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Kelly expects to play two quarterbacks in 2016

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With Notre Dame opening up camp next week, Brian Kelly seems to be opening up to the idea of playing two quarterbacks.

As DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire get set to begin their battle, Notre Dame’s head coach talked about that high-profile job with Jim Rome, giving us an interesting look at his mindset on the eve of the season, while also adding a new tweak to the old adage of having two quarterbacks.

Namely, you need two.

“I think you need two,” Kelly told Rome. “You’re going to need two quarterbacks in college football. You need two and we’ve got two very good ones. My expectation is that we need both of them to play.”

That attitude makes sense when you look back at Kelly’s time in South Bend. From the moment Dayne Crist’s bell was rung against Michigan in Kelly’s first season, Notre Dame’s offense has seemingly been pushed into Plan B each and every season—giving way to Nate Montana, Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and eventually Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer.

The Irish certainly wouldn’t have won 10 games in 2015 if Kizer wasn’t capable of thriving when he replaced Zaire against Virginia. And Kelly knows that experience has turned the tables on the depth chart as they enter 2016.

“Both of them are capable of winning, we know that. Malik showed that in the way he played against Texas and he’s been in the program for four years,” Kelly said. “But Kizer obviously has got more experience because of the number of games that he played and big games last year.”

While the plan to continue the competition into fall camp hasn’t changed, Kelly seems to have softened on his stance that only one quarterback will be happy. And while you certainly can’t take this as a declaration that a platoon is coming, Kelly acknowledged the need to have both guys ready and involved. And the best way to do that is by getting them on the field.

“It would be great that whoever took the job over played so well that he’s going to be a Heisman contender,” Kelly said. “If that doesn’t happen, I can see both of them eventually playing.”

The balancing act is nothing new for Kelly. He’s managed it in South Bend, as well as in Cincinnati and his two previous stops. While he’s noted the challenges Ohio State had last season trying to make their offense work while utilizing both Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, it’s worth pointing out that the Irish coaching staff also spent significant time this offseason huddled with the Buckeyes coaching staff, likely a helpful introduction to the quarterback challenges that even Urban Meyer struggled with.

Kelly knows it won’t be easy finding snaps for both quarterbacks. But he also knows it’s likely better to find your balance when you’re the one dictating terms—not a season-ending injury.

“I think it’s so important to have two quarterbacks, be engaged, keep them involved and as much as they can try to get them in the game if you can,” Kelly said. “It’s a lot more difficult if you can do that. But thats the way it is in college football, with the quarterback being so actively involved in the running game.”

Zaire made it only 19 carries last year when his season ended with a broken ankle. Quarterback runs have ended seasons for Dayne Crist and forced Everett Golson to miss multiple games. But Notre Dame’s offense requires a quarterback who can run the football. And Kelly would rather take his chances playing to that identity than recalibrating how they attack opponents.

“You can’t change your identity week to week, you’ve got to be who you are,” Kelly said. “These two quarterbacks are proven winners. The team knows that.

“I’m not going to have a quarterback controversy. I think we can move forward knowing that both of them are going to play in some fashion.”

***

Listen to Kelly’s full interview with Jim Rome from July 29 below. 

BK on Jim Rome: Didn’t see Michigan shutout coming

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With his team 2-0 and looking well positioned to get out of September undefeated, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was a guest on Jim Rome‘s radio show Wednesday afternoon. The Irish head coach shared some interesting thoughts, while also being very candid about the Irish’s 31-0 defeat of Michigan.

When asked if he saw the dominant shutout victory coming, Kelly was strikingly honest.

“No,” Kelly said, almost with a laugh. “I dont think you ever go into the game against Michigan or Stanford and expect to shut anybody out in BCS football. It’s so hard to get shutouts today. You’re expecting to win, but shutouts are so hard to get in college football today.”

Kelly referenced that shutout on Saturday, when he shared the incredible game note that it was the first time Notre Dame had shutout Michigan in the history of the rivalry, also breaking the Wolverines NCAA record of 365-straight games without being skunked, going back to the Reagan era.

A big part of Notre Dame’s quick start has been Everett Golson’s nearly flawless two games. When asked if he thought Golson would get off to such a quick start, Kelly said he wasn’t sure what to expect from his senior quarterback.

“I think he’s been really good. And there’s room for him to get better,” Kelly said. “I didn’t know what to expect because he was off for a long time. I thought he would round into the player that we had expected him to be before he lost the year of eligibility. But he had been off for a year. So I thought it was going to take him a little bit longer to round into the player we were expecting him to be after his first year.”

Of course, no interview would be complete without asking about defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Notre Dame’s first year coach went viral on Saturday night with an epic fist pump. Kelly had a good laugh when discussing his new assistant and the reaction his celebration received.

“I think it’s awesome. It’s college football. We’ve got 18-21 year old kids,” Kelly said. “”He’s under control during the game in his calls and he’s detailed and organized, but that fist pump was the result of a pick six at the end of the game and I’m all for that. He brings an energy and an enthusiasm to the college game that I think is awesome.”

