Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 31, 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 55

20 OCT. 31, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED such prospects were signed in 2014, but Kolin Hill is now at Texas Tech and Jhonny Williams at Toledo. One such prospect seemed to be on board in 2015, but Bo Wallace ended up at Arizona State instead. Maybe current freshman Daelin Hayes could be a future, if not pres- ent, answer. But during the 2-4 start, Notre Dame ranked 125th among 128 teams in sacks with three (none by a lineman). BRIAN VANGORDER Hired in 2014 as the defensive co- ordinator, VanGorder brought the NFL touch to the college game. It failed at unprecedented levels. For the first time ever in our recollection, a Notre Dame head coach had no choice but to fire an assistant only one-third of the way into the season. Some opinion held the move should have been made at the end of last season because of the Bill Belich- ick axiom of "what is inevitable must be immediate." It became a classic example of try- ing to fit players to a scheme rather than making a scheme work for the players and the overall good. Kelly has said so much while streamlining the defense and coordinating with newly hired analyst Greg Hudson to have more player involved. WHERE'S THE RUSH II? The Notre Dame fan base had developed a torch-and-pitchfork mentality with VanGorder mainly because his system was paralysis by analysis and sucked the joy out of playing. Kelly admitted after the loss at North Carolina State that the offense also might need some simplification. W h e n i t h a s wanted to be or needed to be more physical — like the final four games of 2010 with freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, the memora- ble 2012 campaign w i t h s o p h o m o re Everett Golson and Rees, the 2014 Music City Bowl win versus LSU with sophomore Zaire leading a 263- yard rushing output and pretty much most of the 10-1 start in 2015 with sophomore Kizer — Notre Dame could run quite effectively. It is a mentality, but there has to be a buy in and commitment from both the players and coaching staff. "Maybe we have a little too much going on as well," Kelly acknowl- edged about the offense. "We've got to lean some things out to get them playing faster and freer, and not thinking too much. … Going back to basics and being better at what you do than your opponent. "You do that, you have a good chance of winning." The 2016 edition is not built to run. You can talk about three new start- ers along the offensive line, but if you are a "program" that cultivates a certain mentality, it becomes moot. THE 'IT' FACTOR Whatever "It" is, Notre Dame was lacking that element in the first half of 2016. The second half is where it anticipates making an appreciable turnaround. "It's really just about having that demeanor and having that toughness and having that will that regardless of the circumstances, we're going to get it done," Kelly said. "The players are fine. The coaching is fine. There's just a fine line between winning and losing. We're not making or execut- ing as a unit — not any one person … "We just lack that ability right now, that maturity, that toughness, that thing you can't put your finger on — that 'it.' We've got to have that late in the games. We haven't had that yet." Kelly did a dramatic about-face at the end of 2010 after a 4-5 start. Two seasons later his Irish were playing for the national title. He likes to point back even farther, referencing that after a 5-5 campaign at Grand Valley State in 1999, he fol- lowed with a 48-6 mark the next four seasons, including two Division II na- tional titles. "I'm doing every- thing to build the winning identity for this team for right now and for '17, '18 and '19," he said. "I believe this group is going to win for a long time. There's a lot of young players that are grow- ing and learning." Kelly said criticism comes with the job, but his priority is to not let it af- fect his assistants and players. "Everybody goes through some tough times," he said. "You're go- ing to have some adversity. And if you can't handle adversity, then how strong are you really? "I'm looking for guys that are strong; I'm looking for guys that bounce back higher when there is some adversity. I'm not looking for guys that are going to crumble at the first sign of a little bit of adversity. "I'm looking for guys that want to be a solution and not worry about what other people think or say." All storms eventually pass. ✦ Notre Dame's offensive line, led by senior left tackle Mike McGlinchey (68) and left guard Quenton Nelson (56), hasn't paved the way for a consistent rushing attack this season. BY RICK KIMBALL "WE JUST LACK THAT ABILITY RIGHT NOW, THAT MATURITY, THAT TOUGHNESS, THAT THING YOU CAN'T PUT YOUR FINGER ON — THAT 'IT.' WE'VE GOT TO HAVE THAT LATE IN THE GAMES. WE HAVEN'T HAD THAT YET." HEAD COACH BRIAN KELLY

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Oct. 31, 2016