FORT WAYNE – How did I do? Brian Kelly asked at the end of his news conference on Tuesday. Did I get out of that OK?
The Notre Dame coach had just navigated a question about whether the end of the Michigan series was a good thing. A reporter replied that Kelly had answered in a politically correct manner.
Good, I got out of it without getting into too much trouble, Kelly said as he exited the room.
Indeed, his boldest statement came in the fashion department, that blue plaid jacket apparently Kelly’s reward for winning a summer golf tournament.
Rather than landing verbal jabs at Michigan, or irritating the Wolverines ahead of Saturday’s meeting at Notre Dame Stadium, Kelly was more caught up in strategy.
Kelly, who calls offensive plays, will match wits with Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who held the same position at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2004.
He makes you stay up late wondering where pressure will come from, Kelly said.
You prepare for a little bit of everything from loaded fronts to exotic pressures. He keeps you off balance.
Kelly was fully on balance in front of the media – and, no, he didn’t say the end of the rivalry series was positive.
I won’t go as far as to say it shouldn’t be renewed, but not playing Michigan opens up exciting opportunities for us, Kelly said. We understand the tradition and rivalry. If it could’ve worked, it would have.
The Wolverines (1-0) whipped Appalachian State 52-14 last week, while No. 16 Notre Dame (1-0) crushed Rice 48-17.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said Saturday’s matchup can serve as a barometer.
I think it’s because there are guys they’ve recruited that we’ve recruited, Hoke said. We’ve got guys that they recruited, so I think to some degree with the talent level there are some similarities.
Kelly said there was no update on the five players being reviewed by the school’s honor code committee for possible academic misconduct. He also had not spoken to athletic director Jack Swarbrick regarding the process for those five reviews.
On previous occasions, Kelly has said that if one or more players were cleared in the middle of the week, it was plausible for them to play in a game that Saturday.
Starting cornerback KeiVarae Russell, starting wide receiver DaVaris Daniels and starting defensive end Ishaq Williams are among the players on indefinite leave, but Kelly said the team has come to grips with those absences.
They have been purposeful every single day and that says a lot about them, Kelly said. They have not been distracted. When your locker room has got that kind of resolve, good things are going to happen to you.
Notes: The Irish ended up using 10 true freshmen in their season opener. Of the 57 players who saw action, 20 were making their Notre Dame debut. WR Torii Hunter Jr. (groin) was a partial participant in Tuesday’s practice but will not play Saturday night. Also not playing will be LB Jarrett Grace (leg surgery).