With the Shamrock Series ahead this weekend, Kelly acknowledged that the idea of giving away a home game every season to go play elsewhere, though (as he also echoed on Tuesday, has come to love it.)

“I wasn’t crazy about it. I didn’t think it was a real good idea to take away one of your home games,” Kelly said. “But now that I’ve been a part of it, I’m in favor of it, because we’ve played in these really neat venues. From Cowboy Stadium, to Yankee Stadium to Ireland. it affords us some geographical recognition in those areas from a recruiting standpoint. The kids get to have some cool designs with the uniform which is big with the young kids. So I’ve really changed my tune since I’ve gotten here.”

 

 

Weekend Notes: Camp at Culver, Freshman numbers and the Chuck Martin circuit

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We are running out of days without football to talk about. Preseason camp is right around the corner. For student-athletes, they get one last chance to spend time with family and friends before returning to campus and kicking off camp.

Notre Dame announced officially that they’ll begin camp at the Culver Military Academy on Monday, August 4. It’s a great opportunity to get away from campus as they did last year, and Culver’s facilities — not to mention a long tradition with Notre Dame — make for a perfect fit.

“Culver Military Academy will provide a unique and rewarding opportunity for our football program as we embark on the 2014 season,” said fifth-year head coach Brian Kelly. “Culver holds a special place in my heart as my family has participated in camps on the grounds for years. We were able to initiate a successful program last year at Shiloh Park Retreat and Conference Center. Culver will significantly help improve the experience for our team this fall.”

The Irish will spend the first week of camp at Culver, opening on August 4th before returning to campus and the LaBar Football Practice Fields on Saturday, August 9. The official release calls the first week their “acclimatization portion of training camp.”

Culver is about 45 minutes from campus, and the historic military academy has a long history with the Irish football program. That, along with some top-notch football facilities, made for a great opportunity.

“We are happy to welcome Notre Dame back to Culver,” Head of Schools John Buxton said. “Culver and the Irish have enjoyed a great relationship through years dating back to Knute Rockne and Bob Peck. Lou Holtz brought his teams here in 1995 and 1996. Our teams have played at ND on several occasions and Notre Dame teams have used our facilities over the years. This exchange gives our coaches and student-athletes the opportunity to see in action the ideals we aspire to with our programs.”

***

While Andrew Trumbetti and Justin Brent enrolled at Notre Dame early and took part in spring practice, we’ll get our first official look at the rest of the freshman class come training camp. But for those wondering about the jersey numbers that the freshmen will take to the field, Notre Dame’s sports information department confirmed Irish Illustrated’s scoop on who will be wearing what next year.

Florida transfer Cody Riggs is taking over Bennett Jackson’s No. 2 jersey for his lone season in South Bend. The rest of the scholarship newcomers will wear the following:

No. 2: Cody Riggs
No. 5: Nyles Morgan
No. 11: Justin Brent
No. 13: Tyler Luatua
No. 14: DeShone Kizer
No. 15: Corey Holmes
No. 19: Nick Watkins
No. 23: Drue Tranquill
No. 33: Jhonny Williams
No. 43: Kolin Hill
No. 48: Greer Martini
No. 53: Sam Mustipher
No. 55: Jonathan Bonner
No. 56: Quenton Nelson
No. 67: Jimmy Byrne
No. 71: Alex Bars
No. 75: Daniel Cage
No. 82: Nic Weishar
No. 85: Tyler Newsome
No. 92: Grant Blankenship
No. 93: Jay Hayes
No. 96: Pete Mokwuah
No. 98: Andrew Trumbetti

Some additional info to add to my profiles as I keep rolling through the Irish A-to-Z.

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It was a big week for new Miami (Ohio) head coach Chuck Martin. The former Irish offensive coordinator made a few headlines this week, as he was profiled by the always excellent Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports and appeared on the Jim Rome Show on Friday afternoon.

As you’d expect, Martin came off great in both profiles, with this section of Wetzel’s article particularly interesting:

[Martin] was the perfect combination of experience and acumen; a proven tactician and motivator. He could both develop talent and recruit it, both at the elite level of Notre Dame and finding diamonds in the rough in D-II.

He was on the radar of any number of higher paying programs where even if they were struggling he’d take over teams with players who scored more than two touchdowns in an entire season. Basically he wouldn’t risk the trajectory of his career on a winless bunch in the MAC.

“When he took the job, six ADs from other schools called and said, ‘how’d you get him?'” Miami athletic director David Sayler said.

Yeah, how?

“I’m just a little bit off,” Martin noted.

Then he laughed again.

Wetzel also talked about Martin’s skills on the recruiting trail, highlighting a recruiting battle Martin had late in the cycle against Rutgers for the services of receiver Sam Martin. When Martin talked about wanting to go to the Big Ten, Martin didn’t struggle to set him straight.

