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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Brian Kelly discusses strategy heading into Virginia Tech matchup

Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly sat down Friday for the weekly “Brian Kelly Radio Show” after a wet practice, similar to the weather during last Saturday’s loss at Michigan. He discussed the lessons the game taught and how they can be applied to this Saturday’s home matchup against Virginia Tech.

“It’s hard. It’s humbling,” he said of the loss. “We had a bad day, and you can’t just say, ‘Hey, we had a bad day, let’s move on.’ You have to remind them about what it takes to be successful and [that] it’s hard to win college football games. … It teaches you lifelong lessons about adversity. This is just a game of football, but you can apply it to everything in life. There’s going to be times where you have to get back up and go to work after some difficult times. … You can’t lament it; you can’t carry it with you.”

The players also interacted with fellow students all week on campus, which Kelly said is both positive and negative.

“They get patted on the back when they’re winning a lot of games, and they have to deal with that, and then when [they] don’t play well [they’ve] got to deal with that,” he said. “I think it’s part of the learning process of playing this game and playing it at this level and playing it here at Notre Dame.”

Kelly discussed senior quarterback Ian Book. Despite Book’s subpar play Saturday, he was announced as a finalist for the 2019 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the nation’s top college quarterback, he said.

“He cares deeply about being the best quarterback he can be,” Kelly said. “I think that Ian Book is as committed as anybody we have on our team, and he wants to play better.”

Book was not the only Irish player announced to be on an award watchlist, as graduate student cornerback Shaun Crawford was named a nominee for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year award.

“He’s one of those alphas that you need on your football team,” Kelly said. “He’s tough, he’s gritty, he exemplifies all the things that maybe at times we didn’t have on Saturday, and Shaun has it. It’s good to have him back at full strength this weekend. His elbow is feeling great. … He’s going to play three different positions, and he’s going to play them well for us.”

Kelly also spoke about the players who were injured during the Michigan game.

“We will be without [senior offensive lineman] Tommy Kraemer, with the knee sprain,” Kelly said. “We’ll make a game-time decision on [senior running back] Tony Jones; he’s got an upper-body injury.”

Kelly said the other running backs are ready to take up the slack.

“[Junior] Jafar [Armstrong] … I think we had him close to 40 snaps [in practice]. He’s ready to play a big role this weekend, and he’s got the volume to do that. [Sophomore] Jahmir Smith, [junior] Avery [Davis] and [sophomore] C’Bo [Flemister] — they’re all going to play, they’re all going to have to contribute.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Kelly also discussed freshman safety Kyle Hamilton, who was recently named to the Mid-Season Freshman All-American Team, along with center Jarrett Patterson.

“I think [Hamilton] started off at a very high level,” Kelly said. “He’s just an extraordinary athlete for his size. He plays a position where there’s not many six-foot-four safeties that can move like he can move with really good instincts. … But he’s like the other freshmen … a lot of similarities in terms of the ups and downs of a season.”

After a game where the weather had a negative impact on the offense’s ability to play well, Kelly discussed the team’s preparation for dealing with bad conditions.

“We’re able to actually be inside for special teams because of the bad weather and then go outside for a little bit and use the bad weather, because we want to be able to throw in the bad weather if we have it on Saturday,” he said.

Looking forward to this Saturday’s matchup, Kelly discussed the strengths of the Virginia Tech team.

“[Hokies defensive coordinator] Bud Foster [is] still leading their defense, and he’s doing a really good job with some young players — they’ve lost some players on the defensive line in particular — and still mixing it up, still aggressive, and they’re a tough team to play,” Kelly said.

The Hokies offense also cannot be ignored, averaging 175 yards per game on the ground and 220 yards per game through the air.

“They’ve got three different quarterbacks that could play, so you’ve got to go over and look at what [redshirt junior Ryan] Willis does, the drop-back quarterback, you’ve got to look at what [redshirt freshman Quincy] Patterson [II] does, you’ve got to look at what [redshirt sophomore Hendon] Hooker does,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of different moving pieces on Thursday where you’re really trying to differentiate some of the calls that you might have on defense.”

After their loss to Michigan, the Irish are looking to secure their 15th-straight win at home.

“The guys are anxious to play,” Kelly said. “They want to get last week behind them and get back in the winning ways. … I think everybody’s a little testy — a little ornery, if you will — and anxious to get back out there and play.”