While he hasn’t been in a reflective mood yet for the assembled media, head coach Brian Kelly did take a look back at the season with UND.com’s Jack Nolan, speaking candidly about his first season in charge of the Irish.
The whole video gives you some good insight into the season from Kelly’s perspective, but for those of you that don’t have 16 minutes, here are the highlights:
As many Irish fans are doing, Kelly all but admitted to thinking about what could have been for this Irish team, a 7-5 unit that very easily could’ve been a 10 win football team.
“Usually it’s the woulda, couldas,” Kelly said. “The Michigan game. What happens if we’re a little bit better prepared at quarterback? Michigan State, can you defend a field goal in overtime? Probably the Tulsa game, the end of that game. So you look at those, but if you get those, maybe something doesn’t go your way. Maybe they don’t drop the ball at USC, and that goes against you. When you look at the season in that regard, I still think you get what you deserve. We made some very good progress and our football team got better at the end of the year.”
I don’t know what it is, but I’m guessing most fans feel better that Kelly acknowledges that those three games were opportunities missed. When the year was at its lowest point, it was hard to go anywhere on the internet that didn’t point to one of these three instances and wonder openly if Kelly had what it takes to make it in South Bend.
One of my favorite exchanges in the interview had to do with the very real problem most first-year coaches inevitably face -- inheriting a team that isn’t theirs. This is Kelly’s third new team in seven season, giving the coach and his staff real experience in rebuilding programs, but his approach really nails one of the main dilemmas.
“I don’t know if there was one singular moment as much as there was consistency in the way that we dealt with each other on a day to day basis,” Kelly said. “We went from the stepdad to the real dad and built that relationship over time. I don’t know that there was one thing, I think that it was a matter of players and ocaches coming together and trusting each other and that was probably the turning point.”
When you look at it from a family context you begin to understand the true challenge these coaches face, starting over with 18-to-21 year-old kids that had a fierce allegiance to the coaching staff that found and recruited them.
When asked about the future at quarterback, Kelly made it clear that next spring is going to be an exciting one for Irish fans as Notre Dame finds out what type of offense gives them the best chance to win.
“We’re in flux. Clearly, we’ve got the QB situation that has to be sorted out,” Kelly said. “I think it’s going to be a good situation. We’re going to have guys with some experience, with Tommy and Dyane. I think it’s going to be a great situation. We’re going to add some young talent to the position and I think it’s going to make for an exciting piece. We’ve got to get the quarterback position settled down and then we can take the direction based upon the players where we want to go offensively. Do we want to play fast? Do we want to play no huddle? Do we want to line up and be in two backs? We’ve got the ability to do so many things on offense that I think the quarterback position will settle that in the spring.”
We broke down the quarterback derby of 2011 last week, but it should be an exciting spring.