The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, October 11, 2016 11:18 am

Kelly keeping an eye toward building for future seasons

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

A college football coach usually isn't going to just come out and say his team is rebuilding. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is no exception, hedging an answer Tuesday at his weekly news conference when questioned about how the Irish will approach the second half of this season. They are 2-4 at the midway point and face No. 16 Miami, No. 17 Virginia Tech and No. 25 Navy down the stretch.

"I'm in the present," Kelly said. "We're coaching to win right now, but everything we do is to return us back to the top, and we want to stop the slide. That means start winning again. So everything we are doing right now is to stop losing games and (start) winning games."

But in the back of Kelly's mind, he knows what we know: This team is not very good, and accelerating the development curve for young players allows Notre Dame a better chance to compete in the future.

"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 as 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."

Here is more of what Kelly had to say Tuesday:

* Both of Notre Dame's wins have been blowouts, while the four close games have all turned into losses. Kelly cited inexperience as a reason the Irish haven't been able to win any of the tight ones.

"On the offensive line, three of those guys are effectively new starters, six games under their belt," Kelly said. "Wide receivers are all new players within the offense. So there is a little bit of inexperience there, quite frankly. I'm not making any excuses for it. On my behalf I probably should have done a better job of preparing them for the eventuality of close games."

* Kelly: "I don't blame players for losses. I blamed all of us for that loss (Sept. 17 at home against Michigan State). We're all in it together. Let's be clear."

* Again, Kelly lauded the attitude of his team.

* Kelly said he's been spending time in the meetings room with defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and all those freshmen in the secondary.

* Saturday is Notre Dame's annual rivalry game with Stanford, which Kelly acknowledged is somewhat of a competitor in recruiting despite being located in the Bay Area. "There is no question that somebody (who) fits the similar profile that would go to Stanford would look at Notre Dame as well," he said. "I wouldn't say it's a slam dunk that we're recruiting exactly the same player across the board, but there's definitely a similar character kid that fits the profile of Notre Dame and Stanford."

* The Irish are tied for 111th in the 128-team FBS in third-down conversions, picking up just 33.3 percent. "Our self-scout shows that we need to be better on first down," Kelly said. "There is a trickle-down effect into our third-down manageability."

* Kelly said a different formation probably wouldn't have changed the outcome of the crucial special-teams play over the weekend, when North Carolina State blocked Tyler Newsome's punt and returned it 16 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in Notre Dame's 10-3 loss.

* Kelly on his fiery sideline demeanor: "I'm just coaching. I've got a great relationship with my players. I'm being Brian Kelly. If people have a problem with that, then they're not going to be friends or fans of Notre Dame football. I don't feel like I'm crossing a line."

cgoff@jg.net


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