I think everyone that follows Notre Dame football will stop overlooking service academies after the last neutral site game that was played in the New York metro area. And from the sounds of Brian Kelly’s Tuesday remarks, he and the Irish are certainly preparing for a 6-4 Army team that could easily be 9-1.
Here are some highlights from Kelly’s press conference, courtesy of the video team, and as usual — I’ll give some thoughts below:
A few thoughts:
Most probably wondered what those gigantic playcards were that were being held up on the sidelines by one of the backup quarterbacks in the Red Army. For those that have watched Oregon this year, Chip Kelly has employed similar cards this season and now the Irish were doing it to help quarterback Tommy Rees… or as Brian Kelly noted, to stop the espionage, as the team’s codes had been cracked.
Kelly explains how he knew:
“When the players came back and said, ‘Coach, they knew the signal.’ They were calling the play,” Kelly said. “Then just doing it for so long. Every year we have to go in and change up our signals, especially when you’re on TV every week. There’s a thing called TiVo now. People click it back and forth. When you’re out there so much publicly, you’re doing a lot of that, you just have to be prepared. So it’s not unusual in that sense that we’ve had to do this before.”
I’m not surprised in the least that the Irish’s signals were hacked, especially when Kelly explained a few weeks ago that the signals changed every quarter, essentially giving teams enough of a head-start to start code-breaking.
(I’ve spent five minutes trying to think of a good John Woo “Windtalkers” joke, but the playclock expired.)
Either way, adding four additional signals likely brings in a new layer for teams to disseminate, and puts both Army and USC back to square one.
Even though Cierre Wood is improving, Jonas Gray has forced his way into the rotation at running back. While an injury set back Gray’s progress, big effort runs like the one he made against Utah remind everybody that he deserves 5-10 carries a week.
“Yeah, I think we want to continue to get him more and more work,” Kelly said about Gray. “Cierre obviously got the bulk of the work, felt comfortable out there, carrying the football a lot. Given the conditions, we stayed with the guy we felt like was slogging it out there pretty good. But, yeah, Jonas has become more of a, Hey, get him in, whereas he was an afterthought in a sense. Now he’s really at the forefront of, Let’s get him in and get him some work.”
Some wondered if Gray was being held out for the rest of the season, potentially to use a medical redshirt and preserve a season of eligibility. With Armando already out for the year and Robert Hughes graduating, next spring should be a heated battle between Wood and Gray, with Cam Roberson a true darkhorse.
Want to see the difference between Brian Kelly’s strength and conditioning program and the program under Charlie Weis? Linemen like Ethan Johnson and Kona Schwenke aren’t just maintaining weight during the season, they’re gaining it.
Williams is reportedly 290 pounds, up five pounds from preseason camp. But one of the biggest surprises? Try freshman Kona Schwenke, who has worked his way into the defensive end rotation and is up to 263 pounds, up from the 245 he was listed at during preseason camp.
Kelly gives the credit to strength coach Paul Longo and training table.
“I think there’s a couple things. Number one, our strength program for our guys,” Kelly said. “I’ll give you an example. Ethan is 290 pounds. He’s a tough guy to move around. Our training table, our weight training, all the things, our guys taking care of themselves, that’s the most important thing in November that you want to be physically stronger… Coach Longo does a good job of getting me that information and alerting that particular player if we have some issues with his strength or stamina.”
Kelly is looking at Notre Dame’s performance against Navy and their option attack as an aberration. But if he and Bob Diaco constructed a different gameplan, they aren’t letting on. (Note: they better have…)
“If you go back and look at the games leading up, the Navy game has been an aberration from my standpoint. We’re going to correct that against Army,” Kelly said. “We just didn’t defend it. We couldn’t get to the areas that we needed to get to. We’re not going to be talking about it as much as we’re going to practice and execute. The guys know what to expect from it this time around.”
This is one of those games that should be absolutely terrifying for Irish fans, as there’s no real reason to know what’s going to happen on Saturday night. After watching Notre Dame dispatch of Utah the way they did, there’s reason to think the lightbulb turned on, but most people thought that before the Navy game as well.
It should be a fascinating Saturday.