Notre Dame Notebook: Protecting The QB, Coan and Buchner, Being Satisfied

News and notes from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's pre-Purdue press conference
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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the media on Monday to preview the upcoming Purdue game and dissect some issues from Notre Dame’s 32-29 victory over Toledo on Saturday. Here are some key notes from the session.

On simplifying the game for his team

“When we talk about coaching better, I think there's a number of different things that I would throw into that category. One is to put your players in a position where they're not making mistakes. So maybe that falls on coaching to keep it simple so those guys can go play and play fast and play free. I think the second thing is to get players on the field that are fresh so we don't have guys that are fatigued and making mental mistakes. I think that's probably the next thing. We've got to get rotations. We got to get guys on the field, keep it more simple in a sense that we can get multiple players on the field even if they are a little bit more inexperienced. Let them go play. I think that was probably the second end of what I was referring to, but on both sides of the lines.”

On protecting the quarterback

"We're playing with our third left tackle, so that's one element. But I thought that later in the game Tosh Baker did a nice job using this length. He used his hands and his arms and his size. He's 6-8, you can't teach that. I think there were a couple of occasions where we didn't pick up a corner blitz and that's generally not on the offensive line. Then I think we had a situation where we misidentified where the blitz was coming from. So, a little bit of everything. I think that when we look at it and evaluate pass protection, I think everybody says, 'Well, how's your offensive line doing?' We don't feel like we're in a bad position on the offensive line. We have to be cleaner and better in communication across the board, whether it's a tight end that's in protection or a back or a quarterback in terms of identifying who he has to throw off of.”

On the issues with running the ball with Jack Coan in the game

"Well, it certainly opens up the running game when you have a quarterback that can pull off an end that's chasing a play down from the backside. I think the plan all along was to get Tyler (Buchner) some work and that was going to enhance our running game as we transition a little bit there. So yeah, I can't disagree with that. He helps our running game. We still are in a process of fine tuning what we really want to be relative to the running game and I think we're getting closer to what we feel like is going to be our staple plays. Look, running the ball, for me still is about short yardage, right? Goal line, play action, setting up your play action, and then running when everybody knows you need to run. If you can't do any of those, you don't have a running game. Other than that, the rest of it is what's the best look to move the football downfield.”

On whether he confers with offensive coordinator Tommy Rees about who will play quarterback

"Ultimately, I'm going to put the quarterback in the game, but Tommy and I are on the same page. If he had a serious objection based upon what he had in his mind, then I would go with him. But we were on the same page that when we were backed up, we were looking for Tyler to go in at that time. So, yeah, I would say it was pretty much a consensus.”

On how much of the offense Buchner understands

“I think he's definitely further along than tucking it and running it. But we've kept it as a specific package for him. We haven't enhanced it too much more. We're going to continue to enhance it and add more each and every week. We're going to add more this week. I think what we wanted to do is make sure he knew how to protect himself first and once he knew that relative to protections, we were going to continue to add more.”

On if the team is satisfied with the way it played

"They have a standard and winning is not simply their standard, right? They want to be champions, and they know that this performance over the last couple of weeks was good enough to get a win, but it's not going to take them to a championship level. So they know and we know as coaches, we have to coach better and they have to play better. I don't think there's anybody in the building walking around going, 'This is the best tool football team we've ever had before.' But we also remember that in 2018, we had the hands team on the field against Ball State and we went undefeated that year and that was a 4-8 team in the MAC. There's no panic. We got to get better. We know the things that we have to work on. We are transitioning some personnel, but we're committed to playing to a higher standard and I think our guys, if you're asking what the pulse is, nobody's content with, as coaches or players, just winning games without playing to a standard and we're not playing to the standard. We'll keep working towards that."

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