Brian Kelly started his weekly game press conferences today with 45 minutes of discussing Temple, the week one depth chart, and the state of the Irish heading into Saturday afternoon.
You can catch the entire press conference below, but let’s pull out the highlighter and cover some of the interesting stuff:
It seems as if Kona Schwenke looking good on UND.com practice report videos wasn’t just clever editing. The senior defensive lineman should turn into a versatile, important piece of the defensive front, especially with the injury to Tony Springmann.
From the sounds of it, Schwenke will be more than just Louis Nix’s back-up at nose guard.
“I think right now Kona has some flexibility where he could play some four and five technique for us,” Kelly said. “So I think you’ve got some flexibility. We think Tyler Stockton can come in and get some plays for us. You could obviously put that math together and figure that third rotation could be Tyler Stockton with Kona playing a little bit, as well.”
More to that point, Kelly singled out Schwenke’s work over the summer as some of the most impressive on the team. It comes at a good time as well, with Schwenke able to spell Nix in the middle but quick enough to play out on the edge of the front.
“I think defensively Kona Schwenke has been a different player in the spring than he is right now,” Kelly said. “He’s going to play a lot of football. He could play for a lot of teams and make an impact.”
It might feel like crying over spilt milk right now, but Irish fans can think back to the Purdue game two seasons ago when Schwenke was forced into the game to take limited reps because of the lack of depth up front when Stephon Tuitt was suspended. If it were up to Kelly, Schwenke would’ve sat out that season, saving a year of eligibility, which would look pretty good with Nix all but guaranteed to leave school after he graduates and head into the NFL Draft.
Still, this should be a big year for Schwenke, who still looks like a great developmental find for this staff, who plucked a 230-pound Hawaiian out of obscurity and turned him into a defensive tackle that would’ve started on just about every team but the last few.
The opening game each season comes with some surprises, especially when opponents are transitioning coaching staffs. That’s certainly the case for Temple, where head coach Matt Rhule came from the NFL and defensive coordinator Phil Snow came from Eastern Michigan.
Kelly talked about that challenge and how his team prepped for the unexpected.
“I think I know more about Eastern Michigan’s defense than I do anybody else,” Kelly said. “Coach Snow, who’s their defensive coordinator, was at Eastern Michigan last year, and I found myself talking in terms of what Eastern Michigan was doing, and clearly obviously that’s not their talent pool. They’ve got Temple players.
“So there’s that unknown… Obviously with a new quarterback, a new offensive coordinator who comes from Tennessee Chattanooga, there’s so many different variables that go into the opener first of all. Now add a new staff, a new head coach. So we have to be on guard, and from our standpoint we’ve got to take care of what we do.”
In his latest post at the Philadelphia Inquirer, John Mitchell mentioned that the Temple offense should look an awful lot like the New York Giants attack if things are working properly. They’re shy of Eli Manning, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, but it’s just another part of the difficulty that comes with scouting an opponent with transition in the coaching ranks.
More than a few people wonder about the status of the relationship between head coach and starting quarterback. It hasn’t always been duckies and bunnies between Kelly and Tommy Rees, but it sure sounds like the head coach is in the quarterback’s corner when it comes to unequivocally stating that the offense is going to be more productive this year than last.
“You know, I mean, I’ve been doing it a long time,” Kelly said. “I mean, I don’t throw bouquets out unless I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I know. Tommy Rees is going to help us score more points than we did last year, and our offensive line and our running backs and our balance at the wide receiver position is going to allow us. He’s making good decisions. He’s showing some escapability.”
While most people seem to subscribe to the mantra of “As Tommy Rees goes, so goes the Irish offense,” Kelly doesn’t quite feel that way. Mostly because of improved personnel that might not be as star-heavy as seasons past, but certainly is the most complete since Kelly arrived in South Bend.
“It’s not just going to be him,” Kelly said. “We can threaten you over the top. We can push the ball over your head. If you want to drop down on us, we’ve got some weapons that can beat you one‑on‑one, and we’ve got a quarterback that can see that and throw the ball to you. We struggled with doing that at times last year. We won’t struggle doing that this year.”