“He said, ‘Coach, I want to play at the highest level,'” Martin told Wetzel. “I said, ‘The highest level is the NFL. If you think they can get you to the NFL more than me, then go play there.’

“He signed with me.”

On Jim Rome’s program today, Martin talked a little bit about the decision to take a roughly $200,000 pay cut and take over a program that wasn’t even competitive last season, losing all 12 games.

“Most people that know MAC football think I’ve got the best job in the league,” Martin told Rome. “I know it says 0-12 and I know they struggled the last few years, but the combination of football and academics, and then the campus life and even the town of Oxford, it’s a pretty powerful combination to beat. And then to take over a program that has a history of being successful but is down is a pretty powerful combination as a coach.”

Martin also talked about the perfect fit he found at Miami, able to sell the marriage of academics and athletics that worked for him at Notre Dame. As you’d expect, he didn’t mince words.

“The national graduation rate is hard for me to stomach. The amount of money we make in Division I athletics in football and basketball, graduation rates should be in the 80s to 90s. We have all these resources with all these schools with tutors, and all these specialists that help Division I athletes, but we’re making hundreds of millions of dollars and coaches are making millions of dollars off these kids, and we’re graduating kids at a much lower percentage than we should.

The sad thing is that they go on and when they’re 30, they’re having a hard time functioning in the world, and we’re still making millions of dollars. To me, I’m an old Division III, non-scholarship athlete that went to school to get a degree and I played football because I wanted to do something with my free time, nobody paid me to play college football. To me, we’re committed and I’m committed to finding the schools that graduate kids and are committed to graduating kids, just like they are committed to making their hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Martin talked openly with Wetzel about recruiting players to Oxford by telling them up front that he planned on kicking their a**. He didn’t soften his sentiment at all, continuing to be the blunt and up front guy Notre Dame fans never really got a chance to know.

“If you want it easy, don’t come and play football for us,” Martin said of his recruiting pitch. “If you want it easy every day for the rest of your four-year career, I’ll do that, but that’s not going to help you get to where you want to go. I want, on the field for you to help us win championships, and I want to develop you into an NFL player.”

 

Big Lou looks back on Notre Dame

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Louis Nix appeared on the Jim Rome Show this morning and as you might have guessed, he didn’t disappoint.

In under 11 minutes, Nix and Rome touched on all the greatest hits, everything from his tough upbringing in Jacksonville, his decision to come to Notre Dame, the disappointment that came from an injury plagued senior season and his broad jumping skills at the NFL Combine.

While you need to be a Jungle Insider to hear the entire interview, here are a few snippets from Big Lou’s appearance.

On living the Irish Chocolate lifestyle:

“The Irish Chocolate lifestyle is just being yourself, being motivated,” Nix told Rome. “Being that guy that everybody loves. Try your best to be a humble, friendly, passionate guy. I try to be the guy that’s the mood for the room, that keeps a smile on everybody’s face. But when it’s time to get serious, I get serious.”

On going viral as he attempted to stick the landing in the broad jump. 

source:

 

 

“At first, I didn’t know it was happening,” Nix said of his broad jump performance. “I landed and I thought I was fine and then I started going backwards, and then I was like, ‘Wow, I’m falling… Timber.’

“I saw the video. I thought it was funny. I didn’t like the cameraman’s over-exaggeration of my fall. He started making the camera shake like I was an earthquake or something. I didn’t like that.”

***

Nix also talked about the disappointment of finishing his career with an injury plagued senior season, one cut short by a knee injury that forced him to sit out Senior Day and end his season early.

“It got frustrating. I wanted to be one of those top defensive tackles. I wanted to be a consensus All-American. I wanted to win a Lombardi and Outland and those types of trophies,” Nix told Rome. “I had my goals set for the future and the seasons and that didn’t happen, but I had to stay motivated, I couldn’t just say I’ve got this injury and I’m done. I needed to get better and get back to where I wanted to be. I have new goals set for myself and I just want to be a better defensive tackle than I was yesterday.”

Of course, Nix joked about feeling and looking sexier than ever, courtesy of a svelte 325-pound frame that he’s now carrying around. Nix credited a lot of kale salads and eating gluten free, though he wasn’t exactly sure what that meant.

(Me neither.)

 

“I feel sexy. I feel great. It’s a process. You have to eat right. I want to feel better about myself and my body,” Nix said. “I feel like I’ve got a six-pack. It’s kinda covered by my protective stomach, but I’m feeling sexy about myself and I want to keep it going.”

While he left a fifth year on the table, Nix leaves South Bend with a degree and will likely be a first round draft pick come May. It’s a wonderfully validating success story for a kid that chose a Notre Dame even without a head coach.  

“At the time, when I did commit without a coach, I was told it was the dumbest decision ever,” Nix said. “But I wasn’t committing to a coach, I was committing to the university. I wanted that challenge in my life. I wanted something different for myself outside of Jacksonville, Florida. I took that risk and I think it came out to be one of the best decisions in my life.”

Special thanks to Dave Whelan and the rest of the XR4TI crew for the audio.