Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2023

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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66 PRESEASON 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED A n e-mail arrived during mid- August that summarized what I have sensed is a common men- tality among Notre Dame faithful on the eve of the Brian Kelly era. "Since the hiring of Coach Kelly in December I have had a ' wait and see' approach when anyone asks me, 'So how will the Irish do this year?' It's unlike last year when I boldly pre- dicted a 11-1 season … but I am start- ing to really get excited about 2010. "Someone asked me the other day if I would take a 8-4 record this year, and I almost said, 'Yep, sign me up,' — but I just have a strange feeling about 2010. If Kelly can go 11-1 and 12-0 with some guy named Tony Pike, well with a 5-star guy like Dayne Crist I would think they could do good things … but I don't want to get overly excited until I see it on the field on Saturdays. "Are you thinking a 8-4 or 9-3- type season — or if the defense plays well can we find a way to win 10? My heart says yes but my gut and brain say no." And therein is the thought process of a bride-to-be who has been ditched at the altar three times … the 45-year-old who was turned down for his dream job three different times over a 10-year pe- riod … the child who hopes his divorced parents might reunite again, but begins to lose hope as the third year passes … In essence, what is being asked is, "Is it OK to come out again? Is it OK to want to believe again that Notre Dame will be the Phoenix that rises?" Growing up as a Notre Dame follower, you appreciate the powerful spiritual nature that is the school's bedrock, so to lose faith is anathema to all that has been inbred in us. At the same time, we don't want to be viewed as a gullible, naïve Charlie Brown who exclaims, "Yep, this time I'm going to kick that ol' football that Lucy promised she'll hold!" August is the fever-pitch time to want to believe again, especially with the dawn of a new era — and particularly after the three previous regimes of Bob Davie (1997-2001), Tyrone Willingham (2002-04) and Charlie Weis (2005-09) went so sour. Even the last three years under Na- tional Football Foundation Hall of Fame member Lou Holtz, who was 23-11-1 from 1994-96, ended with a bitter aftertaste. On one hand, I have a dozen or so items I'd love to enumerate in this col- umn on why Brian Kelly will be the next Irish coach to have his statue dedicated at the currently vacant Gate E outside Notre Dame Stadium. (Gates A through D are already named after the four na- tional title coaches.) On the other hand, I fear coming across as "That Guy" — the delusional Notre Dame fan who imbibes in the highly laced Irish Kool-Aid and believes that other programs prohibit recruit- ing and do not dole out scholarships or build weight rooms, training tables and developmental programs. I humbly admit saying during the first couple of years of the Charlie Weis re- gime, "If he doesn't get it done here, I don't know who will." The objective historian in me realized the odds were highly stacked against him after his third year, but the Notre Dame culture instills the "what tho' the odds" men- tality into the crevices of your soul. I've also seen the greatest of Notre Dame men, former players and/or grad- uates gush with enthusiasm about the previous three coaches, only to say a couple of years later, "I knew all along he wasn't The One." My eyes roll in disbelief when I go through the BGI archives and read comments from the players on what an amazing difference in attitude and performance Davie, Willingham or Weis have made before even play- ing a game. Cut. Copy. Paste. "Is it safe to come out again?" And now, Brian Kelly. What I confidently believe are: • Kelly will have a nine- or 10-win campaign (at least) in one of the next two seasons, if not both. Davie, Will- ingham and Weis did it, and so will he. The junior class — rated No. 1 or 2 when it signed in February 2008 — has the capability to carry this pro- gram a couple of years the way the harvest signed in 2003 did in Weis' first two years with 19 victories. • There should be better overall depth to sustain the program more consis- tently after the juniors graduate, al- though the future schedules are begin- ning to look dicier, at least on paper. • The 6-6 season will be imperative to avoid so as not to elicit a "here we go again" undercurrent. The last five Irish coaches, dating back to Gerry Faust, all had a losing season in their first three years. Only Holtz truly received a pass because 1) it was in his first year, 2) the program had developed a losing mental- ity, 3) the schedule was rated the third toughest by the NCAA and 4) he had too much of a collegiate track record for one to believe he wouldn't turn it around. • Notre Dame will continue to recruit top-10 classes for the most part just as it has with every coach, especially in the early parts of their regime. The "right kind of guys" are always out there. Kelly can lead Notre Dame back to the summit … because it's OK to want to believe again. ✦ August is the fever-pitch time for Fighting Irish fans who think that their team can end a 35-year national championship drought. PHOTO BY CHAD WEAVER BEST OF THE FIFTH QUARTER ✦ LOU SOMOGYI ✦ PRESEASON 2010 Yes, It's OK To Want To Believe Again EDITOR'S NOTE: The late, great Lou Somogyi possessed an unmatched knowledge of Notre Dame football, and it was his mission in life to share it with others. Those of us at Blue & Gold Illustrated would like to continue to provide his wis- dom and unique perspective from his more than 37 years covering the Fighting Irish for this publication.

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