spots. As we finish up toward this weekend, I think Coach and I will sit down and solidify those things. 

“We are still looking at multiple people right now as it relates to kickoff return, adjusting our philosophy — which I know a lot of people around the country are. When is it that you want to fair catch and take the ball on the 25? When is it more advantageous to try to return the ball? Frankly, how I thought about it a year ago — when the new rule was implemented — to now has probably changed a little bit in terms of what really is a legit return opportunity. We are still working through those things and we have a couple more practices to go where we hit the game plan stuff and when we really set it two-deep.”

On replacing Tyler Newsome and Justin Yoon:
“Not ideal."

On the young kickers:
“I think Jay Bramblett has done an incredible job. Having him here for the spring was really good, and it was really important. I don’t think people know how hard Jay worked academically to make sure that he could arrive here at the (spring) semester. He worked really, really hard. I’m just really proud of the work he did to make that a possibility. He has fit in really nicely with our team. 

"I think the spring was a little bit of a struggle. We kept putting holes in the ceiling of Loftus. I had this young man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and I have him out in March at seven in the morning on LaBar. He couldn’t find a groove, and frankly, I couldn’t blame him. But he has really steadily improved over the course of this spring. 

“Harrison Leonard coming here as a non-scholarship player from Avon Old Farms has done a really good job. He does not have the natural strength that Jon does, but he’s three years younger. He has really represented himself well. 

“The last two weeks I think Jon Doerer has been really, really good. I’m pleased thus far. Look, you are replacing two of the best in the history of the program. So we don’t expect them to be the next Justin Yoon. We don’t expect them to be the next Tyler Newsome. We just need them to do their jobs to the best of their ability, and we’ll clean up from there.”

On Jay Bramblett getting through a rough spring:
“Getting through the rough patch in the spring speaks to his maturity. It speaks to the support around him with his teammates. It speaks to his family and how he’s wired. I think there’s a maturity there that’s beyond his years, especially as a true freshman. 

"Today was a really good day. There have been other really good days, but there was not a single mishit. We were asking him to move it all over the field today, and he did that well. But again, it’s just a snapshot. It is one day. I kind of like it when you guys show up to practice. It adds a little more pressure, and it’s pressure we can’t create. It’s fun to watch them react to that. I thought everybody did a good job today.” 

On tweaking Harrison Leonard’s mechanics:
“Specialists are like golfers. They are always tinkering. We literally have a tape measure to make sure the distance we step away from the ball is within a three to four-inch radius, or area, every time. So yeah, they are constantly tinkering. We found something earlier in camp. 

"In fact, Katie Meyers, from our recruiting office in sports media, took a photo during practice and shared it with us. We saw something in the photo, and I had a hunch, but you couldn’t quite see it from tape. Katie took a picture from ground level, and we saw that and said, ‘Whoa. We’ve got to get that fixed.’ So it’s all hands on deck. We will take the help wherever we are going to get it. These guys, they tinker, and we found something in camp that we could get fixed and it’s helped a little bit.”

On Leonard embracing the tweak:
“Very well. I like his makeup, too. He’s not happy-go-lucky like Jay is. He’s more serious like Justin that way. Very technical. Good maturity, takes coaching, it’s not too big for him and obviously, he’s just out of high school. But as he gets bigger, stronger and more flexible within our strength program, I think he will get better and better. If we had to put him in the game, Coach and I are confident that he would do fine.” 

On assessing the 2020 recruiting class and spots left:
“There’s a couple in play. There’s not going to be a hard number. Those things are always a little fluid. We are not going to get up here and say we don’t feel good about where we are in the 2020 (class). We feel good because there are guys that — I can’t mention names, obviously — we feel very good over the last couple years recruiting fit-guys. People we believe will succeed at Notre Dame within our program and have the traits. 

“Coach Kelly talks about those traits. We are constantly seeking those traits. The other things is within the recruiting world with stars and rankings and all that stuff, as long as we believe in them, that’s all we are worried about. Those rankings and things, they fluctuate. They go up and down. Everybody says, ‘Well, you don’t miss on too many five-stars.’ Yeah, I know that. But we have to find the right three- and four-stars that fit us. I think the last couple years, our staff has done an incredible job of finding the right guys.”

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