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Kelly sheds light on key personnel decisions

Jan 29, 2013, 2:37 PM EDT

Carlo Calabrese

Brian Kelly held an impromptu conference call with reporters this morning, likely hoping to clear his docket before Signing Day next week. While we’ll get into some of his explanation about his flirtation with the Philadelphia Eagles and his thoughts on the Manti Te’o hoax, he reveal a few interesting thoughts on some personnel decisions.

For those wondering what the future of the linebacker position looks like, Kelly strongly hinted that the plans for the spring and beyond include both Carlo Calabrese and Dan Fox. That’s pretty interesting news with scholarship numbers tight as the Irish head down the home stretch solidifying a recruiting class that could swell to 25 (or more).

Kelly announced that Fox and fellow defensive starter Bennett Jackson would be out for the spring with shoulder surgeries, each performed in the days following the BCS Championship game.

“We feel all of these guys that had the shoulder surgeries are going to be back for us,” Kelly said, when mentioning Fox, Jackson, and potentially some other undisclosed players. “They probably won’t participate for us in the spring, they’ll be in a non-contact situation, but we feel really good about the things we had to cleanup. We don’t see any long-term issues with any of our returning players.”

While Kelly wouldn’t commit to any returning fifth year players until the dust settles on Signing Day, he did talk about the battle to replace Manti Te’o at the ‘Mike’ linebacker position, singling out both fifth-year candidates and youngster Jarrett Grace.

“I think we’ve got three guys that are capable of playing inside that have a lot of experience,” Kelly said. I think you’ve got to throw Calabrese and Fox and Grace in as the front-runners to be involved in that inside linebacker position.

“As you know Kendall Moore has got some experience as well and we’ve got a host of young players that want to be included. That will be the fun part. Those three guys I would say lead right now.”

It’s hard to imagine Kelly not welcoming back two of the three players he’s considering frontrunners for two starting job, especially with both Calabrese and Fox working out with the team and prepping for next season.


Also spending time with the team is Jamoris Slaughter, whose future with the team is still up in the air, as the university is appealing for a sixth-season of competition. Notre Dame’s compliance officer Jen Vining-Smith is on the case, though when Notre Dame hears is still unclear.

“We’re still in the process with the NCAA relative to his appeal for an additional season of competition. We’re hopeful that we’ll hear something before the conclusion of recruiting,” Kelly said. “Obviously it’s one of those things that everyone wants to know. I know I want to know, the media wants to know, certainly Jamoris wants to know. We just don’t have an answer at this point.”

With his teammates taking to Twitter to try and start #FreeSlaughter trending, one safety the Irish will certainly welcome back from a season-ending injury is Austin Collinsworth. After shoulder and back surgeries sidelined Collinsworth last season, expect to see Collinsworth make an appearance sometime this spring, though Kelly isn’t exactly sure of what the timeline will be just yet.

With Collinsworth back in the mix, you’ve got a guy that will potentially take Zeke Motta’s place as the quarterback of the secondary. While Matthias Farley certainly learned a ton this season as he was thrown into the fire, the staff is extremely high on Collinsworth’s ability, and the number of talented safeties on the roster will give the defense a lot of versatility.


Lastly, it was some good news / bad news along the offensive line. Kelly feels optimistic about the future of Matt Hegarty, who suffered a mysterious ailment that was revealed to be a stroke over the media session down in Miami.

“We think we’re going to get clearance on him pretty soon,” Kelly said of Hegarty. “The procedure went extremely well. He’s adapting to the medication. We feel really confident there.”

On the flip-side of that coin is Tate Nichols, who has struggled with injuries since arriving on campus. The bruising 6-foot-8, 320-pound tackle might not be physically able to compete for the Irish, after a difficult knee injury took him off the field this season.

“Tate Nichols on the other hand is not as confident that he’ll be able to return to action,” Kelly said. “We’re in conversation about that being a medical situation with Tate.”

The loss of Nichols is a tough one, especially with his size and athleticism looking so promising for the Irish as they hoped to have a right tackle road-grader type. His absence will also make numbers awfully tight this spring, with the Irish down to possibly eight scholarship linemen until reinforcements come this summer.

