Sports

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football Brian Kelly on USC job speculation, Stanford, Kyren Williams


ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit has championed Brian Kelly as his top choice to fill USC’s coaching vacancy, most recently on College GameDay last weekend. He elicited an agreement from colleague Desmond Howard, who surmised Kelly has taken Notre Dame to its ceiling and could look for a new challenge.

Kelly, asked about it Monday, offered a swift dismissal of the idea.

“It’s a smokescreen,” Kelly said. “This time of the year, you throw names out there so people don’t look where they’re supposed to look.”

Is he looking anywhere himself, though?

“No,” Kelly said. “I think [Pittsburgh Steelers coach] Mike Tomlin had the best line. Unless that fairy godmother comes by with a $250 million check, my wife would want to take a look at it first.”

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Kelly and No. 8 Notre Dame (10-1) play their regular-season finale at Stanford on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, FOX) and are still in the College Football Playoff conversation. The Irish have moved up the rankings each of the last two weeks and are in position to do so again thanks to losses by No. 3 Oregon and No. 7 Michigan State.

Kelly met with reporters Monday for his usual 30-minute press conference. Here are some other topics he addressed.

On Stanford

[Tanner] McKee is going to be a really, really good quarterback. He shows some outstanding traits. He’s accurate with the football, throws a great long ball. Really good in the pocket, good decision maker and athletic.

“When he’s in the game, they have a chance to win.”

On the defense’s growth

“From a defensive standpoint, really settling into our identity. We changed coordinators and we were going through an identity change with how we were playing our defense. I think that was incremental. I don’t know that there was one thing that led to it as much as a consistency from week to week.

“We have young players who have been really respectful of our process and have really bought into it. That has helped us grow. If they had been resistant or hadn’t bought in along the way, this could have taken longer.”

On linebacker Bo Bauer

“The defense really suits him. There’s a little bit more freedom for him in this structure to move around. He’s part of a lot of our pass rush and forces a lot of things to happen. He has to be on it. You saw some of the plays he makes down the field in coverage. The system itself and the way Marcus uses him is really smart. We’re taking advantage of a veteran player who really plays to his strengths.”

On Jordan Botelho playing rover

“He has been playing the rover position for us. He’s learning the position, and we’re not asking him to do a lot. We activated him quite a bit. I don’t know that we’re asking him to cover the slot receiver at this point in his career. But he’s somebody who matches up well.

“We began this process with him against Wisconsin when we could match up big players. This could be another role for him this week when Stanford decides to go into a bigger package.”

On running back Kyren Williams’ growth

“He has taken his preparation and flipped it into an incredible performance mindset. He was always a really good practice player and would bring it every day. Now he brings that same kind of demeanor and focus and energy to the game. It rubs off on others. He has an impact on the whole offense now. He didn’t have that last year. He was an individual, one of 11. He influences others because of the way he attacks the game.”

On freshman running back Audric Estime

“[Freshman] Logan [Diggs] had moved ahead of him in the rotation — maybe not by any fault — as much as Logan looked really good and when he got his opportunities, we went in that direction. Audric also has immense talent as well. Even the ball he bounced outside, he showed speed on the perimeter.

“It’s one of those things where I think he’s grown a lot in terms of picking up the nuances of the position. He’s not just a guy who can bang it up inside, but when he needs to, that’s what he can do.”

On recruiting defensive end Isaiah Foskey to return for his senior season

“We’ve already started that process. It started a month ago. We’ve already met with the family.”

On junior punter Jay Bramblett, who was honored on Senior Day

“We’ve had that conversation. I don’t know that we’re ready to publicly talk about it. He has made a decision. We’ll make most of these decisions based on where guys are going to find themselves here in the next week or so.”

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