Brian Kelly Hits Reset Button: Notre Dame Spring ’17 Presser Notes

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If you had no interest in following Notre Dame football in any way until this afternoon, you might have thought you were listening to the opening spring press conference for a coach in his first season of a program. We heard Brian Kelly talk about paying attention to detail, not sweating who would be playing what position, and building a solid foundation as a team, and “developing the traits necessary for excellence on a day-to-day basis.” There was a special emphasis on “the process” of creating winning habits, rather than the precision of how a particular route looks, or how refined a players technique is. Kelly wants to focus on building a winning foundation within the program and then go from there.

These are usually the types of things you hear from a coach who just inherited a program, not one who has been in charge of a program for the last seven years. And in laying out this vision for his program, Kelly was offering up a referendum to what plagued his team last season and in previous seasons. You don’t talk about process, attention to detail, and building winning habits if you think you’ve done those things before. You don’t talk about a winning culture if you think you had a winning culture before. You’d be more micro in your goals.

It’s very easy to criticize Kelly for not building these things prior to this season, and it’s not only easy but it is justified. In fact, he did talk about attention to detail in his opening press conference prior to the 2010 season. Remember when he was going to be checking their lockers to make sure they were to his approval? He talked about it then, and nothing came of that, why should this time be any different? That is a fair question and there is reason to believe this is all coach speak.

One of the biggest criticisms I’ve seen about Kelly is the size of his ego and the demand that things are to be done his way. So far this offseason, his actions have flown in the face of that narrative. He got rid of five coaches, some of whom he had very deep ties to, and brought in people he’s never worked with, and then gave them total control. He announced today Chip Long would have full control of the offense, with no strings attached. There wasn’t a person in the world who thought Kelly would give up that kind of control with his Notre Dame career on the line, but he did.

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He also announced, per the requests of his players, he was in the weight room every day at 5:45 being present for those workouts, and he noted he’d be much more active in all three phases of the game, instead of spending so much time with just the offense. It may not work, but Kelly has taken a real look at his program, the job he has done, and changes that needed to be made and he took the steps. And he hasn’t done it half way, he’s been all-in, something he has constantly demanded from his players.

Will this reset translate to wins on the field? It’s hard to say, there isn’t a great track record for 8th year coaches pulling off this kind of move, mostly because coaches in this spot don’t get an 8th year to try and pull it off. But, whatever happens, it won’t be because Kelly tried to do the same old thing over and over again.

Good News On The Health Front

Kelly announced that Shaun Crawford and Javon McKinley were both way ahead of schedule in their recoveries from an Achilles tear (Crawford) and a broken fibula (McKinley). Obviously very good news from both, especially Crawford who, if you’ve followed my writing, I think is one of the best players on the defense. It’s probable that any full time role is unlikely for him this year–and considering he’s coming off of a torn ACL and torn Achilles in back to back years it’s sensible not to put too much on his plate–the nickel position seems to be his destiny. Which makes sense because he’s perfectly suited for it and doesn’t require the wear and tear of being a full-time player.

They also received possibly the biggest news of the day in that defensive tackle Daniel Cage is fully healthy and cleared to be a full participant; we deemed it to be so vital we dedicated an entire post to it. Also of note, Nick Watkins was cleared to be a full participant after breaking his arm last summer, which is no small thing because he was penciled in to start last year and just from a depth standpoint really solidifies the corner position.

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There were no other injuries of note that would keep players out of the lineup, which is obviously a very good thing.

Brandon Wimbush And Ian Book Will Go 60/40

Kelly announced Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book will split their reps 60/40 in the spring as they attempt to get Book up to speed and prepared to play if the need arises in the fall. I wrote about the importance of Book this week and this is the exact rep percentage that I had in mind. They don’t need to put too much on Wimbush in the spring–he’s going to be throwing a lot more than he has been the last two season and the last thing they need is some bout with tendinitis–and it’s unlikely they can give Book 40% of the snaps in the fall as Wimbush gears up for his first year as the starter. Kelly declared himself to be an “Ian Book fan” today, which is nice given that he offered him a scholarship to play at Notre Dame. His development will be important to track throughout the 15 practices.

