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Notre Dame Football

Brian Kelly Transcript | 3.5

March 5, 2020

Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly spoke following the first practice of the spring. 

On receiver Isaiah Robertson:
"He’s still with us, still on scholarship. He’s working on some things academically; we’ve given him some time to take care of some things that he needs to work on and he’s coming back from injury, so he wouldn’t be able to practice anyway from that perspective, so we’re just giving him an opportunity to work on some things."

On receiver Joe Wilkins Jr. not at practice:
"Just ill. He’s got strep throat."

On receiver Kevin Austin Jr.:
"Kevin was out there and you can see he’s a guy that can make some plays. But there are guys, McKinley made some plays. Ben Skowronek made some plays, Lenzy was making catches all over the place, improving obviously the things that he worked on last year. Those congested catches and tough-ball catches, the balls behind him and he made those today. There’s great competition with a lot of really good receivers. Lawrence Keys looked good out there today. I could probably go on and on. It’s not about who’s one today, it’s about creating competition.

"He’s always had the talent; he’s obviously doing things right, both on and off the field. His development has been one that we’re really pleased with and that’s why you’re seeing a lot more of him on a day like today."

On finalizing fifth-year players:
"It has been submitted, but none of that would come through until I think May 15. The middle of May is when all of those are officially cleared. We don’t think there will be any issues nor with Crawford."

On message to Mike Mickens and John McNulty:
"The first part of that is just making sure that they understand what my expectations are of our coaches, which is demanding but not demeaning. And clearly understanding that our guys have high expectations and you are to meet those with your preparation and your teaching and your ability to motivate our players to the levels necessary to be at a championship level. So, setting those standards.

"Obviously teaching the fundamentals of the game. This about technique. In spring practice, we’re not out to win. We’ve already won the spring game, so this is really about building that success and building that competency in the group that you have. They’re really good teachers and they’re different in their own right. But building success and competency with the group and that’s what they can do, and they’ve proven they can do that."

On the decision to hire Tommy Rees as offensive coordinator:
"I don’t know that this has been talked about as much, what I was looking for in the offensive coordinator and one of the key components there is that I wanted the coordinator to be the quarterbacks coach. And I just think that that relationship is really key to having great communication and some of the nuances that occur in play-calling require that that relationship be with the coordinator. My success and my experience has found if you’re not coaching at that position, there’s a bit of a separation that can occur. I wanted it to be at that quarterback position. Tommy had done that and was on a job interview during the bowl preparation and (I) really liked the way that that went. 

"So his relationships are really good. What really has been, for me, impressive is his relationships with all the players. Not just the quarterbacks. Because you can’t just be the offensive coordinator and the quarterback coach. You’ve got to have great relationships with the offensive linemen, the offensive line coach, the running backs, the running back coach; all of them. He commands the room. He has really good interpersonal skills. He has a good sense and awareness, and he’s going to do a great job at the position that he’s been hired for."

On Lance Taylor and Tommy Rees being cohesive and leading to better offensive line play:
"I don’t know what you mean by better offensive line play. Compared to what? I don’t know that we were that bad last year. We scored a lot of points. There seems to be this narrative out there that we weren’t very good at running the football. We were a pretty good offense last year. We keep parsing last year. Our job is to win football games, and we’re going to continue to work on that focus of everybody needs to improve in every facet. 

"It’s not just the offensive line. It’s going to be tight end play, running backs, quarterbacks. There’s kind of this pervasive feeling that the offensive line has got to get better. I’ve got to get better, the wide receivers have got to get better, everybody’s got to get better and across the board. I think we can get off that train of the offensive line has got to get better. Everybody’s got to get better."

On thoughts on the potential changes to the transfer rule:
"Look, I think that ship’s sailed. Something is going to happen relative to transferring. The ACC has approved that, so does it really matter what I think? How does it really matter? I’m sure they do, and whatever I say is going to be taken 800 different ways.

"This is about getting student-athletes to be student-athletes. If there’s a student-athlete component in transferring, I’m fine with it. I think you should give them the opportunity as long as they’re students and athletes. That’s really my only comment on it.

"Look, I was allowed to go from Central Michigan to Cincinnati. I got to move up. I got to move up from Cincinnati to Notre Dame. If players want to move and move up, I don’t have a problem with that. But I had to do some things to move up; I had to be successful and do things the right way and follow the NCAA rules and be a good citizen. So I think, you know, you don’t just get to choose and do things, whatever, just because you want to do them. So as long as they’re thoughtful and have some parameters, I think it’s fine."

On Ian Book's leadership:
"I think his presence itself has been great. He’s thoughtful. What’s great leadership? To me, when you battle through adversity, after the Michigan game, for him to lead our football team to six consecutive wins, that’s pretty good. That shows some resilience and some leadership and all those guys know that. They want to follow a guy like that, just because of his actions from last year. So he’s got a ton of credibility and a lot of respect from his peers. 

"He doesn’t really need to walk around and scream and yell; he’s got a presence about him. He just needs to be Ian Book. Complete a shit-load of passes. That would be great. He keeps doing that stuff and leads in the manner of who he is, he doesn’t need to be anybody else, just be Ian Book and I think he’ll be fine."

On knowing if Mike Mickens and Tommy Rees would be coaches:
"I thought Tommy was just somebody that had that presence about him, that he wanted to always be in this profession. I didn’t know about Mike, really. Mike was very cerebral, very smart. He could always give you back what game plans were and what we wanted to do. He was really a sharp player, but I never knew that he wanted to get into the business. But Tommy was a no-brainer."

On why John McNulty was a good fit:
"I think that we really needed somebody dedicated to the position, and I think in the interviewing process, what I really liked about his presentation to me, was his focus solely on teaching the techniques and his experience working with multiple tight ends. I thought, you know, last year when your offensive coordinator is the tight ends coach, the guy that gets left out sometimes is the tight end because he has so many other responsibilities that that position in itself required much more focus and attention. 

"I thought he did a great job of showing why he should get this job. I liked his presentation, I liked the way he handled himself, and I liked his experience. And I liked his recruiting experience, geographically as well. So there were a lot of things to like about him, but primarily it was his focus on the position."

On Chris Watt back as a graduate assistant:
"Excited about Chris, obviously. Loved him as a player. His presence amongst our players is recognizable, still. He kind of has that attachment to the McGlincheys and the Nelsons and certainly the Eiferts and the Martins. That group has been very successful, so he carries a lot of that. In himself, he was a tough, physical, hard-nosed player and had a lot of versatility. A very smart player and he brings that to the coaching. He will be a big add for us."

On Kerry Cooks:
"We’re in the process, there’s an opening here, we’ve got to go through the H.R. process, but we have an analyst position open."

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