If you’re looking for a hint on what the future holds for Nichols, check back after Signing Day. With so many top prospects still interested in the Irish, expect Notre Dame to accept a commitment now to replace Nichols scholarship next fall.


One last battle to watch? Who replaces Braxston Cave at center. It appears that Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand are down to three candidates this spring, Hegarty, Nick Martin and redshirt freshman Mark Harrell.

“I think at the center position we’ve got to look at a couple of different options,” Kelly said. “Certainly Hegarty has had some experience there. We’re going to look at Martin. And I think Mark Harrell did a very nice job for us in the championship game preparation.

“Those three guys I think will get the first look at it in terms of the center position.”

  1. ibleedirish - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:45 PM

    Joe Pesci and Dan Fox at both inside linebackers? I just puked in my mouth a little…

    • ibleedirish - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      Giving my comment a thumbs down proves you don’t have any understanding of what elite level linebacker talent needs to look like. Fox/Carlo=mediocrity. If you are fine with that, well then, have at it.

      • ibleedirish - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:37 PM

        Thats right, bring it on boys. I’m bathing in your disapproval. I think someone just caught another pass over the middle on Carlo.

      • fighting69th - Jan 31, 2013 at 10:10 AM

        I agree with you. You are not a delusional Irish fan. You are a realist like me. Small, undersized LB’s will not work in coverage. LB’s are a problem now

        • ibleedirish - Jan 31, 2013 at 4:24 PM

          Amen brother. For all this talk about being back among the elite, we ought to have elite middle linebackers. These two aren’t even in the neighborhood of elite.

  2. dudeacow - Jan 29, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    I think the Fox/Jackson surgeries are actually blessings in disguise. Here you have two positions (ILB, CB) where the two-deep has little experience. Now there are two players that will get to practice with the first team and make themselves much more capable backups.

  3. bernhtp - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    It increasingly sounds like Nichols’ scholarship may be converted. That’s a bad loss considering his upside.

  4. 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    maybe they’ll call themselves “the two yoots”

  5. nudeman - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I realize I personally beat this topic to death, but it still annoys me.

    I read a transcript and his comments on pursuing the Eagles job were disingenuous to an insulting extent. Said (paraphrasing) “just was intrigued (his word) by it; wanted to learn more about the NFL and the process; etc”

    All about being “intrigued”. Just gathering information. Does ANYBODY believe that?

    Was never offered the job, but my strong sense is that had an offer been made, he’d have taken it.

    What’s done is done. On to a great 2013, please.
    But this remains relevant because he’ll pull the same sh** next year.

    • ibleedirish - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Jeez nude. You are usually spot on, but re: BK’s interest in the NFL, move on brother. This is what happens at big time programs. Be glad we are one again. You sound a bit like a jilted lover man.

    • don74 - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      What could he have said to change your mind? He telling the truth or he is not. Either believe him or don’t. Regardless of motives, it doesn’t matter as he is back. Throughout the entire episode JS was convinced he’d be coach at ND. Having never spoken with either I will take it at face value and try to read the tea leaves regarding the OL.

    • bernhtp - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:45 PM

      I doubt we’ll see the same crap next year. That’s the last thing that Swarbrick wants and there’s a reason BK’s new contract is taking so long. I suspect it will contain a strong dose of poison pill.

      • nudeman - Jan 29, 2013 at 4:49 PM

        In order to avoid a lynch mob at my front door, I won’t pursue the topic further.
        I hope you are right bern and this isn’t an annual occurrence. I like Kelly as a coach and hope he stays.

        Period, and Peace Out.

    • jimbasil - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:46 PM

      Yeah, I guess Kelly’s “Official Visit” after commitment pissed us all off.

      I doubt he would have taken the offer. If he’s smart he’ll stay in the college game. He doesn’t have the temperament to deal with high paid players wanting to do their own thing.

    • papadec - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:58 PM

      nude – he’ll do it every year ND wins at least 10 games – until some NFL team is really interested & makes an offer. The honeymoon is over – his heart ain’t in South Bend.

