Lou Holtz

Holtz talks candidly about life at the top of Notre Dame

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For most of the younger generation, especially those suiting up and playing football, Lou Holtz isn’t known as a football coach, but as Dr. Lou, the funny old fella on ESPN that’s got a catchy phrase for just about everything. While the ESPN Holtz has become almost a caricature of himself, and the mantel piece as one of the nation’s true cheerleaders for the Fighting Irish, he’s also one of the only people in the world that can talk to Brian Kelly about life at the top as a head coach at Notre Dame.

So while most of us are used to seeing Holtz spar playfully with Mark May or give pep talks in fictional locker rooms in Bristol, Holtz the former coach had plenty of interesting thoughts to share yesterday as he discussed Notre Dame, Brian Kelly, and the Irish’s hopes to upset Alabama.

It’s no surprise that Holtz told Kelly that life at Notre Dame is different than anywhere else either coach had been. It’s a lesson he learned from Ara Parseghian. And that change only grows when you find yourself at the top of college football.

“When I went there Ara Parseghian said this place is different than any other and you’ll have to learn how to handle all the media, all the distractions, everybody pulls you in a different direction you time’s not your own,” Holtz said yesterday. “He said after you win a national championship the coaching position will change again. He’s absolutely right. Once you win a national champions at Notre Dame, your life is never the same again after that.”

The parallels between Kelly and Holtz entering their championship season (at least Kelly’s opportunity at a championship) are downright scary. Take a look at a few of the tidbits BlueandGold.com’s Lou Somogyi points out:

* Both 51 years old.
* Both had 10 losses entering season three.
* Both bet their seasons on an unproven dual-threat QB from South Carolina.
* Both beat Michigan State in September 20-3.

Season three has been the magical season for many Notre Dame coaches. Holtz talked about that and ventured a few guesses why.

“Why the third year? Because by that time you’re comfortable with it,” Holtz said. “The players have bought in to your system. You’ve been able to recruit to your system. You’ve been able to build a camaraderie and a trust between the players and the coaches.”

That camaraderie and trust has been so evident this season, as Kelly delicately balanced a tricky quarterback situation and built a unity on this team that hasn’t been seen in a long time. And if Kelly is able to defeat Alabama, Holtz spoke candidly about the next challenge that faces Notre Dame’s head coach: Elevated expectations.

“When you win it, everybody puts you on a pedestal,” Holtz said. “Once you’re on the pedestal, no matter what you do, it ain’t good enough. We finished second in the country, everyone called me an idiot. The guy who finishes last in medical school, they call him doctor.”

Holtz also talked about the dangers of not setting your goals high enough, something you never thought possible for a motivator like Holtz.

“You get on top, you say this is pretty good, let’s not change anything.  But if you don’t change anything, you don’t have anything you’re trying to aspire to,” Holtz said. “When I left Notre Dame, I thought I was tired of coaching. I was not tired of coaching. I was tired of maintaining.

“We should have set standards that nobody thought were possible. That’s the thing I regret. Don’t maintain. We maintained it well. But that was a mistake.”

Drue Tranquill named first-team Academic All-American

Drue Tranquill
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Drue Tranquill was named a first-team Academic All-American. The junior safety, who returned from his second major knee injury during his three-year career, earned the honors after posting a 3.74 GPA in mechanical engineering.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s first academic All-American since Corey Robinson earned the honor after the 2014 season. He finished second on the team in tackles with 79 and lead the team in solo stops with 52. He also had two TFLs and an interception.

Tranquill is Notre Dame’s 60th Academic All-American, the third-most of any school behind Nebraska and Penn State. He’s active in the university community, serving as a mentor for the Core Leadership Team for Lifeworks Ministry, and is a member of Notre Dame Christian Athletes. He is a also member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and Rosenthal Leadership Academy.

 

Postseason Mailbag: Now Open

SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 12: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the start of their game against Army in a NCAA college football game at the Alamodome on November 12, 2016 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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It’s been too long. Let’s talk about the season, the decisions ahead and where Notre Dame stands after its nightmare of a 2016 season.

Drop your questions on Twitter @KeithArnold or in the comments below.

 

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If you’re interested in hearing my recap on the USC game and where Notre Dame’s goes now that the season is over, give a listen to the latest episode of Blown Coverage, with Newsweek’s John Walters. 

 

Report: Zaire set to depart with graduate transfer

Malik Zaire
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The wheels are in motion for Malik Zaire‘s exit from Notre Dame. What felt like an inevitability after Zaire lost out to DeShone Kizer after the Texas game is now a reality, as the Ohio native is expected to receive his release tomorrow, according to a report from Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated.

Sampson identified four programs as potential landing spots for Zaire: Florida, Pitt, Michigan State and Wisconsin, Power Five programs that all had better seasons (minus the Spartans) than Notre Dame. All have uncertainty atop their quarterback depth chart, though none look like guaranteed jobs.

With Notre Dame out of a bowl, Zaire can get a jump start on looking around, capable of taking visits and finding a home after the semester. That would let him join a program in time for spring drills, where he’d compete and be able to play out his final year of eligibility.

When Zaire leaves he’ll join a line of recent quarterbacks to finish their eligibility elsewhere. Dayne Crist, Andrew Hendrix, Gunner Kiel and Everett Golson all either played or were recruited by Brian Kelly and finished their careers elsewhere. That could leave a scenario—one many predict—where the top-two on Notre Dame’s depth chart depart, Kizer to the NFL and Zaire elsewhere, turning the keys over to Brandon Wimbush who redshirted this season.

Tillery apologizes for actions during USC game

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Sophomore Jerry Tillery issued an apology for two controversial incidents against USC. Notre Dame’s defensive tackle was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after a referee caught him stepping on Zach Banner‘s ankle. Cameras also spotted him intentionally hitting Aca’Cedric Ware‘s head after the Trojan running back was injured after a collision with Nicco Fertitta.

Tillery wrote on Twitter:

“I want to take full responsibility for my actions on Saturday. I am truly sorry. I acted in a way that was out of character for me. What I displayed in those two instances were completely unbecoming and not indicative of the kind of player or person I am. My actions in those two instances do not represent what my family or Notre Dame has molded me to be. I want to especially apologize to Aca’Cedric, Zach, their families and anyone else affected by what I did. I assure you I will learn and grow from this moment and become a better man because of it.”

While the backlash on social media has been harsh, USC head coach Clay Helton downplayed it.

“It was a poor decision by a young person. I know it’s not Notre Dame football and I know that’s not Brian Kelly,” Helton said. “He’s been a class act the whole way and I know he’ll address it with his player and handle it in a way that he sees fit. I have always found Brian to be a man of class and integrity.”

Ware himself responded via Twitter, doing his best to put the incident to rest.

Kelly stated after the game that he’d review the incidents, both plays Kelly didn’t see happen live. With the season over, Tillery’s discipline will be handled internally.