Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly
QUESTION: TCU obviously did a pretty good job against Air Force. They got out to an early lead. Is that one of the keys for you this weekend? 

BRIAN KELLY: Yeah, that is huge. When you get them off schedule as to what they want to do, I think everyone in college football would have the same problem. I don't think it's just Air Force. TCU got off to a quick start, put them in a tough situation and obviously scored some points. TCU is a pretty good team as well. We watch all that film and try to fit it to what we want.

Q: I'm sure you're looking to do the same thing.

BK: I'll take that outcome, yeah. We have to be careful. They do so many things; you can't defend everything. You've got to put yourself fundamentally in a good position. But you can't be guessing out there on every call.

Q: How can they be…I mean, are they exceeding the 20-hour (practice) rule?

BK: They must have really smart kids, and Troy (Calhoun) does a great job. He breaks all of his tendencies. He doesn't show a formation and show similar plays. On third down, they run the ball as much as they throw it. He does a good job of breaking all those traditional tendencies.

Q: How weird will it be for Troy Niklas going against his brother and how often do you recall seeing match-ups like that?

BK: I remember in the recruiting process pushing hard that, 'Hey, come to Notre Dame, we play Air Force this year and you'll get a chance to play against your brother.' So I remember it from that perspective. It's always great when brothers get a chance to compete against one another, and I know it will be a great afternoon for the family because they'll go home winners.

Q: How is (Danny) Spond doing? Is he ready to go?

BK: He's good, he's cleared, he'll be on all our 'run' teams and he'll be in a back-up position at the drop.

Q: How about Daniel (Smith), any progress with him?

BK: Yeah, he's making great progress. He was out there today. Limited, he's not full, but he got individual work done, he's doing (skeleton), things like that. So he's making good progress. I would say after the bye week, he'll be full-go.

Q: We were talking to Tommy (Rees) about (pass) protections today. How often is he right? His percentage is what?

BK: I think we've only seen twice where he got fooled. One time against Pittsburgh where they brought up a Will linebacker into the boundary and they came from the field. And then one other time when we were in no-back and he thought the front dictated it. But he's closer to 98 percent correct. Yeah, he's good at that.

Q: That kind of diagnosis, is that complicated, is it pretty straightforward?

BK: I think you have to have good football intelligence and I've always felt that the young players can't play until they can protect themselves, and he knows how to protect himself. That gave him a huge jump on everybody else in terms of understanding how to protect himself.

Q: Last week you mentioned guys loving to play the game, it means a lot to them, and Harrison (Smith) was talking about it today. If you're at Notre Dame, doesn't everybody love to play the game? Or have you found that not necessarily to be the case?

BK: I haven't found that to necessarily be the case. They're playing for a lot of other reasons. 

Sometimes they think they love to play, but you know when somebody loves to play. When it's hot and you're tired and you've got to push through it or things aren't going your way. Going out there, you can tell, I can tell when somebody loves what they're doing. When they're passionate about it…when it's just a job to you guys, I can tell it and you can tell it. When it's more than just a job, when it's something that you love, it's the same thing about playing the game.

Q: What about in recruiting, can you see that on film, or do you have to sit down with a kid to know?

BK: No, you've got to sit down with him and get a sense and feel. The weekends usually give us the best indication, just by questions they ask, things that they want to talk about, and again, they don't need to talk about football the whole time because I don't like to talk about football the whole time. You can find that out when you get a chance to spend some time with them.

Q: Do you have maybe a couple of questions that you always throw out at them…

BK: I sure do.

Q: Can you share one of those?

BK: No (laughter). You guys are way too smart from me.

Q: Building off the Jonas (Gray) stuff from yesterday, you told him he had to change how he ran. Did he have to change how he approached football?

BK: Oh, that was part of it. Yeah, absolutely, I thought he was a little silly. You can be who you are, and I think that's good. I don't want them to all be the same. But you can't bring that to practice, and what he's changed this year…I'm not going to get too in depth, but he had a conversation with Jerome Bettis, and since that conversation, I've seen a difference in his behavior…Not behavior, that's not the right word, his demeanor when he comes to practice. It's just a culmination of the message, what we expect of him, maybe other people telling him, 'Listen, this is what you've got to be like.' I've seen that really change his demeanor.

Q: When did that conversation (with Bettis) take place?

BK: Jerome was up here for the fantasy camp, and when Jerome was here for fantasy camp, he got a chance to talk to some of the running backs.

Q: Brian, do you encourage old Notre Dame players to talk to the current guys, or do you kind of let that happen naturally?

BK: No, our guys are great. Like Tim Brown did the game at Purdue. He came over and he spent a little time talking to the receivers. I think that's a very healthy thing, but they're great (about) checking with me. They're not just going to jump in here and have a staff meeting with our players. No, I welcome that, especially guys that have done so much and accomplished so much.