Kelly also spoke of Wimbush in very similar terms to Everett Golson in 2012 as he prepared to take over the team for the first time. Things like “he doesn’t have to come in a run the building” was a popular refrain about Golson, and Kelly put a strong emphasis on building up the confidence of his young signal caller and not allowing him to get too down when bad things will inevitably happen. Kelly was even self-deprecating when making that point saying “I’m a poster child for dealing with failures along the way,” emphasizing that it’s important to stay confident and have a belief in yourself even in the face of adversity.

Four Will Battle For The Fifth Offensive Line Position

Brian Kelly confirmed what was long suspected, that Alex Bars would play either right guard or right tackle depending on how other players competed at their respective positions. Kelly named Tristen Hoge, Hunter Bivin, Tommy Kraemer, and Liam Eichenberg all candidates to earn that fifth spot. I’d guess Bivin and Hoge will battle to be guards while Kraemer and Eichenberg will compete at tackle. My guess is it shakes out that either Kraemer or Eichenberg wins the tackle job and Bars slides down to guard. That gives Notre Dame its best five players along the line and its highest ceiling as a group.

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By the way, how ridiculous is offensive line recruiting? Of the four players competing for the fifth spot, the lowest composite score among them is Hunter Bivin at .9531. My goodness, why don’t we rush for 250 yards a game and why do we give up any sacks with this kind of talent?

Full Brian Kelly 2017 Spring Football Kick-Off Presser Video

 

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25 comments

  1. NemesisTheDestroyer 4 months ago

    I have refrained from making much postings since the end of the debacle that occurred last season. Part of that was to contain my own feelings of frustration. I would not describe my current state as being greatly optimistic but I am guarded about this upcoming season. I am not going to spend my time bashing BK. I am not of fan of his right now but he is the coach ( though I believe he may go on his own if he could find a different gig to ” his liking”) so I am hoping some of these changes will produce results. I saw an earlier post by SteelFan that listed some pretty “on-spot” critique points about the brand of ND football and I tend to agree with them. I certainly expected more from a guy going into his 8th year in the job. I have followed ND football for 46 years so I don’t have any desire to desist in that. I don’t expect NC’s every year but competitive, effective results with wins is a reasonable fan expectation that is above average. I saw a snarky post about comparing to the men’s & women’s BB teams about getting rid of them because no NC. That is really a piss poor comparative. Those 2 teams do something BK hasn’t, win at high levels consistently and I don’t hear a lot of off the field issues with their players. Sure, a NC would be nice, but, at least they are very competitive respectfully. So yeah, nothing more I would like to see than BK emulate what they are achieving with the football team.

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  2. Jack 4 months ago

    I think they need to rename this website since it seems like all any ND fan does is complain about BK. Why don’t they rename it Diss of Kelly!

    If I was recruiting a player thinking of going to ND I’d show them all the negative posts that are made here. This negative tone is the case on every article…BK is horrible, BK is to blame, why is BK still coaching. What decent coach would want to come here and have to hear all the cry babies that ND fans are.

    BK can coach football – he was successful at every level in his career. Heck he even brought them to the National Title game a few short years ago. But now all ND fans can do is complain about him. I just wonder if those same fans were complaining about Lou…he left because of all the disappointed fans (complainers). How many years ago and bad coaches was that?

    I’m beginning to think it’s a UND problem and not a coaching problem.

    And stop blaming it on Swarbuck…ND has won national titles in Lacrosse, mens soccer and womens soccer in recent years. ND has two excellent basketball head coaches. Oh wait, our basketball coaches haven’t won a national title recently…we need to fire them and get some new blood in here to get us over the hump.

    Do you all know how ridiculous you sound?

    New Years Resolution!!! – only say good things about the program and coaches until the season is completed and you will witness the power of positive thinking.

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    1. William 4 months ago

      Well said!!

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    2. Mike 4 months ago

      I couldn’t agree more. The same old people with the same old thing over and over. You would think they would get so tired of it and just move on, find another program that makes them happy.

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    3. SubwayAlum 4 months ago

      Jack, you’re right about BK, he could coach anywhere else…and I wish he would.

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    4. HURLS 4 months ago

      RIGHT-ON, JACK! All these candy-ass bitch’n’moaners should just go to where they belong. (MGoBlue.com) If all you bitches wanna stop crying and try challenging yourself to some positivity, fine. Y’all wake-up and stop with the critical retardation.

