Brian Kelly, Everett Golson

Kelly kicks off spring practice


It didn’t feel like spring this morning in South Bend when Brian Kelly started his car, the temperature well below zero as the Irish head coach headed to the Gug. But after a week skiing with his family, Notre Dame’s fifth-year head coach prepares to start one of the more unique spring schedules he’s ever embarked on.

The Irish will begin practice on Monday, working out twice before spring break. They’ll have two weeks off before taking the field again on March 19th, then work consistently until April 12, when they’ll play the Blue-Gold game the week before Easter.

“We start spring practice as early as I can remember it, Kelly said. “It’s spread out a little bit better than trying to get all 15 in after spring break with obviously trying to finish up before Easter.

“That’s the reason why we tried to stretch out spring ball a little bit longer because of the way the schedule fits this year, for those that were wondering why we start a little bit earlier this year.”

The Irish staff has shuffled the deck again, with Bob Elliott shifting to outside linebackers and Kerry Cooks taking over the defensive backs. New graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy will work with Cooks and the secondary, bringing the former Irish captain back to the program as a coach.

Tony Alford will work with just running backs while Mike Denbrock will handle all the wide receivers in addition to his offensive coordinator duties. New quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur will begin his work with Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, the head coach ever watchful of a position so critical for success.

And defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will bring a new voice to the defensive side of the ball, evolving a group that built a base under Bob Diaco. Kelly talked about the transition from Diaco to VanGorder, acknowledging the edict of Diaco as being one slightly different than what VanGorder has been tasked.

While the roster inherited in 2010 lacked a base knowledge after bouncing between three coordinators, the Irish defensive personnel under VanGorder will be asked to take a step forward schematically.

“When I hired Bob to come here, we needed to build consistency and stability with our defense. He certainly answered the charge that I had given him. We needed fundamentally sound defense, and we got that from coach. We have a great base. We have, now, developed what we consider a demeanor on our defense and an expectation. Now we’re going to take it to the next level defensively.

“Brian is going to be able to take our defense to the next level. I think that’s what you’ll see in what coach VanGorder brings to our defense. Third-down packages, we’ll be able to use personnel uniquely different in certain areas. But at the end of the day, this is still about keeping the points down, taking the football away, and eliminating the big play.”

It’s the start of a new era in South Bend, a similar feeling to the one that existed in the spring of 2012, when Charlie Molnar, Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton left the program.

We’ve got a long six months to determine whether or not these changes will be as successful, but they certainly make for an exciting return to football.


Even with heavy rain in forecast, kickoff stays in primetime

Post & Courier via Twitter
Post & Courier (via Twitter)

With rain falling and the forecast expecting much more, Notre Dame and Clemson are kicking off in primetime anyway.

College GameDay was on campus this morning, showcasing the soggy conditions and the mud-covered campus. And while some wondered whether or not the kickoff would move up to earlier in the day to take advantage of a slight lull in the conditions, kickoff is remaining at 8:22 p.m.

“We’ve been in constant communication with state and local law enforcement and have monitored weather throughout the week and today,” director of athletics Dan Radakovich said in a statement Friday night. “I’ve spoken with campus leaders, State Highway Patrol, and Governor Nikki Haley, and feel confident we can play the game as scheduled. We ask our fans to be conscientious arriving and departing from our campus as we will have some limitations due to this ongoing weather event.”

Ball security will be key this evening, and during an interview with Tom Rinaldi this morning Kelly mentioned the punting and kick game as concerns in these conditions. The Irish came to Clemson prepared for miserable conditions and if the forecast holds, they’ll get just that.

Irish get commitment from 2017 TE Cole Kmet

Cole Kmet

Notre Dame’s tight end recruiting keeps rolling. The Irish received a commitment from Illinois tight end Cole Kmet, who adds a third piece to Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class.

Kmet is a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder, joining fellow blue-chipper 2017 tight end Brock Wright in next year’s recruiting class (they won’t sign until February 2017). He had early offers from plenty of the top programs around the country, but picked Notre Dame over finalist Ohio State, a nice recruiting victory for Scott Booker and Brian Kelly.

Kmet talked about the decision with Irish 247 who broke the news:

“I think it was just a gut feeling knowing it was Notre Dame,” Kmet to Irish 247. “I didn’t want to pass on playing for that program and attending that university. It’s always been the school I wanted an offer from and Ohio State made it really close, but I just couldn’t pass on Notre Dame.”