Tuesdays with BK: Boston College edition


As Brian Kelly prepares to rally his troops and return to his hometown of Boston, he took questions from the assembled media. Here’s a quick look as some highlights:


A few observations:

I’m glad Kelly took a moment to address Cierre Wood. While everybody was hyped up to see Cierre perform after a dazzling Blue-Gold game and a nice opener against Purdue, Kelly is right when he reminds us that he’s only a kid playing his fifth college football game.

I’m finding a rhyme and reason to Kelly’s choices in press conferences, and after taking a week to call out Cierre and noticing that it didn’t necessarily help him, Kelly’s trying a different route to get the most out of a talented, but raw running back. It’s a smart move and shows that BK has some feel and is flexible in how he deals with different personalities on the team.


Kelly addressed the play of the special teams and how they haven’t been up to his expectations yet.

“I think we had higher expectations. We have not punted the ball very
well, and we have not been using the word that I use, we have not been
dynamic other than our punt return earlier in the year,” Kelly said. “So, yeah, we haven’t gotten the kind of production that we’re looking
for. Now, Stanford kicked the ball in a position where we couldn’t be
dynamic on kickoff return. But I think you’re absolutely right. I had
higher expectations at this point. We’re still working at it. We expect
to be there. We’re just not there yet.”

In reference to Stanford, that position was directionally correct and in the end zone by Nate Whitaker, something Irish fans would’ve loved to see out of former Irish kicker.


Kelly addressed the maturation of Dayne Crist, a seemingly weekly topic after football games. Kelly pointed out the importance of confidence and retention — two key attributes that great quarterbacks must have.

“How do you get consistent? You gain confidence. When he’s confident now,
he’s really, really good,” Kelly said of Crist. “He loses a little bit of confidence at times,
that’s where we’re working on the development of Dayne Crist, and
that’s what he has to bring to each and every game. If there’s a bad play, forget about it. Let’s move on to the next. So that just takes a little bit more time.

“It certainly was a game that provided so many opportunities for him to
grow. Not just from completions to incompletions, but in leadership and
body language and all of the things that quarterbacks need to develop.
He saw a lot of things. I think he learned quite a bit. Now, as I told him yesterday in our meetings, it’s about retention.
It’s about making sure that we don’t have to go down this road again.”

Crist has a great opportunity to get his confidence back, as well as implement some of the things he saw over the past few weeks this weekend, in a most-likely hostile environment.


For those of you that have been watching, it’s pretty clear that Carlo Calabrese is a total gamer. Kelly confirmed as much today:

“You know, he plays really well on game day. Carlo’s one of those guys
that just has it. He has a great sense for the football, and sometimes
we didn’t see that during practice,” Kelly said. “So leading up to the start of the season, not seeing him a lot in game
situations, we weren’t sure what to expect. Game time he plays really,
really well. He’s on things.  Mac is still a really good player for us. And when he gets his
opportunities, he’s got to be productive when he gets in there, because
Carlo right now has been so productive.”

Rewatching last week’s game, you could tell the physicality that Carlo brought to the front seven when he was in there. Against a team like BC that’s going to rely on their run game, expect to see a whole lot more of Carlo.

The Irish have found two front-line middle linebackers that’ll certainly do their part in stuffing the run. They already knew they had Manti Te’o. I don’t think they knew they had Calabrese.   

Even amidst chaos, Kelly expecting USC’s best

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Rocky Hayes, Blaise Taylor

USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was fired on Monday, with interim head coach Clay Helton taking the reins of the Trojan program during tumultuous times. Helton will be the fourth different USC head coach to face Notre Dame in as many years, illustrative of the chaos that’s shaken up Heritage Hall in the years since Pete Carroll left for the NFL.

All eyes are on the SC program, with heat on athletic director Pat Haden and the ensuing media circus that only Los Angeles can provide. But Brian Kelly doesn’t expect anything but their best when USC boards a plane to take on the Irish in South Bend.

While the majority of Notre Dame’s focus will be inward this week, Kelly did take the time on Sunday and Monday to talk with his team about the changes atop the Trojan program, and how they’ll likely impact the battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh.

“We talked about there would be an interim coach, and what that means,” Kelly said. “Teams come together under those circumstances and they’re going to play their very best. And I just reminded them of that.”

While nobody on this Notre Dame roster has experienced a coaching change, they’ve seen their share of scrutiny. The Irish managed to spring an upset not many saw coming against LSU last year in the Music City Bowl after a humiliating defeat against the Trojans and amidst the chaos of a quarterbacking controversy. And just last week, we saw Charlie Strong’s team spring an upset against arch rival Oklahoma when just about everybody left the Longhorns for dead.

“I think you look at the way Texas responded this past weekend with a lot of media scrutiny,” Kelly said Tuesday. “I expect USC to respond the same way, so we’re going to have to play extremely well.”

Outside of the head coaching departure, it’s difficult to know if there’ll be any significant difference between a team lead by Sarkisian or the one that Helton will lead into battle. The offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach has been at USC for six years, and has already held the title of interim head coach when he led the Trojans to a 2013 Las Vegas Bowl title after Lane Kiffin was fired and Ed Orgeron left the program after he wasn’t given the full time position.

Helton will likely call plays, a role he partially handled even when Sarkisian was on the sideline. The defense will still be run by Justin Wilcox. And more importantly, the game plan will be executed by a group of players that are among the most talented in the country.

“They have some of the finest athletes in the country. I’ve recruited a lot of them, and they have an immense amount of pride for their program and personal pride,” Kelly said. “So they will come out with that here at Notre Dame, there is no question about that.”

Irish add commitment from CB Donte Vaughn

Donte Vaughn

Notre Dame’s recruiting class grew on Monday. And in adding 6-foot-3 Memphis cornerback Donte Vaughn, it grew considerably.

The Irish added another jumbo-sized skill player in Vaughn, beating out a slew of SEC offers for the intriguing cover man. Vaughn picked Notre Dame over offers from Auburn, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Texas A&M among others.

He made the announcement on Monday, his 18th birthday:

It remains to be seen if Vaughn can run like a true cornerback. But his length certainly gives him a skill-set that doesn’t currently exist on the Notre Dame roster.

Interestingly enough, Vaughn’s commitment comes a cycle after Brian VanGorder made news by going after out-of-profile coverman Shaun Crawford, immediately offering the 5-foot-9 cornerback after taking over for Bob Diaco, who passed because of Crawford’s size. An ACL injury cut short Crawford’s freshman season before it got started, but not before Crawford already proved he’ll be a valuable piece of the Irish secondary for years to come.

Vaughn is another freaky athlete in a class that already features British Columbia’s Chase Claypool. With a safety depth chart that’s likely turning over quite a bit in the next two seasons, Vaughn can clearly shift over if that’s needed, though Notre Dame adding length like Vaughn clearly points to some of the shifting trends after Richard Sherman went from an average wide receiver to one of the best cornerbacks in football, and Vaughn will be asked to play on the outside.

Vaughn is the 15th member of Notre Dame’s 2016 signing class. He is the fifth defensive back, joining safeties D.J. Morgan, Jalen Elliott and Spencer Perry along with cornerback Julian Love. The Irish project to take one more.

With Notre Dame expecting another huge recruiting weekend with USC coming to town, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Irish staff close out this recruiting class.