Notre Dame head coach Kelly walks the sideline in the fourth quarter against Alabama during their NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in Miami

Reports: Kelly talked with Eagles about head coaching job

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Talk about a good way to forget about a 28-point loss in the National Championship game.

Fresh off Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama, multiple reports swirled Wednesday night that Brian Kelly discussed the Eagles head coaching vacancy with Philadelphia brass on Tuesday.

ESPN reporters Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter reported that Kelly interviewed with the Eagles on Tuesday, while Philly.com and Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported similar tidbits. The news follows rumors from before the BCS title game that suggested multiple teams had Kelly on their shortlist of candidates.

While there’s been no word out of Notre Dame officially, Kelly is said to be spending a few days on vacation with his family before returning to South Bend before the recruiting dead period ends.

Dozens of reporters have spent the past few hours pursing through Kelly’s comments about the NFL in the days leading up to the title game. Kelly didn’t dismiss anything, but merely said he’s completely focused on the job at hand. But with the Irish now finished with the season and a 12-1 season putting Notre Dame back on the map, the timing is perfect for Kelly to leap to a high paying NFL gig or secure a handsome extension from Notre Dame and athletic director Jack Swarbrick.

Talking to a few people in and around the program, there was a feeling that those contract discussions had already begun, with an announced extension sooner than later. That’s what makes the timing of these NFL reports a bit worrisome for Irish fans. If there ever was a reminder that Kelly had climbed from his last two jobs after three seasons, this was certainly it.

That said, it bears mentioning that the last time a Notre Dame coach saw even a sniff of NFL interest, he received a ten-year contract extension that’ll continue to be paid out for the next half-decade. And with Kelly gone from his perch at Notre Dame and unreachable for the next few days, never was there a better time for the popular coach’s representative to float a rumor to NFL reporters, adding some urgency to Swarbrick’s timetable. One senior level NFL executive told me that’s exactly what he thinks is currently happening.

An extension could also come in handy if Kelly was hoping to get his assistants paid. With Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin’s names floating across a few team’s wish lists, contract extensions and pay bumps could help keep Kelly’s staff intact after replacing three coaches last season.

With Signing Day less than a month away, Kelly’s situation will likely be resolved by January 12, when a recruiting dead period ends. From there, it’ll be a sprint to the finish line for the Irish staff, who will go to work locking down a class that’s already ranked No. 1 by Rivals.

Still, seeing Kelly’s name linked to an NFL franchise, and seeing the head coach reportedly listen to the team, is an eye-opening experience for Notre Dame fans, a group that had some clamoring to get rid of Kelly after ten losses in his first two seasons.

In a season that was filled with several twists and turns nobody saw coming, it turns out that even after the final whistle blows, the ride continues.

Restocking the roster: Wide Receivers

Notre Dame v Florida State
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Some believe that the best way to look at recruiting is in two-year increments. As programs rebuild and rosters turn over, covering the needs of a football team over two recruiting cycles  allows a coaching staff to balance its roster.

That balance is critical to the health of a program. And it’s not just the work of a rebuilding coach. As we saw in Brian Kelly’s sixth season, injuries, attrition and scheme change impacted the defense, especially in the secondary.

Another position set to deal with major change is wide receiver. Gone is All-American Will Fuller, departing South Bend after three years, scoring 29 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He’ll look to run his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. Also gone are veterans Chris Brown and Amir Carlisle, putting the Irish in an unenviable position, needing to replace the team’s three leading receivers.

Reinforcements aren’t just on the way, they’re already on campus. While there’s not a ton of production to see, the recruiting stockpile has created a chance to reload for Mike Denbrock’s troop. So let’s take a look at the additions and subtractions on the roster, analyzing the two-year recruiting run as we restock the receiving corps.