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      1. HURLS 4 months ago

        (I’m all about the Positivity)

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    5. Bruce Gregory Curme 4 months ago

      As King Solomon said ” It is better for me to listen to the rebuke of a wise man than to listen to a chorus of fools singing my praises.”

      See if you can figure out what history’s wisest king meant by that.

      Bruce G. Curme ’77 ’82

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      1. Damian 4 months ago

        Ha-ha Bruce. I don’t think some people realize you don’t have to be a blind fan to be a fan. BK dug his own hole. He’s been given a second chance at life by Swarbick (with what I believe are conditions—BK didn’t make all these changes on his own–I agree with Brad). It’s up to BK now to win the skeptics back over.

        I would have preferred a new HC, yes. But I’ve been clear I still want ND to win. If ND has a big year next year, I’ll happily eat my words. I’m not looking for ND to lose just so I can say I was right for abandoning BK. So he’s the HC next year and I hope these changes bear fruit. But I’m not going to blindly be a BK apologist anymore. 4-8 in his 7th year, there are no more excuses.

        In a way, we are passionate because we are all ND fans. Would it really be better if we were all just blasé about it, oh the team’s trying. It really doesn’t matter if we win or lose. No way. We want ND to win and win big.

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    6. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

      Let’s only say good things about a once great football program that hasn’t won anything (not even a major bowl game) in over two decades!

      Let’s only say good things about a team that went 4-8 last season!

      Let’s only say good things about a program that hasn’t won a NC in almost thirty years!

      Let’s say only good things about a once-proud program that has been rocked by criminal and academic scandals on a yearly basis!

      Let’s only say good things about a program whose best season in the last three decades no longer officially exists as a result of off-field issues!

      Let’s only say good things about a HC (BK) whose record at ND is on par with legends like CW and TW!

      Let’s only say good things about a program that has lost home games to the likes of Tulsa, USF, NW, Duke, etc., in the last six or seven seasons!

      Let’s all stick our collective heads up our collective arses and make believe that ND football is great!

      Positive thinking by the likes of “HURLS” et. al. is simply code for excuse-making and apologizing for mediocrity. These guys aren’t real fans. A real ND fan demands the best from the program on and off the field. They don’t make endless excuses for on-field failures and off-field scandals, like the losers who post above do.

      “HURLS” and Co. above need to go cheer for ol’ Purdue or BC!

      GO IRISH!!!

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      1. bruce johnson 4 months ago

        Genius

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      2. southside 4 months ago

        SFR , what say you on upcoming season ? Any positive thoughts ? C’mon don’t be scared being optimistic. Surely something is to your liking. I feel bad for you going through another ND football season without hope. So sad , your comments bring me to tears 24/7 , 365 days a year , before season , during season , after season. May the Saints of Ireland be with you lad.

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      3. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

        southside,

        You tell me.

        A new season always offers hope for optimism.

        But unlike some of you endless excuse makers for mediocrity, I need objective reasons for my opinions.

        So I ask you again what objectively gives you hope for optimism?

        Don’t confuse optimism with being a blind-ass apologist. You guys playing that little mind game with yourselves to try to hide your lack of any objectivity about ND football. You make all these grandiose predictions game in and game out, season after season, always proving that reality trumps your blind-ass so-called loyalty, and yet you persist in your lame ignorance of facts and reality.

        So I ask for the third time give me an objective reason for optimism and then we’ll talk.

        Until then stay in your echo chamber of unfounded opinion and you and “HURLS” can continue to root for a real football team that knows how to win, with a real HC, that gives its fans real reasons for optimism. I’ll see if even you can guess what team I’m referring to.

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    7. bruce johnson 4 months ago

      Swarbrick has produced everything but a football coach that can win
      He refuses to admit his mistake
      That extension cost nd big time and perpetuated another decade of failure
      It’s hurbris self preservation money and has nothing to
      do with real fighting Irish football

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  3. david 4 months ago

    “I have changed my spots!’, declares leopard.

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  4. Damian 4 months ago

    I can’t help but feel too little too late. If this were year 3 or 4, then I’d be more inclined to give BK a pass, but it’s coming into year 8. That being said, however I feel about BK remaining as the coach, the fact remains he will be the coach, so all I can do is hope that these changes leads to a turnaround. Taken on all their own merits, the various changes are a step in the right direction. If these coaches are worth their hype and the player buy into it, maybe there’s a shot of turning ND football around. I always prided myself in keeping an open mind, so I’ll keep an open mind going into this season and hope for the best.

