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Sunday, June 16, 2024
The Observer

Kelly discusses Book, running backs at post-game teleconference

After No. 8 Notre Dame’s 30-27 victory over USC on Saturday night, Irish head coach Brian Kelly addressed the media in his weekly post-game teleconference. Kelly talked about the victory, senior quarterback Ian Book and injuries after the win.

Junior kicker Jonathan Doerer was an integral part of the win Saturday, and Brian Kelly commented on the development of special teams coordinator Brian Polian and his unit.

“I think everything is an evolution to being part of the program. Brian’s last year was his first year in the program, and I just think he was settling into what I wanted him doing within the program. I think there was a bit of a transition last year, and I think he feels comfortable now with the direction that I wanted to see the special team group go,” Kelly said. “I just think it was that natural evolution of coming into the program and becoming a lot more comfortable over the last couple of years here. Obviously we spend a lot of time together and we’ve had a number of conversations in terms of the way I wanted to see that group come together and he’s done a great job with that.”

Erin Fennessy | The Observer
Irish junior kicker Jonathan Doerer follows through on a kickoff during Notre Dame's 30-27 victory over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium. Doerer made three field goals, all over 40 yards.

Kelly went on to comment on junior running back Jafar Armstrong, who has been injured for several weeks following Notre Dame’s season opener at Louisville. Kelly said Armstrong’s injury is improving, and the junior could have gotten some snaps Saturday, but USC’s defensive scheme wasn’t suitable for the opportunity.

“He got quite a bit of work. We wanted to be very specific in terms of what he was going to do for us and the way the game kind of unfolded, it never really materialized. We thought that we would get him involved in more of the passing game, but because of the way they played us, we didn’t get those kinds of opportunities,” Kelly said. “It was just the structure of the way USC played us more than any issues relative to his preparedness. He was prepared to play kind of what we had talked about earlier, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 plays. But the way, again, they defended us didn’t allow him to get as many opportunities as we had thought.”

Kelly also went on to reflect on the maturity of his squad not only Saturday night but in general this season.

“I just think it’s a mature team in the way that they handle themselves. They know that they have to work. They know that they have to do the little things the right way, embrace some of the difficulties of preparing whether it be the weight room or the extra film time, practicing for two hours and putting in the time. I just think that they handle it with a mindset that we’re embracing this and it’s part of what you have to do to be successful,” Kelly said. “And then on game day, they flip that practice mentality to a competitive mindset. They just love to compete and they don’t get ahead of themselves. They stay one play at a time and stay pretty locked in. I think that’s what we’ve seen in terms of how they’ve competed all year so far.”

Although senior quarter back Ian Book did not put on his best performance Saturday night, Kelly said he is confident in the senior’s decision making and overall development.

“The quarterback is always going to be scrutinized to a level that is fair, unfair — you can always do that. He led our football team to a victory against USC, we put 30 points on the board, didn’t turn the football over and used his legs to really spur us on late in the game. If you really want to talk about what you want from your quarterback is you want him to be a guy that helps you win games and he is helping us win games,” he said. “Can he be better in certain areas? Absolutely. And I think he would tell you that. But he’s making good decisions. He’s taking care of the football. He’s using all of his assets to his ability, meaning running and throwing and he’s working on the things he needs to work at each and every week. I’m proud of what he’s doing.”

Senior running back Tony Jones Jr. also had a fantastic game against the Trojans, and Brian Kelly expressed his confidence in the running back unit as a whole.

“I think Jahmir [Smith, sophomore,] is a physical runner. He has got a little bit of an explosive step to him. But a big back, similar to Tony. C’bo [Flemister, sophomore,] we saw, he’s got some elusiveness to him, hard to bring down, and then obviously, what we’ve seen from [sophomore] Avery Davis is a guy that can be very effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. That’s really where it is now until we get Jafar, which he’s a little bit of all those things when you put them all together. He’s got some explosiveness, he’s got some size, he’s got the ability to catch the football,” he said. “So Jafar has been that guy that has a little bit of all those together, but obviously the injury has put him in a position where we haven’t been able to see that and hopefully moving forward we will.”

Kelly went on to reflect on his team’s performance thus far, commenting specifically on how each week has presented a new challenge for this squad.

“Just the way we’ve had to win each game. It’s been a little bit different. Each week has required our team to find different ways to win. This week was a team that was very difficult to defend in the passing game. Georgia was a team that obviously beat us, but we had to defend a great running game. Virginia, they had a quarterback that we had to contain. So it just seems like each week it’s been a different challenge for us and finding different ways to win,” Kelly said. “I just liked the fact that our guys, regardless of what the situation is, can adapt and adjust during the game, late in the game, to whatever the situation is and find ways to win games. That’s a mark ... Really, at the end of the day, what you’re looking for is a team that believes and knows how to win, regardless of the circumstances finds ways to win games.”