DEPARTURES
Will Fuller
, Jr. (62 catches, 1,258 yards, 14 TDs)
Chris Brown, Sr. (48 catches, 597 yards, 4 TDs)
Amir Carlisle, GS (32 catches, 355 yards, 1 TD)
Jalen Guyton, Fr. (transfer)

 

ADDITIONS
Equanimeous St. Brown

Miles Boykin*
CJ Sanders
Jalen Guyton
Chase Claypool*
Javon McKinley*
Kevin Stepherson*

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Corey Robinson, Sr.
Torii Hunter, Sr.*
Justin Brent, Jr.*
Corey Holmes, Jr.*
CJ Sanders, Soph.
Miles Boykin, Soph.*
Equanimeous St. Brown, Soph.
Kevin Stepherson, Fr.*

 

ANALYSIS
Brian Kelly expects St. Brown to step into Will Fuller’s shoes. If the Irish are able to pluck another sophomore from obscurity to the national spotlight, it’ll say quite a bit about the depth and productivity the Irish staff has built at the position. At 6-foot-5, St. Brown has a more tantalizing skill-set than Fuller—and he was a national recruit out of a Southern California powerhouse. But until we see St. Brown burn past defenders and make big plays, assuming the Irish won’t miss Fuller is a big leap of faith.

The next objective of the spring is getting Corey Robinson back on track. The rising senior had a forgettable junior season, ruined by injuries and some bruised confidence. A player who has shown flashes of brilliance during his three seasons in South Bend, the time is now for Robinson, not just as a performer but as an on-field leader.

Torii Hunter Jr. is also poised for a big season. After finding reps at slot receiver and possessing the versatility to see the field from multiple spots, Hunter needs to prove in 2016 that he’s not just a utility man but an everyday starter. His hands, smooth athleticism and speed should have him primed for a breakout. But Hunter might not want to stay in the slot if CJ Sanders is ready to take over. After a big freshman season on special teams, Sanders looks ready to make his move into the lineup, perhaps the purest slot receiver Brian Kelly has had since he arrived in South Bend.

The rest of the spring depth chart should have modest goals, though all face rather critical offseasons. Justin Brent is three years into his college career and the biggest headlines he’s made have been off the field. Whether he sticks at receiver or continues to work as a reserve running back remains to be seen. Corey Holmes is another upperclassman who we still can’t figure out. Will he ascend into the rotation with the top three veterans gone, or will he give way to some talented youngsters?

Miles Boykin earned praise last August, but it didn’t get him time on the field. He’ll enter spring with four years of eligibility, same as early-enrollee Kevin Stepherson. The Irish staff thinks Stepherson has the type of deep speed that they covet, capable of running past cornerbacks and stretching a defense. Boykin has size and physicality that could present intriguing options for an offense that’ll be less reliant on one man now that Fuller is gone.

Live Video Mailbag: 40-year decision, more BVG, freshmen and more

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We’ve done plenty of mailbags, but this is our first shot at a Live Video Mailbag. This should be a better way to answer more questions and hopefully interact with a few of you as we try to work off some of yesterday’s Super Bowl snacks.

Topics on the list: The 40-year decision, more Brian VanGorder talk, the incoming (and redshirt) freshmen and a whole lot more.

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Kelly and Swarbrick turn attention to science of injury prevention

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Amidst the chaos of their live Signing Day show, UND.com ran had a far-reaching interview with head coach Brian Kelly. It was conducted by his boss, athletic director Jack Swarbrick, and his former team captain, Joe Schmidt.

So while there was a little bit of talk about the 23 recruits who signed their national letters-of-intent, there was also a very illuminating exchange on an issue that’s really plagued the Irish the past few seasons: Injuries.

Football is a dangerous game. And for as long as people play it, there’ll be impactful injuries that take players off the field. But as Notre Dame settles into what looks like their longest run of stability since the Holtz era, the focus of Kelly and Swarbrick has moved past modernizing the team’s medical services, strength program and nutrition and onto the science of injury prevention.

Here’s what Kelly said about the efforts currently taking shape:

“I think the science piece is very important, because no longer is it just about strength and conditioning,  it’s about durability. It’s the ability to continue to play at an optimal level but also with the rigors of a college schedule, and particularly here at Notre Dame, how do we maximize the time but maximizing getting the most out of our student-athletes and not lose them?

“As you know, we’ve had a couple years here in a rough stretch of injuries. And how do we have an injury prevention protocol that brings in the very best science? You’ve done a great job of reaching out in getting us those kind of resources. so I think tapping into that is probably the next piece. As well as providing the resources for our student-athletes. Continuing to look at facilities. Continuing to give our student-athletes maybe that little edge. Because everybody’s got 85 scholarships.”

It’s clear that the issue is one that’s on the radar for not just Kelly, but the athletic administration. So it’ll be interesting to see some of the steps taken as the program begins investing time and additional resources to an issue that’s really hit the Irish hard the past few seasons.

There’s plenty of other good stuff in the 13-minute interview, so give it a watch.