Kelly, Martin, Elston

Kelly: “I need to be a better head coach.”


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.



Kizer named MVP at annual ECHOES awards

@NDFootball Twitter

DeShone Kizer was named the Monogram Club’s Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season at the 96th annual Notre Dame football awards banquet. Kizer was voted team MVP by his teammates, after throwing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushing for 472 yards and eight scores.

He was one of 15 players honored with an award at the “ECHOES,” with the following accolades being given:

Equanimeous St. Brown, Offensive Player of the Year.
James Onwualu, Defensive Player of the Year
Greer Martini, Next Man In award
Drue Tranquill, Rockne Student-Athlete Award
Cole Luke, Nick Pietrosante Award
Isaac Rochell, Lineman of the Year
Quenton Nelson, Offensive Lineman of the Year
Scott Daly, Special Teams Player of the Year
Alex Bars, Newcomer of the Year, Offense
Nyles Morgan, Newcomer of the Year, Defense
Ben Stuttman, Scout Team Player of the Year, Offense
Jonathan Jones, Scout Team Player of the Year, Defense
Mark Harrell, Father Lange Iron Cross
Tyler Newsome, Irish Around the Bend



Notre Dame names 7 captains for 2017 team

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a 10-yard touchdown reception by Corey Robinson against the USC Trojans in the fourth quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Notre Dame named seven captains for the 2017 season, the most to wear the ‘C’ in school history. Quarterback DeShone Kizer, linebackers Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan, offensive linemen Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, safety Drue Tranquill and walk-on receiver Austin Webster were all given the honor.

McGlinchey returns in the role, the 22nd different two-time captain in the program’s history. New to the job are the rest, including Kizer, who has yet to make a decision on if he’ll return for 2017 yet.

After worries about the team’s leadership heading into the 2016, the naming of captains in the immediate aftermath of the season is a change—Brian Kelly not naming his team’s official leaders into August training camp last year. It’s not an unprecedented move for Kelly (he named Harrison Smith and Michael Floyd team captains at the banquet following the 2010 season), though it points to some changes—some subtle, others not—that’ll likely take hold after a four-loss season.

Webster, a rising senior reserve wide receiver from California who has yet to register a stat in a Notre Dame uniform, made his debut as a sophomore in 2015 against UMass, is the first active walk-on to receive the honor.


Irish land blue-chip OL Aaron Banks

Tom Loy, Irish 247

Notre Dame received the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Aaron Banks on Friday afternoon. Picking the Irish over a national offer list that included Michigan, Tennessee, and local programs USC and UCLA, the 6-foot-7, 335-pound Banks reminded all that even if the Irish only won four games this season, Harry Hiestand is still one of the premier offensive line coaches in the country.

Banks made the commitment from a ceremony at his high school in El Cerrito, California. And when he picked the Irish, he added to Notre Dame’s impressive offensive line haul, joining Dillan Gibbons, Joshua Lugg and Robert Hainsey — a key piece of the puzzle moving forward.

Banks is a consensus 4-star recruit and a Top 200 prospect. He took an official visit to Michigan in November, but has been a long-time target of Hiestand’s, visiting South Bend in September and welcoming Brian Kelly and Hiestand into his home after the USC game.

As a big recruiting weekend gets started at Notre Dame, the annual Echoes Awards will serve as the beginning of an important home stretch for a program without a bowl game. As Kelly still looks to lock in a defensive coordinator, not to mention other staff changes still in the air, Banks takes back some of the lost momentum, a key commitment heading into a holiday dead period before a furious finish leading into the first Wednesday in February.

Banks is No. 18 in the Irish recruiting class. He’s an early-enrollee, ready to hit campus within weeks and compete on the interior of the offensive line during spring ball.

Zaire says thank you to Notre Dame

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Malik Zaire #8 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish rushes past defensive end Mike Moore #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the third quarter at Scott Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish won, 34-27. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Big week for The Observer. Not just for its advertising revenues, but for the classy gesture that outgoing senior quarterback Malik Zaire made this week.

Thursday’s edition included a letter to the editor from Zaire, who took to the student newspaper not to make headlines around the internet, but rather to thank the university for his experience in South Bend.

While Zaire’s time at Notre Dame is drawing to a close, he will leave as a proud alum. So while he’ll play football next season at another university, Zaire wrote the following in Thursday’s issue:

Dear Notre Dame students and staff,

My life changed for the better the moment I stepped onto the University of Notre Dame’s beautiful campus. The one goal I had set in my mind to achieve was to become a better man, a Notre Dame man. After growing through many trials and triumphs, the thing I’ve learned most from my experience was that if you don’t believe in yourself first, then no one else will. I believed in becoming a better man and succeeding through any circumstance, and I can say that I’ve truly accomplished that. I often refer to the famous quote from the movie “Catch Me If You Can” that was well put by Frank Abagnale:

“Two little mice fell in a bucket of cream. The first mouse quickly gave up and drowned. The second mouse wouldn’t quit. He struggled so hard that eventually he churned that cream into butter and crawled out.”

I’ve put my heart, soul and passion into the University, the football program, the South Bend community and the Irish community worldwide. I have the unbelievable honor to represent this University to the fullest as a student and soon-to-be alumni. Thank you to the amazing students and staff that I’ve met through the years for helping me grow into the person I’ve always wanted to be. I love the Irish and will always be an Irish alum no matter where I go! I look forward to keeping in touch. Let’s change the world!

Go Irish!

Malik Zaire

Dec. 7

Zaire is expected to compete for a starting quarterback job next year as a graduate transfer. He’s reportedly taken a visit to Wisconsin and plans to visit North Carolina as well, just two of several programs on the radar as Zaire looks to step in and win a starting Power 5 job.