Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 3, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 16 of 55 OCT. 3, 2016 17 highlighted Notre Dame's lack of fundamentals and overall sloppy play as the reasons for the defense's struggles. He also noted the team's need for better coaching. However, that doesn't mean physically getting more involved with the defense on the practice field. "I have to be able to know that everything in the program is being taught, being effectively communi- cated on a day-to-day basis," Kelly said. "What it means is that I have to be in defensive meetings. It means that I have to be aware of what the game plan is. It means that I have to know how we're teaching things and communicating them, which I do. "I don't need a headset. I don't need to be on the defensive side of the ball coaching tackling. I'm very confident that I've got good coaches to do that, but I'm the head coach, and I'd better be certain that I know exactly what's going on in all facets of my program — offense, defense, special teams, recruiting, all of those things. "But from an optics standpoint, I don't need to be standing on the de- fensive end of the field to make sure that gets done." One of the popular suggestions from people outside the program is for Kelly — whose coaching career began as a defensive coordinator at Assumption College and Grand Val- ley State — to apply his teaching con- centration on the defense. There is precedent of that happen- ing at Notre Dame. Two of the leg- endary Fighting Irish coaches from the past, Ara Parseghian and Lou Holtz, both took over the defense when they felt it was necessary. A popular question is whether Kelly should do the same, though the 54-year-old said that won't happen. "The players know that, from the head coach's perspective, that I'm aware of everything that goes on," he said. "I can speak to them about what their techniques are, what they're do- ing, how they're doing them on a day-to-day basis. "I can pull [junior linebacker] Nyles [Morgan] aside, and I can pull the DB aside and our defensive line- men, and I can talk to them intel- ligently about their defensive tech- niques. They know that I'm in tune to what they're doing. It's not, hey, what did you do on that play? "I think that's the most important thing — that I'm aware of what's going on on a day-to-day basis. If I wasn't, then you're right. Then I'd have to be more active in terms of what we're doing defensively on a day-to-day basis." NBC's cameras caught Kelly yell- ing at VanGorder and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght late in the Michigan State game. It was a spir- ited conversation, but Kelly main- tains that the relationship between the coaching staff hasn't changed, even with the struggles. "Colleagues in it together to get the most out of our players," Kelly said of his relationship with VanGorder. "He's coaching his butt off. His staff is working hard. "We're trying to find the best solu- tions to what we have on our side of the ball, and we're going to keep working hard to address them and get our defense to where it needs to be." The Irish hosted 50-plus recruits for the primetime matchup against Michigan State — and received a verbal commitment from four-star defensive end Donovan Jeter — but Kelly said he was not asked by one prospect how he plans on fixing a defense that ranked 103rd in the country in passing efficiency defense (145.38 rating), 102nd in total defense (439.3 yards allowed per game), 99th in rushing defense (198.7 yards sur- rendered per contest), tied for 94th in scoring defense (32.0 points given up per outing) and 84th in passing de- fense (240.7 yards allowed per game) through three weeks. "We're going to be a work in prog- ress, and we're going to work to get this group better each and every week," Kelly said. "We hope to be a better football team in November than we are in September." The problem areas are obvious. The Irish give up too many big plays — they were tied with Appalachian State for the most gains of 60 or more yards allowed (four) through three games. They are inconsistent fitting their scheme to plays, they have poor fundamentals much of the time and the tackling has been subpar. It takes a sense of urgency and better coaching to improve in those areas. "All those things are a product of coaching and communication and teaching," Kelly said. "We've got to coach better, we've got to teach bet- ter, we've got to communicate better and we've got to put our kids in a po- sition where they're able to execute what we ask them to execute. "[On the players end], they've got to make plays when they're put in that position as well. A lot of the re- sponsibility is on us to continue to teach, continue to communicate — that's what coaching is about. We'll get back to work on that. "This is not rocket science we're talking about here. These are plays that we've got to continue to work on and fundamentally get better at. That's why there's not a ques- tion about scheme, and there's not a question about who's leading it with Brian. "This is about coaching, communi- cating and teaching the fundamen- tals and getting our young players, those that don't have a lot of experi- ence, better at execution." Kelly was asked specifically about how he'll go about "being better coaches." It starts with not pointing fingers and blaming the problems on others. "We should look at ourselves and find out what we can do better," Kelly said. "Maybe somebody needs to be worked a little bit differently maybe from a walkthrough perspec- tive. Maybe somebody is taking too many reps. Maybe they need more film study. It's our job as coaches to see how we can develop our players more efficiently. "It's not, 'Hey this guy can't do this or he can't do that.' These are the players that we recruited to Notre Dame. These are the players that are going to play for us. It's our job as coaches to coach them better and get them in a position to make the players necessary for us to be successful." ✦ "HE'S COACHING HIS BUTT OFF. HIS STAFF IS WORKING HARD. WE'RE TRYING TO FIND THE BEST SOLUTIONS TO WHAT WE HAVE ON OUR SIDE OF THE BALL, AND WE'RE GOING TO KEEP WORKING HARD TO ADDRESS THEM AND GET OUR DEFENSE TO WHERE IT NEEDS TO BE." KELLY ON VANGORDER

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