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.



Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley

Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.


Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson

Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame

Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.