      • nudeman - Jan 29, 2013 at 7:30 PM

        You’re killing me. I go all nice and you yank me back in.

        Any news on Tuiasosopo?

      • don74 - Jan 30, 2013 at 8:51 AM


        I check out the South Bend Trib every morning and there was the Kelly article, no new news, but the comments were interesting. There is a guy commenting about Kelly being a liar and the usual stuff that follows.

        The interesting thing is the comments are all done through Facebook. Near the bottom is a comment from Judy Anazalone. Click on and it appears to be Alex’ mother. The comment is “Matthew 7 1:5”.

        Of course I had to look it up but I find it interesting she read the article and commented.

    • paiten34 - Jan 30, 2013 at 2:13 AM

      Nude –

      So far I’ve stayed out of this topic and for good reason, I work in the same profession. Not at all in the same league as Brian Kelly or any member of his staff. I coach high school football in Arizona so not even a hot bed of high school football.

      Having said that I would like to point out that in the high pressure field of coaching you have to strike when your hot. Right now Brian Kelly is coming off a season that finished one game from the triple crown of coaching. Going undefeated, wining awards for players and coaches alike. You throw in a top recruiting class and coach Kelly is as hot as any other coach.

      Who knows In what regard will BK be held in a few seasons. His stock may rise or fall and in the world of coaching that means big money and very nice deals will be available. The flip side is that if injuries hit the Irish hard, players don’t play above and beyond you know what will happen to BK and his stock. It falls and now the NFL isn’t calling and Notre Dame starts considering their coaching options and the future of Kelly.

      Nude, having said that I truly think Kelly screwed up his handling of this situation. I just know how hard the coaching business can be on a coach. There’s no longer loyalty to a point that I trust my team not to fire me if we start playing bad. Most coaches started thinking more this way when teams stopped or shortened our life line to build a consistent winner.

      In closing I think Kelly wanted this time to “only ask and look around at what is involved in being a NFL coach.” I don’t think for a moment that Kelly would leave ND. Having said that I do think that his Tim will come when he does leave to take a NFL job.

      • nudeman - Jan 30, 2013 at 11:08 AM

        Great comment. Striking while the iron is hot. It’s his life and career, and he’s within his rights.

        My angst comes in that he has pretty much presented himself as an “all in” ND guy. Then the first sign of interest elsewhere and he’s interviewing.

        But here’s my real point: The mistake that many make is focusing on the money. Yes, money matters; and yes, the money in the NFL is better than at ND. But the bigger factor at play here is ego, and and that is NOT a criticism of BK. You don’t get to be the HC at ND without thinking you’re pretty damn good. And he is pretty damn good.

        Coaching in the NFL is arguably the pinnacle in the football coaching profession. There are only 30 of those jobs, the best players in the world play there, and the money and notoriety are killer. It is natural for a guy to aspire to that, ESPECIALLY when he’s seen his peers go there (Chip Kelly) and constantly be rumored to go back (Saban). Can’t blame him if there’s something in the pit of his stomach that says “Hey, I can do that too”

        So when BK interviewed with the Eagles:
        1) Though the timing was bad, it was understandable. Infuriating, but understandable.
        2) He was legitimately interested and I don’t buy the “it was just intrigue” BS
        3) It rendered meaningless all his prior comments about how much he loves ND. It’s a job. But I’ll “effort” to get over that.

        As don74 pointed out (and many others too) at this point, none of this matters. He’s back and they look good for 2013. Beat Temple. And I think it’s highly likely that Swarbrick will make it very expensive for BK to go through this next year or the year after.

      • irish4006 - Jan 30, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        It’s really hard to blame BK for interviewing/talking to the Eagles. Even if he is 100% committed, if NFL comes calling, you listen to what they have to say. Whether it is “intrigue” or ambition, we can debate to death. I, personally, think it would be a bad career move for him to take an NFL job (offered or not, I don’t know).

        College is what he knows and he is at a place where he is able to recruit the best, has the resources and facilities to take his game to the next level. Also, he just bought himself a few more years with the team with the season he had. NFL would probably be a little more money and prestige, but a completely new territory and an uncertain future.

