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Sunday Conversation With Kelly

A few minutes after Notre Dame climbed one spot to No. 10 in the Associated Press rankings, and about 14 hours after the Fighting Irish slipped by Michigan to improve to 4-0 this season, head coach Brian Kelly explained what must be accomplished in order for his team to be even better in October and November.

It begins at quarterback, where sophomore starter Everett Golson has been electric at times and uncomfortable in other situations, leading to pressure-filled appearances by junior Tommy Rees.

“Everett has a lot of respect for Tommy, in particular his knowledge of the offense,” Kelly said Sunday. “Anytime Tommy can help him with that, it makes for a very, very good relationship. On the other hand, Tommy has a lot of respect for Everett’s skill set. It’s more about a respect for each other, and that has really been key for us moving forward.

“It’s really going to center on the quarterback. Everett’s going to continue to work hard and get better. Our young receivers that are getting a lot of playing time are going to get a lot better.”

The plan is still for Golson to start. The hope is that he’ll eventually finish every game.

As has been the case on the defensive side of the ball, Kelly’s looking for more consistency on offense as Notre Dame moves into the second third of the season.

“We’ll have 10 guys do the right thing and one guy not,” he said. “We’ve left a lot of points out there that are there for the taking. It’s not just the quarterback. It’s the right tackle or the left guard or the wide receivers. We just need to gain a sense of consistency on the offensive side of the ball.

“There’s no reason why we can’t get to that end. As we progress through the season, I just want to be better in November than I am in September. We’ve played very good defense; we haven’t played as well offensively yet. I think that’s going to come.”

After the 13-6 victory over the Wolverines, Kelly said his team is starting to understand what it can accomplish this season. On Sunday, Kelly went into more detail.

“Win week in and week out,” he said. “We can win in many different ways. … I don’t think anybody has played four tougher opponents out of the gate as we’re trying to develop as a young group on the back end [of the defense] and some receivers and quarterbacks. The team is 4-0 and has beaten two top-20 teams. That’s enough for them to know that if they continue to work hard and do the right things, they can be a really, really good football team.”

Getting Eifert more involved
Though senior tight end Tyler Eifert’s 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter was crucial in preserving a Notre Dame win, it was his only catch in the last two games. Following the win, Kelly was slightly testy when it came to being questioned about Eifert’s lack of involvement, saying he’s not a receiver and the Irish need him as a blocker. Kelly conceded Sunday that Eifert has to be a bigger piece of the offense the rest of the way.

“I think we’ve missed some opportunities, quite frankly,” Kelly said. “I think you saw early in the first quarter we had him running down the middle of the field and we overthrew him. We had him on a six cut and didn’t get the ball to him [in the end zone]. He’s part of the route package and we’re not getting him the ball. We’ve got to find him and also get him more touches and continue to build on that.

“Having said that, trust me, [defenses] know where he is. He’s getting disrupted off the line of scrimmage; he’s got hands on him wherever he is. That makes it more difficult. But he’s still being extremely effective for us.”

Bye week schedule
Notre Dame’s Tuesday practice will concentrate on cleaning up things on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game, Kelly explained. Wednesday will include introducing the basic game plan for Miami and Thursday will focus on weight training. An opportunity to rest his players will be built into the week’s schedule.

Injury update
Kelly said the team got out of the Michigan game clean and injury-free.

“It’s the best medical report we’ve had over the last four weeks.”

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