Tag: Brian Kelly

Notre Dame v Syracuse

Kelly hits the recruiting trail to bring back Stanley and Day


Say this for Brian Kelly. He learns from his mistakes.

And after losing Stephon Tuitt and Troy Niklas after just three seasons in South Bend, Notre Dame’s head coach made sure he had a final say before Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day made their stay-or-go decision.

Kelly hit the road over winter break to make sure his best two seniors understood how badly the Irish coaching staff wanted them to return next season, and — just as important — how it would be in their best interest to do so.

Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman has more, including quotes from Kelly on the recruiting trips the Irish head coach — and a caravan including assistant coaches and athletic director Jack Swarbrick — took to both Stanley and Day’s homes.

“I’ve had great success keeping Michael Floyd here, keeping Tyler Eifert here, keeping Manti Te’o here and then last year I was disappointed about one of our players not staying,” Kelly told Fox Sports. “I was not going to leave it up to fate anymore that somebody would understand from my perspective that you should stay for these reasons. I was gonna get on the road and make sure we did this.”

For Stanley, that meant bringing Harry Hiestand to Las Vegas and connecting the junior offensive tackle with Dallas Cowboys All-Pro rookie Zack Martin. It also meant bringing an academic advisor along to help better understand the timing of things like OTAs and an academic plan that’ll have him ready for graduation after next season.

For Day, it meant a visit from Mike Elston and Paul Longo. It also meant an apples to apples comparison with former Pitt star Aaron Donald, who Irish fans have already deemed the optimal prototype for the undersized defensive tackle.

“Our strength coach was with us on that one because we wanted to look at some numbers from the Combine that we wanted to make him aware of,” said Kelly. “We felt like we wanted to get him into (former Pitt All-American) Aaron Donald’s numbers. It was, ‘Right now let’s say four teams really like you. If you start hitting these physical numbers, we think 20 teams are gonna really like you, and that’s the net benefit for you.'”

More important than any sales pitch was another option Notre Dame was offering. An insurance policy the university would pay for that would cover any loss of value, a commitment that Swarbrick himself gave to both players.

At a school that’s promoting a 40-year decision, adding success stories like Stanley and Day is crucial to the recruiting message to other elite prospects hoping to have the chance to play at the next level. Adding an All-American like Stanley to the “Notre Dame graduate” list continues to separate the Irish from other programs that look more like football factories.

On the field, bringing back this duo is just as critical. After seeing holes in the depth chart after early departures ripped some key building blocks off the 2014 roster, hitting the road and protecting his own roster is just as key to building the 2015 team as finishing the recruiting class strong.

Do yourself a favor and read Feldman’s complete story here.

Kelly’s clear: “Unfinished business” at Notre Dame

Notre Dame v Arizona State

Brian Kelly is all in. For as many times as you’ll hear his name mentioned for an NFL coaching position, the Irish head coach isn’t going anywhere.

“I’ve made it pretty clear what my choices are. I want to be in college football. And I want to take Notre Dame back into being a consistent player,” Kelly told SVP & Russillo. “We’re not there yet, but I think we’re getting closer to it. We’ve got unfinished business. And I’ve got unfinished business at the college ranks. And I want to finish that business off with a national championship. That’s my focus. That’s where I want to be.”

It doesn’t get much more clear-cut. And it doesn’t get any more logical. As we just saw with Jim Harbaugh, it is possible for a head coach (even one as oddly wired as Harbaugh) to experience life coaching on Sundays and make the decision to come back to college.

Kelly has made comments like this before. He’s talked about his preference to act as general manager and head coach, essentially what he does at Notre Dame. And as you look at some of the openings that come around every offseason, the foundation Kelly has built in South Bend looks better and better compared to some of the vacancies in the NFL.

That should make it easy to turn the focus to 2015. With Kelly already doing the calculus on the balancing act that’ll happen next season at quarterback, the offensive future looks bright, especially if Ronnie Stanley returns. (Even without him, things should be just fine.)

On defense, a miserable second half can be erased by building depth, and all those snaps taken by freshmen — not to mention the return of Joe Schmidt — can solve those struggles. Throw in KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams (and maybe even a healthy Jarrett Grace) and a few more impact players certainly won’t hurt Brian VanGorder’s second unit.

So while Kelly’s media rounds on ESPN this week are less preferable than having the Irish still in the conversation, a committed head coach means confidence hasn’t wavered even after one of the most difficult Novembers in recent memory.

So if Kelly wants to leave South Bend and test his luck in the NFL after winning a title, it’s likely Notre Dame will wish him well and get to work on adding another statue outside the stadium. Until then, there’s work to do.

Golson and Zaire will share time against LSU

Rice v Notre Dame

Brian Kelly will play two quarterbacks against LSU, with both senior Everett Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire getting an opportunity to take on the LSU in the Music City Bowl. After a regular season where Golson served as the starter all 12 games with Zaire only seeing significant action against USC in the finale, both will be utilized in the Irish’s offensive game plan.

“I think both of them can help us win,” Kelly said Monday evening. “I want to play them both because I think both of them have different traits and we need to find a way to win the game. I think both of them can help us win.”

How they do that remains to be seen. After juggling multiple quarterbacks during his three seasons in Cincinnati, Kelly has mostly been a one-quarterback coach. But with a month between the one-sided loss to USC and a battle with the SEC’s top defense, Kelly and the offensive staff laid out a plan that should allow each quarterback to play to their strengths.

“We’ve got a plan in place in practice that I feel very comfortable with and we’ll continue to evaluate that as we go through our practices,” Kelly said. “I think as we get into the game there are skillsets that each one of them has that are a little bit different that we’ll utilize in the game. They both have strengths and we will call upon those strengths during the game. I’m confident that I can manage both of them during the game.”

Kelly identified those skills. For Zaire, the ability to run zone-read could help against a Tigers defense that’s stingy against the pass. For Golson, it’s the ability to create and make every throw on the football field, especially against a defense that’ll mostly utilize man coverage.

“I think you try to get a feel for it,” Kelly said, when asked about the balancing act. “But there are some things that we clearly know one quarterback does a little bit better and we’ll go to those strengths regardless of the situation.”

The platoon strategy came about in an interesting way. While some assume Kelly is only begrudgingly playing Zaire after putting up with so many mistakes from Golson throughout the season, it was only because of Golson’s buy-in these past few weeks that he’s sharing reps at all.

“There wouldn’t have been a competition,” Kelly said, hinting that he nearly turned the offense over to Zaire for LSU.

How well this quarterback shuffle works or how long it’ll go on remains to be seen. While the defensive collapse has been the main culprit for the Irish’s four-game slide, Kelly still pins a lot of the team’s woes on the offense not being able to carry the weight.

So he’s not closing the door on this competition dragging into next season.

“I’m open really to anything at this point,” Kelly said. “We want to put the best football team, the best offense that we can on the field. Ideally, you’d like to have one, but if we’ve got two, then that’s what we’ll do.”