It was a pretty good exchange after practice between Brian Kelly and a large assembly of media after Day One on the LaBar Practice Fields. While Kelly gave some early impressions on quarterbacks, freshmen, and this blogger’s dark-horse favorite for the season, possibly the best comments to come from Kelly were self-reflective.
It’s no secret that Brian Kelly’s temper — on display quite a bit early in the disastrous 2011 season — has been a lightning rod for discussion. Whether you think raising your voice and yelling at players is a big deal or not (I don’t), an exchange midway through today’s media session let’s you know that the head coach of the Fighting Irish didn’t just evaluate how things were being done on the field, he took a long hard look at how he was doing his job.
His self-evaluation: Not good enough.
“It started back in January when I was committed to being a better head coach in the sense that I needed to spend more time with my players,” Kelly said. “This job has a tendency to distract you a little bit, and I took it because I wanted to coach. I wanted to be around the guys. So back in January, we started every Monday our A-Team and I would meet, just myself, with our players. So I just think my emphasis on spending more time with the players and getting to know them better and letting them get to know me better than just sitting up in an office, and there’s where the head coach of Notre Dame sits. I’ve never been that type of coach and I felt myself sliding toward that my first couple of years. I don’t think it’s anything on their part, I think it’s probably more on my part, of being more accessible and being around the guys a lot more.”
It’s hard not to think back on the biggest internal flap of last season, when Kelly’s comments during his weekly radio show where he differentiated his recruits with Charlie Weis’ caused a large rift in the locker room. Kelly didn’t point to that incident, but after some factions of the fan-base have called Kelly tone-deaf, it’s good to see that the head coach isn’t afraid to adapt.
“I think when there’s not the kind of results you’re looking for, you’ve got to look at yourself first,” Kelly said. “I need to coach. I need to be in the trenches. I need to be around our guys. To be an effective leader, some are better sitting up in the tower, and some are better being hands on. And I’m better. I need to be a better head coach and that’s are what my strengths are so I’m going to them.”
A few other quick notes that I found interesting:
Quarterback Everett Golson took the snaps with the first team offense today, while Andrew Hendrix split reps with Gunner Kiel and the second string, before shuffling between groupings. Kelly was asked what Golson did to earn those first snaps.
“He had a better spring game in our evaluation, so he got the first shot,” Kelly said of Golson. “Andrew had a really good practice today, so there’s a chance he could be the first tomorrow. That’s kind of where we are right now.”
While Tommy Rees didn’t find himself in the mix right off the bat, Kelly was especially impressed with Rees’ willingness to help his teammates, using his experience to help out.
“I was pleased with Tommy Rees,” Kelly said. “He was out there coaching all the quarterbacks, which just reaffirms the kind of kid that he is to me.
There are reasons why Rees’ teammates look at him as a leader. I think we just saw one of the reasons.
This little nugget on how running back Amir Carlisle looked while still working off the effects of a broken ankle.
“He did more than we thought,” Kelly said. Rob Hunt, our athletic trainer, made it sound like he was going to limp his way through practice, but he looked pretty good in some team periods. He’s going to help us. He’s not there yet. You can see he’s testing the ankle still. But I’m telling you what, when it’s straight line stuff, he’s got a burst.”
Lastly, sad news for lineman Brad Carrico. One of Brian Kelly’s earliest commitments is likely done for his career after a difficult foot injury has put him on a medical hardship scholarship.