After Notre Dame’s men won an improbable ACC basketball title, the team and their head coach did little to shy away from their difficulties in the NCAA tournament.
#NotDoneYet adorns every tweet coming from the team’s official account, and likely serves as a mantra for a team that’s shown flashes of brilliance during regular seasons past, but too often became pumpkins in mid-March.
Just as the basketball team goes back out on the highwire as a No.3 seed, Brian Kelly‘s football team is #JustGettingStarted.
With spring practice set to kickoff on Wednesday, and Kelly ready to give his spring state of the union address with the university back from spring break, the ground work has been laid for a 2015 season that will not shy away from hefty expectations.
At least 18 starters return on a football team that could welcome back 2013 star-in-the-making cornerback KeiVarae Russell and still-promising defensive end Ishaq Williams.
A quarterback depth chart that is about to kick off a high-profile competition between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire largely blinds us from the first dynamic 1-2 punch the Irish have had at the position in… decades?
Defensively, just about every piece of Brian VanGorder‘s unit returns. While standouts Joe Schmidt and Jarron Jones spend spring getting healthy, VanGorder and his rebuilt coaching staff have to prove they’re more like the attacking dominant group that helped the Irish race to a 6-0 start, not the injury-depleted lost cause that turned Northwestern into a winner in South Bend as it hemorrhaged points.
Outside of a restructured coaching staff, there isn’t an influx of new faces charged with changing the results. Frontline seniors like Ronnie Stanley and Sheldon Day need to be stars. Same the ascending juniors Will Fuller, Tarean Folston and Jaylon Smith.
While we focus on holes at safety or depth concerns at running back, Brian Kelly has built his strongest football team yet. Make no mistake, there hasn’t been a roster this talented in South Bend since Lou Holtz was running the show.
With a roster that still needs to find its way to 85 players, 15 spring practices will have an urgency we haven’t seen around the program since the dark days and skepticism before the 2012 season. Pushed forward by a singular leader like Manti Te’o, that team built itself through spring and summer workouts.
After falling apart at the seams last season—the 2014 team lost more games in November than Brian Kelly had in all his seasons in South Bend combined—success this fall begins with the work being done now.
So while Mike Brey and Co. are (hopefully) #NotDoneYet, the road to 2015 is #JustGettingStarted.