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    1. bruce johnson 4 months ago

      8 yrs and counting

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  5. SubwayAlum 4 months ago

    No one dislikes Kelly more than me. He’s a destroyer of QB’s just to further his own goals. He allowed Golson to humiliate himself with 23 turnovers before finally relieving him of his desperation, destroyed Zaire’s confidence by opting for a destined to be a 4-8 QB who proved me right at the ‘combine’, over a very exciting M Zaire and now he sounds like he’ll do the same with Wimbush…

    >Kelly also spoke of Wimbush in very similar terms to Everett Golson in 2012 as he prepared to take over the team for the first time. Things like “he doesn’t have to come in a run the building” Kelly declared himself to be an “Ian Book fan” today<.

    I'd like someone to prove to me he dislikes Kelly more than I do.

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    1. sebastian 4 months ago

      i will take that challenge! BK is an overrated idiot who very well could/should be in prison for involuntary manslaughter of declin sullivan (RIP). HE has NEVER won a big game in his life…and yes HURLS a big game is NOT the division II championship! if i want to see someone throw a temper tantrum on the sideslines, i can easily see that at the toy section at walmart! if holtz, davie, willingham, or weis thru players and coaches under the bus like BK has been doing, they would have been canned the next day. but apparently BK has something on swarbrick, because those 2 are as cozy as meat and potatoes. so going into season 8 he NOW knows he has to change?! WTF! academic fraud, lousy record against top teams, off the field issues, blaming everyone else for his screw ups!, and acting like like a spoiled 4 year old. never should have gotten this job. he has been handed EVERYTHING he has asked for, taken away different traditions from ND to “help him”, and yet he still physically sucks and blows at the same time. fire his ass now and show swarbrick the door 2 seconds later!

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  6. bcnd 4 months ago

    Pretty clear to me that this is the work of Jack Swarbrick. This must have been the list of requirements made to keep the job. The good news in my opinion is that BK is complying. After NC State, there was a real argument that he didn’t want to be here. As long as your here, you may as well win some for us. Also, if he wins this year, he’ll probably be gone the next.

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  7. SteelFanRob 4 months ago

    ” My goodness, why don’t we rush for 250 yards a game and why do we give up any sacks with this kind of talent?”

    Answer: mediocre coaching, beginning with HH, but also poor strength and conditioning, ergo, exit Paul Longo.

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    1. Tom 4 months ago

      Don’t think its fair to blame it on HH. He’s done an incredible job recruiting and an outstanding job of developing talent. While season was a serious disappointment upfront, it would be outlandish to say HH has not done a good job coaching these players and developing them. Nick Martin, Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Nelson and McGlinchey have all been taken in the top 3 rounds of the draft in the past 3 years (or will be by this time next year). Clearly he is doing a fine job, but last year was undoubtedly a poor performance by his OLine up front.

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      1. SubwayAlum 4 months ago

        Tom you said it all with … “last year was undoubtedly a poor performance by his OLine up front.” Maybe you are correct, he’s tired of doing this, he’s done. Excellent point. If they sucked, he must suck. Get rid of him.

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      2. Damian 4 months ago

        I agree about HH. I put more blame on BK for the troubles on offense. Calling continuous pass plays in a hurricane, for instance. I can’t blame Hiestand for that debacle. I’ve said before that while I wanted BK gone, Hiestand was one coach that I hoped would be retained by a future coach. I honestly think BK was the one that failed to put the offense in a position to win, not Hiestand.

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      3. MrP 4 months ago

        I think there were several factors going against the OLine last year.
        1) A pass happy offense, especially in a hurricane, and neglectingg one of the best backs in College Football Josh Adams.The OLine can open up holes as shown on the Average Yard/ Carry
        Josh Adams – 5.9
        Dexter Williams – 5.1
        Tarean Folston – 4.3
        2) The line is good, I think DK took too much advantage of it by holding onto the ball far to long in the pocket. Which has been noted in past articles.
        3) With the issues with the strength & conditioning of the team, when your OLine is holding blocks longer on passing plays eventually the poor conditioning begins to show and the line begins to breakdown.

        And Tom, you forgot to mention Ronnie Stanley. HH is a great coach, the cards were stacked against the OLine last season.

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