Kelly playing for both present and future

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As Notre Dame’s season takes on water, Brian Kelly looks for solutions. And balancing the challenges of winning now and developing for the future is a precarious scenario, and one nobody saw coming this season.

Yet that’s where the Irish find themselves. Because a young roster really only features a handful of veteran contributors—with Isaac Rochell, James Onwualu, Jarron Jones and Cole Luke the only mainstays who’ll run out of eligibility after the season. So that leaves Notre Dame’s seventh-year head coach in an interesting conundrum.

Can you really build for the future when you’re coaching your way onto the hot seat?

Kelly was asked about that proposition as the Irish prepare to face Stanford on Saturday, another game that looks like a coin flip, even with Christian McCaffery questionable. And Kelly brought us back to a familiar refrain from his early days in South Bend,

“I’m doing everything to build the winning identity for this football team for right now, and for ’17, ’18 and ’19,” Kelly said. “Because when I talk to the group there is a row of upperclassmen—not many—and then there is a bunch of young guys. So everything that I direct at them is being absorbed for right now and in the future.”

We’ve seen the lessons as they’ve been learned on the fly. They’ve certainly come with their fair share of lumps as well. So as freshmen like Devin Studstill and Donte Vaughn step into the starting lineup, as Julian Love and Daelin Hayes become more and more a part of the defensive look, Kelly is doing all he can to turn the tide while also building for a rebound season.

“So I’m in the present and we’re coaching the win right now, but everything we do is to return us back to the top,” Kelly explained. “And we want to stop the slide.

“That means start winning again. So everything we are doing right now is to stop right now losing games, and winning games and keep building on that for the future.”