        Keeping in line with what paiten said, I work for a very successful company (once #1 in its industry in the world) and generally happy with the job. But, if the new #1 comes calling for something bigger/better, the least I can do is to make a trip and listen to what they have to say; that is not a reflection on how I feel about my current company. You only get a limited number of productive years, you owe it to yourself and your future to weigh all the options and make the best decision you possibly can.

  6. bearcatirishfan - Jan 29, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    When is the cheerleaders spring game, now that’s some action I want to examine.

    • almoose - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      You probably need to move someplace else

  7. gtizzo - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    Interesting offensive line situation Keith,

    Zack Martin’s return is huge. That left tackle spot is so important with a right handed QB. The Right tackle is also important but the QB should see the pressure. With Golson we can also move the pocket so that helps also. The battle at center is also very important considering the center calls out blocking assignments.

  8. almoose - Jan 29, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    Hope the Manti T thing is over. It’s time to focus on winning and the spring get ready debut! Coach Kelly should place emphasis on getting more players then just one or two like Manti all the credit. Just think of the offensive line that did a lot of work as well as the defense! The School has a proud history and should use the best ideas to move forward. Coach Kelly got a little better in Control of his temper towards the end of the Season, and I think will carry this into next year. Good Luck ND

    • ibleedirish - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:41 AM

      Yes, lets use the best ideas to move forward. That sounds nice.

  9. mountunionirish51 - Jan 29, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    I agree with Nude. Had the offer came he would have been gone. Just as he did at Cincy to come to ND.

    • ibleedirish - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:43 AM

      And if another company tripled your salary and cut your workload tomorrow, you would leave your current post as well. WTF is your point?

  10. papadec - Jan 29, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    nude, nude, nude – I saw you slippin’ into the tepid waters of complacency & was compelled to pull you back into the cesspool of reality. Wheeeew, you really had me worried there, for a bit. Mr Nice Guy? Just ain’t the same nude guy. I read the Kelly interview transcript @ IrishSportsDaily – thought I was going to barf. Kelly just doesn’t come across as honest & sincere (to me) anymore. I guess time will tell, on this issue. Regarding Tuiasosopo – the family up here is upstanding. Dad played for the Seahawks (as I recall). Children are great athletes (I think one of the sons plays baseball for the Mariners) & nothing but good stuff about the family. I don’t know if they are related to the people in California.

  11. irishpuma - Jan 29, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    BK is BK….He will always pursue his best interests. I think it will be yearly if there is interest and I also think he will suck in the NFL. But who cares lets focus on 2013 and brining this class in with a bang aka EV4!!!!

  12. ajw21 - Jan 29, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    I agree with Bern. Jack is no dummy. I would be suprised if the new contract doesnt have a hefty buyout if Kelly bolts. I dont know what to think. I like to believe a guy when he says it was intrique but his past record brings up red lights but he never had a job like ND before. I will enjoy next season and worry about the circus after the fact.
    FYI: Not blaming him for what he said before BCS game, its a no win, you say ND is my dream job or I will wait until after the season to explore all options. You don’t need the distraction before the BCS game. In hindsight it wouldn’t of mattered but people would of freaked out and bashed the guy even more!
    Go Irish!

    • ibleedirish - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      His past record…. So you are saying in his shoes, you would have opted to stay at Grand Valley State? At Central Michigan? Coached until retirement at Cincy? Are you F-ing serious? You all are a bunch of sensitive little boys aren’t you. By your logic I should have stuck it out at my first paper route.

  13. yaketyyacc - Jan 30, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    nude. I have to agree with you on coach Kelly. he is like the girlfriend who says she only went on another date with someone else to reinforce her love for me. translated: the date turned out lousy and so back to old faithful until another reinforcment comes along. It is his makeup. There seems to be a lack of humaness in his personality. words like process, evaluation, another level, etc., a if these sensitive, young men are merely programable robots. oh well, enough.

