Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 3, 2016

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

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8 OCT. 3, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME Men's soccer head coach Bobby Clark, now in his 16th season in charge of the program, led the Fighting Irish to a 6-0-0 start to begin the 2016 season en route to the top spot in the national rankings. It marked the seventh time in the last four seasons that Notre Dame assumed No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches Associa- tion of America Division I National Top 25 poll. BGI: What is special or unique about this team so far? Clark: "We'll wait and see. It's a little early to know what history we're going to leave behind here. I think that's the fun thing. We've opened well, and that's always a positive thing. "I'll be guarded until the end of the year. But there's a lot of potential." BGI: You've had a winning season every year at Notre Dame, what's been the key to the continued success? Clark: "Good players. I've also got a good staff who works with me and the players. We don't jump from one thing to another. "We know what works well for Notre Dame athletes … I think we've done a terrific job over the years taking players who were a fit for Notre Dame. You're really a student-athlete when you're in our program." BGI: Has the thought of retirement crossed your mind? Clark: "That will take care of itself at the right time. It will just hit me. I have no thoughts about it at the moment. When you're having a good time and you enjoy your job … I've never really worked. "I played for a long time and I've coached for a long time. These are my hob- bies anyway. I've been able to get my employment out of things I enjoy and with people I enjoy being with." BGI: Even with your experience, do new challenges still come up? Clark: "Every year is a new challenge. That's the great thing about college athletics. You graduate players every year and you lose good players every year. How do we put this team together? How do we handle this? "I always say to the boys at the beginning of the season we can win every game or we could also lose every game. It's usually somewhere in the middle. You're going to be challenged every time you step on the field. If you're a competitor there's nothing more fun than that. "You don't want to play games where you can put a 'W' up before you even start. I still have butterflies before every game in my stomach. You would think you would lose that, but not a bit of it." BGI: How have you battled complacency over the years? Clark: "I think the way I am and the way my staff is we are very competitive. We know we can't be complacent because every game is a challenge. All the guys want to play. We always have a strong squad, so if they're not delivering there's going to be someone who can step in. "In the spring, we kind of give everyone time. Once it comes to the season you've got to have people who are going to influence games. That competition within the group keeps everybody on their toes." — Corey Bodden Five Questions With … MEN'S SOCCER COACH BOBBY CLARK The Head Coach Must Go Where The Problems Are By Lou Somogyi Even though Brian Kelly won four monograms as a linebacker at Assump- tion College (1979-82) and began his college coaching on defense, his reputa- tion has come mainly on offense as a play caller. When asked several days after the 36-28 loss to Michigan State how he handled defensive mala- dies in the past, he replied half-jokingly "scored more points." Kelly also indicated he does not believe he should physically spend more time in practice on the defensive side of the ball because he is well aware of the overall plans on defense and game plans from the staff meetings. I respectfully disagree. Kelly talked about greater "urgency" needing to infiltrate the team. Right now the greatest urgency is on defense. A school classroom has a different feel when the principal enters the room. A business takes on a different tone when the CEO is present at the meetings. Kelly might not change a darn thing, but his presence/coaching is needed to reaffirm that the level of play on defense is not acceptable and must be a priority. It might be "meddling" or "micromanaging," but ultimately the buck stops with him. Ara Parseghian did it at one point in 1968 despite John Ray's reputation on that side of the ball, and Lou Holtz took the whistle on defense too during some problems in 1990-91 that became rectified for the most part. The offense is in good hands, overall. The defense needs more fixing for now. Kelly's Impact In Practice Won't Change Defense's Issues By Matt Jones Brian Kelly could get more involved on the defensive side of the ball in practice. But even if he did, I don't believe much would change. The seventh-year head coach has great confi- dence in defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, and imagining Kelly overstepping VanGorder in practice is far-fetched. Even if Kelly did get more involved, the two longtime coaching colleagues would see the same things and correct the same mistakes. It simply wouldn't be a smart use of Kelly's time. Plus, Kelly is already plenty involved in the defense, just not on the field. Like almost every head coach in college football, he watches the defensive practice film and gives notes to his defensive coaches. Like he said this past week, he has to know how everything in his program is being taught and communicated, and when that breaks down, it's his responsibility. Those things are being done now; it's translating those teachings to the field that's the problem. The root of the problem is at a deeper level, something that can't be easily corrected by Kelly playing hall monitor while VanGorder coaches in practice. Notre Dame pays VanGorder more than $1 million to coach the defense. Kelly meddling on that side of the ball would illustrate a larger point, show- ing to his players that VanGorder isn't up to the task. That potential lack of faith could make a season that is already disappointing turn into a full-blown meltdown. Point ✦ Counterpoint: SHOULD BRIAN KELLY BE MORE INVOLVED IN PRACTICE WITH THE DEFENSE? BRIAN KELLY BRIAN VANGORDER Clark has guided the Irish to the No. 1 ranking seven times in the past four years. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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