It's as coaches in new places almost always say: It all starts with changing the culture.
That's what Notre Dame needs after a 6-6 season that was the final straw for coach Charlie Weis, who was fired with a five-year mark of 35-27. Coach Brian Kelly, plucked by the Irish from his successful stint at Cincinnati, had more than three months to work on the culture and his new team's collective mindset before spring practice, which started March 26.
"You can't start winning until you stop losing," he said.
"We had to take those things that were preventing us from winning and expose them, which we have. Now, we don't have to beat a dead horse. Let's move on, you guys know what you need to do, and they have been great at picking that up and moving to the next level."
As problems, Kelly cited his player's attention to detail and perhaps a sense of entitlement that comes from being a Notre Dame football player.
"I'm tired of hearing about the next NFL player coming out of Notre Dame, quite frankly," Kelly said. "We are creating an atmosphere that is a little bit different than what they are used to."
Kelly is used to a winning atmosphere. He had had 18 winning records in 19 seasons as a head coach -- at Division II Grand Valley State, Central Michigan and Cincinnati. His Bearcats last season were 12-0 when he left for Notre Dame.
On the field, he has to develop a quarterback, get more pizzazz from the running game and get tougher and more physical against the run on defense.
The work leading up to all that was no less important, though. The words from Kelly's introductory press conference are still true.
"It's getting your players to be accountable on a day-to-day basis," he said. "It's developing them as young men, and you have to do that through relationships. If you don't do that, you'll never get your players to go to areas that they can't go without you."NOTES, QUOTES
SPRING OBJECTIVES: Dayne Crist, coming back from ACL surgery, has to do as much as he can and be a student of the new offense. Coach Brian Kelly said he and his staff would be smart in how much they let him compete in the spring, but he added that Crist will "play all our 7-on-7 routines, he'll be in all of our one-on-ones. We'll put a big funnel around him and make sure no one gets near him." Freshman QB Tommy Rees enrolled early, so he will get a long look as will walk-on Nate Montana, who left Notre Dame before last season at Pasadena Community College to get experience before returning to the school. More freshmen quarterbacks arrive in the fall.
An inexperienced quarterback and a young offensive line -- only two starters return (guards Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson) -- could be a bad combination ... unless major strides are taken this spring.
Taking advantage of a good group of linebackers, Notre Dame will switch to s 3-4 front this spring.
BUILDING BLOCKS: The defense allowed nearly 400 yards per game (397.75) but does return eight starters, including linebacker Manti Te'o, who had 63 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, as a true freshman. RB Armando Allen is back after leading the team with 697 rushing yards, averaging 4.9 per carry. The receiving game features two of the best in the nation at their position -- junior WR Michael Floyd (five 100-yard efforts while being healthy for only six full games) and TE Kyle Rudolph.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "At the end of the day, you love the independent status as it relates to football. Being able to play on the West Coast and the East Coast and not have to always play at those same destination stops. I think it's great for everybody. Our fan base goes from coast to coast. If we can continue to do that, that would be a preference. But I'm a realist. We're going to do what's right for the University of Notre Dame." -- Coach Brian Kelly, on the possibility of Notre Dame joining a conference for football.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: The immediate future would look much brighter if QB Jimmy Clausen and WR Golden Tate had returned for their senior seasons. As it is, new coach Brian Kelly will head into his first season with modest expectations as the offense regroups while the defense tries to improve. The schedule isn't filled with preseason top-10 timber, but it's also the kind of schedule that doesn't allow for too many Saturdays without Notre Dame's best effort. The Irish play only four true road games -- Michigan State, Boston College, Navy and USC.
DT Louis Nix -- Nix (6-3, 315) has great size, but might not be asked to play as a freshman as Notre Dame switches to a 3-4 front, able to used senior Ian Williams in a starting role in the middle.
QB Andrew Hendrix -- It's always going to be a big deal when a quarterback signs with Notre Dame, and Hendrix was rated the 13th-best pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com. He completed 103 of 183 passes for 1,242 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions as senior at Moeller High School. "He's got a very strong arm," coach Brian Kelly said. "I think what stands out about Andrew is that he's only been a starter for a year and a half. He has not played a lot of football. His best football is clearly in front of him." Other quarterbacks in this class are Luke Massa from Cincinnati and QB Tommy Rees from Lake Forest, Ill. Rees is enrolled.
OL Matt James -- It came down to Ohio State and Notre Dame, so this was a key recruiting win for the Irish. Coach Brian Kelly likes him at left tackle, although James can play guard, too. "His ability to move his feet is making him nationally one of the top players in the country," Kelly said. "You can see his first-step quickness as a guy who is over 300 pounds. ... Just great feet. Strong, physical, loves to play the game."
--QB Dayne Crist is recovering from ACL surgery but will be ready for some action in spring practice.
--WR Theo Riddick (shoulder) will be limited during spring practice as he switches from running back. Coach Brian Kelly wants to use Riddick's speed and playmaking ability on the outside, able to make the switch because of depth at running back.
--OL Lane Clelland has moved to defensive end.
--FB Steve Paskorz will change to linebacker this spring, offering a bigger body in the middle.
--Five players enrolled early and will participate in spring ball: QB Tommy Rees, WR Tai-ler Jones, CB Stephen Boyd, CB Lo Wood, S Chris Badger.
Previous Report: 03/24/2010