At noon today, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly met with the press to discuss the current state of the Irish football team and the upcoming season.We're going to cut through the coach speak and provide you with a summary of the key points Coach Kelly discussed. We're almost there everyone, football is just around the corner!
The State of the Program
- Kelly said the goal of the program is to get back to the BCS Championship Game and that process started the day after the 2013 championship game. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it is certainly different from the focus the last few years which was more "let's win a bowl game, let's get into a BCS bowl game."
- Kelly seemed pleased with the progression of the program as a whole. He feels that the players and everyone associated with the program believe in the what the coaching staff is trying to do. He also said having the coaching staff back intact is a big advantage.
- He singled out some of the things that go on behind the scenes that lead to improved play on the field. One example he gave is the food service program they've instituted for football players.
- Another area Kelly talked about is depth. He feels much more comfortable with the number of scholarship athletes they have and feels the depth throughout the program is improved. Even so, he feels there is still work that needs to be done to build depth across the entire roster.
- From all reports summer conditioning went very well. The veteran players were very focused and provided great leadership.
- Apparently Paul Longo reported that this freshman class was very skilled and in excellent shape. Longo said that this group of freshmen did not look out of place at all when they were mixed in with the veterans.
- Coach Kelly is very comfortable with Tommy Rees as quarterback. All reports suggest that Tommy had an excellent summer and is bigger, stronger and faster. Cab drivers in the South Bend area, you are warned.
- Kelly gave the impression that heading into camp Rees is number one, Hendrix is number two and Zaire is number three. When discussing splitting reps he said they would find a way to get Zaire some reps.
- CBK also indicated that Rees had only been named the starter for the Temple game. This suggests the QB pecking order is not set in stone.
- Kelly said that Malik Zaire would not be running the scout team this year, that he needs to be learning Notre Dame's offense. Notre Dame is looking for options to run the scout team, anyone have some eligibility left?
- The coaching staff has been in touch with Everett Golson on a regular basis and feel pretty confident he will be back in January.
- Kelly said he wasn't overly concerned about this group, he's pretty confident that they have a number of players who are ready to play.
- Right guard and center are still up for grabs. As well, CBK said that moving Christian Lombard to guard was still a possibility and that would play itself out during training camp.
- When asked about battles for playing time during camp Coach Kelly's seemed very excited. He made note of a number of intriguing battles.
- The first position group he talked about was linebacker. Kelly feels that the depth at inside and outside linebacker is very impressive and there will be tremendous competition for playing time.
- Coach Kelly also mentioned the safety position, again, excellent depth here. Corner was another position that Kelly thought would be interesting, particularly the battles for the 3rd and 4th corners spots.
- Surprisingly, CBK seemed really excited about the defensive line depth. He indicated that Jarron Jones, Tony Springmann and Isaac Rochell all had opportunities to step up and contribute.
Coach Kelly's Contract
- CBK hinted pretty strongly that his contract is pretty much done and has been done in principle for a long time (possibly since December). Kelly also said that completing the deal is imminent.
- My guess is Notre Dame is simply waiting for the right time to make the announcement.
- Kelly singled out Zack Martin as someone who will be an obvious leader on the offensive side of the ball.
- Defensively he didn't feel that there was a clear leader yet, however he said a number of players were providing leadership. Most of them were pretty obvious, upperclassmen like Bennett Jackson, Dan Fox etc. One of the more interesting names mentioned was KeiVarae Russell. Coach Kelly singled KVR out as a vocal leader on the defense.
- Louis Nix III has been working hard to improve his conditioning so he can play every down.
- Brian Kelly said that TJ Jones was one of the best route runners in the country and that he wouldn't be surprised if he ended up being a first round draft pick. Wow.
- Joey Brooks won't play football this year. Coach Kelly had nothing but good things to say about Brooks, however the reality is that Brooks would have been taking away valuable reps from some of the young players the Irish have at tight end.
- In the pretty obvious statement department, CBK indicated that the offense needs to score more points this year.
- Walk on Jesse Bongiovi (son of rock star Jon Bon Jovi) was praised for his work over the summer.
- There wasn't a whole lot on the running backs. Basically George Atkinson III and Cam McDaniel know what they are doing, we'll see how the rest of the backs perform in camp. Again, Kelly noted the obvious, GA III has big play potential but has areas to work on, such as ball security and lowering his pads.
- The Irish open up training camp off campus at Shiloh Park. CBK feels this will be a great way to build team chemistry and eliminate distractions. In fact, access to technology will be pretty limited, including no cable TV.