  14. keelio19 - Jan 30, 2013 at 8:00 AM

    I’m not really sure what my feeling is with Fox or Carlo but I guess I would rather have some veteran players in there that have been on the field before. You know Kelly is going to put the best player at the position, so these two may be the front runners right now, but Grace may surprise us all and just stud it out in the spring. I’ve heard nothing but praise for Grace, and he’s just been buying his time behind Teo, I’m getting the feeling he’s going to really come into his own this season. I’ve read reports that Grace has been under Teo’s wing since he’s stepped onto campus, besides all of this Hoax debacle, we can all agree Teo was one helluva player at MLB, so what better player to have get Grace ready to play the MIKE.
    Regarding Kelly, part of me is thinking BK may wait and see how the other Kelly does in Philly before he steps into those murky waters in the NFL. If Chip struggles with his spread offense, there may not be as many NFL owners knocking on Kelly’s door next season, and lets be honest, Kelly is going to have to have another great season which I think we’re all hoping and expecting , but if ,god forbid, the team comes out and lays an egg (2011 season), Kelly’s inconsistencies at ND may stop the calls from the NFL. I mean Chip Kelly was able to produce at high levels for 4-5 years consistently, Kelly had his first year of success no under his belt,(2012) lets see if he can continually pull it off year in and year out for the next couple years.
    Like someone said, Kelly’s contract is still in the works, so his move to talk with the Eagles has definitely opened Jacks eyes to Kelly’s love to play at the next level. So there’s no way Jack is going to sign any contract that will in any way hurt the University in the long run. I know the University is worth Billions of dollars (, but Jack isn’t going to allow another Weis episode and pay two ex-coaches xmillions of dollars every year, I think Jack has learned from that mistake. Here’s to next season, and to us hopefully signing a couple more studs out there, I.E EV and Fitts . Looks like we could also use another linemen, but I haven’t been following any of those recruits, nor do I know of a lot of offers out there.

  15. bearcatirishfan - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    So Kelly’s a hypocrite according to anzalone’s a mother and God. So what we all are.

  16. ibleedirish - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Any of you sensitive heartbroken little boys want to talk about football? Time to stop crying in your beer that Kelly interviewed elsewhere (THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FINALLY HAVE A GOOD COACH YOU SALLIES!). So please, turn off the emo music, remove your eyeliner, wear something besides black and instead of just giving me a thumbs down, somebody please explain what makes you confident that Fox/Carlo can play the Will/Mike at anything above a C- level next year. I personally see this as a bigger issue going into 2013 than the CB situation going into 2012.

    Meanwhile, I’m going to go put on my guy-liner, listen to the Cure and cast some spells on my Brian Kelly doll.

    • jsrnd1 - Jan 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM

      C- is probably being generous…didn’t see anything this year worth that grade, Unless the “gullible” one was involved in the play.

  17. 11thstreetmafia - Jan 30, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    I wonder how many freshman are going to have an impact on two-deeps. More freshman played a role last season than I thought and there are better players coming in this fall. Ps. What ever happened to that Chris Badger guy, I know his mission is over but I never hear his name anymore.

  18. almoose - Jan 30, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    I wish ND played a few SEC conference teams. Hell just one would do. Michigan got killed by Alabama as did ND but it give the College a chance to look where they could be better. Now ND has much better academics and this is important. so on we go this year. Think ND will be 9 and 3 this year. Hope its better! Kelly looking at the money as others would. Can’t blame him Look at baseball. My goodness 150 million?? Kelly gets what 3 a year??

    • papadec - Jan 30, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      almoose -so maybe he should play 3rd base for the Yankees?

  19. almoose - Feb 1, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    wish the University a great year. Wonderful thoughtful Priest, teachers, Coaches, Students! The whole place is just fun to walk through and get caught up in the Spirit. These young people go on to be our American Citizens leading in a hostile world but armed with the Christian Values and Academic knowledge to sustain them for the future! I wish the team the best and know the School will do well this year. I pray for those who are part of this fine instructions! GO ND

  20. almoose - Feb 1, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I wish there was or could be some comments on or about the Basketball Team. The kids are playing their hearts out. I know I am in the wrong place to comment about Basketball but just wanted to throw a little Praise their way!

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