Brian Kelly spent over 45-minutes talking to the media today, getting everybody up to speed on Everett Golson’s recovery from a mild concussion to prepping his team for BYU, which many people are calling a trap game.
There’s plenty of good stuff in here, so I’ll link to the video if you’ve got some time on your hands, but also clip some of the things I found most interesting.
Right now, Everett Golson isn’t cleared to practice yet after leaving the game after a nasty helmet-to-helmet collision in the fourth quarter. Kelly broke down the process that Golson needs to go through with the doctors before he’s let back onto the field to participate in drills.
“Well, there’s a number of different things. First of all, there’s a balance test, which he passed,” Kelly explained. “There’s also just an exam that he’s passed, and then there are symptoms, whether it’s sensitivity, agitation, light sensitivity, all those things he’s passed. Then there’s a computer test, a cognitive test that he has to pass, and he’ll take that again today. Once he does that, he’ll be allowed to go back to practice.
“Again, I would say, there is a protocol, there are standards. They are independent of the head football coach. This is strictly on our medical staff. They make all of those decisions, and they come to me and tell me when he’s ready to go.”
In an era where USC receiver Robert Woods reenters a game after having this happen, it should be applauded that Notre Dame is treating Golson with precaution. (Although not everybody agrees.) Still, don’t expect Kelly to scale back any running in Golson’s game. If he’s cleared to play, he’ll need to use his legs against a defense like BYU’s.
“I think we probably have to continue to move him,” Kelly said. “That’s one of the great strengths is his ability to run. He’s just got to take great care of the football. And we’ll get through it. It’s a painstaking process right now. But we’ll get him to hold onto the football.”
In the comments below the good, bad, and ugly, more than a few people pointed out the struggles Troy Niklas had on Saturday. It was a tough day at the office for Niklas who also drew one of the game’s tougher assignments: blocking the physical edge players of Stanford. Niklas fought hard at the position, and also allowed Tyler Eifert to play split wide, leading to Notre Dame’s critical touchdown.
Here’s how Kelly classified Saturday’s experience for Niklas.
“There’s no question, he was challenged,” Kelly said. “He wasn’t taken out of the game at any point. He was right in the thick of it. We put him in a role that some could argue was a difficult one for him to succeed in. What I loved about him, as I said earlier in my remarks about our team, is that that only will help him as a football player because he went against such a very good football player. But he was there when we won late and contributed greatly to the success in the last drive where we were able to run the football effectively. So all those things are confidence builders. Because he knows, hey, sometimes I get my butt kicked here. But late when he needed it, he made some really big blocks for us and that just helps your confidence immensely.”
Kelly talked about Niklas’ technical problems against Stanford, over-extending himself as a blocker and getting his body out of position. He was also complimentary about the young tight end, who has already forced himself into a key role on this offense, even while building himself into a true tight end.
“We have to continue to work on his base,” Kelly said. “We’ll get him stronger, not necessarily from the waist up, but the waist below. When he gains more strength in the lower body, he’s just going to be absolutely immovable, and that will come.”
It’s a question that needed asking, and Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated asked Kelly about the division of carries between George Atkinson, Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Specifically, if it was time to recalibrate the touch distribution with Wood averaging over two-yards more per carry than Riddick, and Atkinson leading the entire group.
Not surprisingly, Kelly said the situation is a bit more nuanced than that.
“We are getting way too much out of per‑carry statistics,” Kelly said. We are looking at circumstances in the game, play call, matching of personnel versus the defensive personnel that’s in the game. A lot of those things are not seen within the statistical numbers. So we think they are all very good backs. I think if there’s any comment that needs to be made on the three running backs is we still have to continue to get more touches for George Atkinson. It’s less about Cierre and Theo, because they know their role, they have accepted their role. George has, as well. We just think that from a coaching standpoint, if there is anything amongst the three backs, we have to get George some more touches.”
I’m not sure I’m a 100 percent believer that the difference between Riddick and Wood is circumstance, but there’s also a very big role for Theo in this offense as a versatile pass-catching running back, even if he lacks the vision of Wood. That said, it’s not Cierre Wood isn’t a decent back in space catching passes, so while Kelly talked about getting the ball into Atkinson’s hands via the pass, I’d like to see it happen for Wood as well.