(Hope everybody had a nice holiday weekend. It’s depressing that summer is practically half-over, but the flip side of that is that football is coming. At least I remind myself every morning that football is coming…)
Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com had his turn with Brian Kelly and the result was a pretty interesting Q&A session that touched on some things that haven’t been beaten into the ground.
You can read the entire thing here, but I’ll give you a few of the greatest hits:
Kelly was asked about leaving Cincinnati in good shape, a pretty interesting question when you think about the animosity that came from Bearcats’ fans and players when Kelly decided to take the Notre Dame job.
What say you, BK?
“Let’s see, Sugar Bowl ? Orange Bowl. ? 12-0 ? yeah, I think we did OK.
They are getting a practice field. Football is important there now. My
job was to make it relevant. It was not relevant when I got there. That
is nothing to say about what had happened before. But we needed to make
it relevant. We did that. The program is better. Central [Michigan] was
better when I left it. Grand Valley’s was better when I left it. All
three of those programs are better.”
It’s pretty tough to disagree with that appraisal of the situation, and I’m sure fans of the last three programs Kelly has coached at will admit the same thing, with Cincy fans doing so begrudgingly.
When asked about his offense, Kelly did a good job reminding people that there were more than a few question marks remaining. None bigger than quarterback Dayne Crist, who has only attempted 20 passes in his college career.
“We have one quarterback in Dayne Crist, who didn’t play very much and tore his knee in a scrambling
opportunity [last year]. I know he had great accolades coming out of
high school. But he really hasn’t done anything at Notre Dame. He is
going to have to really prove himself. Three quarterbacks transferred
and left it as a major hole, which is why I had to bring in a number of
freshmen. But if you have to play a freshman quarterback at Notre Dame,
boy, that’s a scary proposition. I think the quarterback position is a
huge question mark.”
It’s interesting that Kelly brought up the three transfer quarterbacks, which is a reminder of what happens when you sign multiple quarterbacks to a recruiting class, a decision Kelly made last year bringing in Tommy Rees, Luke Massa, and Andrew Hendrix. It’s also a sobering reminder that Notre Dame is walking into the season with a quarterback who is incredibly inexperienced and one that’s also coming off a major knee injury.
(Though I’ve heard from a few well-placed people that Dayne is set to start throwing without a knee brace, a pretty nice update eight months after surgery.)
On a macro level, Kelly also had this to say about the state of the offense, and the personnel’s ability to capably execute the offense:
“No, not right now. But we are making progress toward that. It will take
a while for us to be full throttle here. There are enough skill
players for us to spread the field and keep pressure on defenses. It
will take us some time to condition ourselves and mentally pick up to
where we need to be. I see this as a process for us offensively. I don’t
see us hitting the ground and running. It is going to take a little
I don’t think even Kelly can convince people that the Irish’s offensive weapons won’t be able to play in Kelly’s spread, but he’s doing his best to lower expectations and keep some unpredictability, something the coaching staff worked very hard at during the Blue-Gold game, with vanilla playcalling and some “unique” defensive alignments.
Finally, credit goes to Dienhart for getting a Jumbotron mention out of Kelly, who dropped the J-bomb when asked if the Irish have the facilities to compete with any program in the nation:
“Infrastructure, no. But as you know, there are some unique things
about Notre Dame. And one is that we have no Jumbotron. We have no
advertising in the stadium. We play on grass. It’s not the head coach
saying that those are negatives. They are unique and we sometimes have
to address those in recruiting.
“We like the tradition, we like those things. But there clearly are
things that are used against us in recruiting. As far as practice
fields, training table, weight room, locker room — we have everything
we need at Notre Dame from that standpoint. And that has been the case
for five or six years.”
While the Jumbotron might have raised an eyebrow, I’m curious to see if Notre Dame might finally cave and replace the grass inside the stadium with some type of artificial surface. The Irish already practice on artificial surface and even with continual efforts to improve the turf, the grass in the stadium has been pretty mediocre for the past few seasons, with large chunks of sod coming up in nearly every home game.
All in all, a nice job by Dienhart asking some questions that hadn’t been addressed during the BK summer media tour.