Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly reveals Irish advantages, starting at quarterback
ATHENS — Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly says he believes his quarterback will be at his best Saturday night against a talented, but “not very complicated” Georgia defense.
“(Ian Book) had a great week of practice, he’s going to play really well against Georgia,” Kelly said on his radio show on Thursday night. ““You’re going to see the best of Ian Book in Athens.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) are a two-touchdown favorite over the No. 7 Irish, but you’d never know it listening to the confident Kelly.
Georgia’s massive offensive line, averaging 6-foot-5 and 329 pounds per man, is thought by many to rank among the best in college football.
Kelly has indicated throughout the week he’s not overly concerned about how his defensive line matches up.
“It’s an advantage for us,” Kelly said. “We play these teams that slant and angle, and we haven’t been very good with slant and angle teams, so we’ll know where they are, and that’s a good thing”
Kelly has been complimentary of Georgia QB Jake Fromm throughout the week, but he’s confident in Notre Dame’s pass rush and pass defense.
“We’re a top-down defense, certainly, but what we’re better at this year is we’re pressing on the outside, and the pass rush forces the ball out of your hands so quickly that the routes don’t develop to the top end,” said Kelly, whose Irish rank third in the nation in pass efficiency defense.
“A lot of the interceptions, the route has not finished, so we’re getting at the ball before the route finishes. When we can do that, we can be in position to undercut routes and not cheat on things. We’re getting to the quarterback before he can get through his progression.”
Kelly pointed out how simple the Georgia offense is, a necessity because of young receivers still learning their assignments.
“They do keep it fairly simple offensively, they’re sitting down in zones and they are taking shots because they want to get their receivers to grow,” Kelly said. “It’s a young group, extremely talented, and they are coming on, and they’re gong to be very good offensively once these receivers continue to mature.
“Early on, they gave them some very simplified passing concepts, they did a great job with them, and we’ll have to do a great job against them.”
Crowd noise figures to be a factor, so Notre Dame went inside its new football building this week and turned the noise up to 107 decibels.
Kelly is confident that Book’s ability to communicate and adjust to Georgia’s uncomplicated defensive schemes could provide a winning edge.
Handling Sanford Stadium
“How you quiet a great crowd is you score points and get ahead,” Kelly said. “But if they are into the game, and it’s a close game, then you have to communicate effectively.”
“We can’t get into our process and into our traits, which I think can trump a lot of the things Georgia can do, unless we communicate effectively.”
While crowd noise seems to be Kelly’s biggest concern for his offense, focus and gap integrity are the two areas Kelly stressed on defense.
“If you’re distracted for a second against Georgia, they have a guy named D’Andre Swift, and he’ll run past you if you do’t fit the A gap,” Kelly said. “You have to fit every play, and every play has to be 11 players playing together.”
Beyond that, it’s just a matter of playing Notre Dame football, the Irish accustomed to setting stadium attendance records (this will be the 10th time) wherever they go.
“Play fast, play free, be aggressive…you don’t go down there to play conservative football,” said Kelly, 23-17 vs. Top 25 teams at Notre Dame but 0-4 against Top 5 opponents.
“There’s no pressure. We play in so many (big games) …. and understand when you go on the road it’s one play at a time, and you have to be patient. Very rarely are these games won early, they are won late.”