Q: I didn't see DaVaris (Daniels) on the field Saturday. I might have missed him. Has he played this year?

BK: He has not played yet.

Q: Okay, are you to the point where after Saturday, if he doesn't get in, you may think about holding him out, or is that still a week-by-week thing?

BK: We're getting close to that time. I want to play him. I want to get him in there. Sometimes, you get caught up in doing some other things. But I want to get him in the game so that thought is still out there until further notice.

Q: Is there a higher authority?

BK: No, there isn't, but there are conversations that take place and those conversations require me to sign off on him, and I wasn't able to sign off on him.

Q: Tommy (Rees) missed a couple passes deep…

BK: Did he?!?! That son of a gun. That's the first I've seen it.

Q: Is that more a maturity, just putting it where only your guys can catch it?

BK: He's got a low arm angle as you know. His arm slot is really low. To throw that deep ball, you've got to get your elbow up, you've got to get over the top, and we work on that every day. We're bringing it up. We're getting it to that point. But his arm slot has to change a little bit on certain throws. He's done a really good job of adjusting his arm slot on the screen game, and he needs to continue to improve on some of our fades and deep balls.

Q: Last Wednesday, you said it was 90 crisp minutes and you wanted to keep their attention for Saturday. Were you able to do that (today)?

BK: We were 90 minutes again, 18 periods, two of those were special teams, additional special teams work. So yeah, we're getting our work done, but we're not out there very long.

Q: When you were working short yardage, you changed up your practice routine, goal line…Is there a similar fix on special teams? Can you do more, or does Air Force prevent you from doing that?

BK: We've got to coach better. Everyone wants to put this on Mike Elston, but there are six other coaches that are responsible for those teams. They are our lieutenants on each one of those units, and each one of them has to be accountable for doing a better job. Now, having said that, I think we all know on the other end what players have to play better. But we've got to coach better, too. But this is not just on Mike Elston. He can't run that whole group himself. He's got six assistant coaches that are responsible for certain aspects of it and they've got to coach better and we've got to get more out of our guys.

Q: Different approach with Kona Schwenke now that he's been on the field?

BK: Yeah, it was unfortunate that he had to play. Ethan went down in the first series. We were short-handed without (Stephon) Tuitt being there and he had to play. That was an unfortunate situation, but we're there to win games first and foremost and he'll continue to be in that backup role.

Q: How has Stephon responded this week?

BK: Excellent, really pleased with him. I just like the way handled himself. He apologized to the team for letting them down. Took full responsibility for his actions. We talked to his mom, and they all understand as a family why he's here, and that's to get a degree. That's why he made that decision.

Q: Personnel questions. Tate Nichols?

BK: Shoulder surgery. He's out for the year. We didn't want to wait any longer on that shoulder. We probably could have continued to get by with a harness, but we want him full-go for spring ball because he'll be vying for a starting position, so we decided to do the surgery.

Q: Cam Roberson?

BK: Making progress. Terrible knee injury. Still working at it.

Q: Chris Badger?

BK: Yeah, I was asked earlier. We're not really sure. We're going to take the bye week to figure that one out. I haven't had any contact, and we're really going to have to sit down and figure out what that situation is.

Q: A guy we haven't asked about, but his name keeps appearing on the travel list…Joe Schmidt, a walk-on linebacker. What has he done?

BK: He's a good player. Tough, physical, got a great sense for the ball. He's just in a tough position, but he's going to play for us. That guy is going to be on the field. He's a football player. I like that kid.

Q: Brian, when was Tate's surgery?

BK: Friday. We'll be doing Tate, we're going to do (Anthony) Rabasa. He's practicing right now, but we want to get these guys 100 percent for spring ball. They both had sublexing shoulders that were coming in and out. We were able to shoulder harness them, they were able to practice effectively for us. But we don't want them to be held back in the spring because they're going to obviously be good football players for us. October 1st was kind of a deadline for us. Rabasa will have it done here in the next few days.

Q: You had a luxury last year with (David) Ruffer when everything was going between the pipes. I know it's not all on him, is there anything technical that needs correcting?

BK: He hit the ball pretty good. He kicked one into the wind at 49 yards and just missed it to the right. And then he kicked one, hit it good, just a little low. I'm not pushing the panic button there. Even (Kyle) Brindza. He didn't kick it great, but his hang time was four-plus. Even though he kicked it to the 15, the average field position was the 23-yard line on kicks that didn't get to the goal line. We've got to cover better, we've got to run better. Our 'run teams'…our players are too good. We've got to do a better job and we're working at it.