(The Rock Report | Notre Dame Football News) – A 1-2 start, questionable on the field calls, a rapidly disappearing running game and defense that has given up over 200 yards rushing two weeks in a row is causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst the faithful early on in the Kelly regime. I thought Lou Somogyi did a nice job in summing up those feelings in his article What Can Be Said.
I’ve read more than a few times that this feels more like Weis redux than a return to Holtz and after two post-game Kelly temper tantrums, I’m clearly not immune either, but it’s actually at this juncture that Kelly will likely (or should) begin to separate himself from Weis. People seem to view the first three games through their own viewpoint of what they expected.
Notre Dame is 1-2 and there are some worrisome observations.
- It appears Kelly is coaching this offense as if he’s had it for a couple of years and not 10 months. It showed far too much confidence in the offense to go for it on 4th down with 6 minutes left against Michigan State. Having a newbie quarterback go for seven against Michigan was similarly a poor call especially when Ruffer has been so accurate.
- Despite a stated preference to run the ball more with a big offensive line and a group of strong running backs, Kelly’s running game has been regressing.
- Similarly, Michael Floyd seems to have regressed from a sure handed wide receiver to a “I hope he catches it and holds onto it” wide receiver. He’s still an incredible talent and some may say a more complete receiver, but consistency is very important when you’re passing it 60 times a game.
- I started the season with doubts about Diaco and the first few games haven’t done much to ease those doubts. I do like that the tackling is better.
- I’m not sure Crist has the consistency to run this offense at the level of precision Kelly is counting on (see number 2.) This offense is about execution and inconsistency throwing and catching the ball will make it pedestrian.
- Safety play…
- The “I don’t care about the time of possession” philosophy only works when the offense is putting points up on the board. The idea here is to score fast and make the other team work to get points. Number 1 is essential. As Molnar said (paraphrase time), “if you’re going three and out this offense is not pretty.”
Of note, Kelly’s inconsistency between his statements before the season about the running game and playing to this teams strengths… and what’s happened on the field to date, do not match up. Here’s where I see an applicable Weis analogy. Kelly will default to the pass. I still believe Notre Dame would have beaten Ohio State in Weis’s first year if he used Walker more and didn’t default to the pass. I understand that when clicking, this offense can work and have noted Oklahoma is running the ball at 133 yards per game as well, but, like Weis, Kelly seems to be counting on a higher level of execution in the passing game than the team is capable of delivering. Last month Vannie considered the spectrum of outcomes:
While it’s possible for the Irish to string together a series of victories against a relatively weak 2010 schedule, the win-loss record of Kelly’s first team is not necessarily the most reliable indicator of future success. There simply won’t be sufficient data to determine if an 8-0 start means that Kelly should be compared to Ara Parseghian or Willingham. Perhaps the best answer would be “neither”. Similarly, if Kelly delivers a 6-6 campaign, fans may not be sure whether to associate it with Lou Holtz’ first season or Weis’ last. The answer will lie in the details.
That said, of more note, is how the two coaches are different in running a program. The first season is more about changing the culture and putting in place a process of winning. When Kelly walked in and declared that recruiting was not his top priority, fixing issues within the program were, I, like many, started to sweat. But Notre Dame had some fundamental problems that needed to be addressed from a program perspective.
Here are some of the fundamental problems and how Kelly is addressing them (whether they’re successful, of course, we won’t know for a while)
Weis had far too complicated a passing offense than could be reasonably be expected to be executed without without a strong running game.
- Kelly runs a far simpler passing offense that has allowed many different quarterbacks to succeed quickly. When someone wrote that laughable arguable about Kelly being a “magician with quarterbacks” (or whatever the phrase was) it boils down to “making it simple, practicing it over and over again and focusing on the details.”
- Kelly engineers more practice time “reps” in the time allotted by moving at a faster pace and setting up concurrent drills. His “work volume” phrase is really about reps.
Under Weis, we had constant reports of players out of shape, culminating with Bert Berry’s damning comments after the Blue and Gold game.
- The training table was already in the works and Kelly had it put in the Gug so that players weren’t traveling across campus.
- Kelly’s third coordinator model means Longo has the same input as a coordinator. This does a couple of things. If players aren’t working hard in the weight room, they can see practice reps diminished. He also can relay information about a player who might be an attitude problem.
- His practices serve as workouts as well.
- Kelly tries to manage their off-field behavior by constant communication about diet and choices.
Under Weis there was much dissention amongst the staff and they all had different ways of doing things.
- Kelly put together a staff with a goal of minimizing the dysfunction and one that he knows.
Under Weis the team lacked toughness and didn’t play hard until the game was on the line.
- Kelly’s practices are constant motion to simulate a game environment.
- Camp Kelly puts them through what is a simulated environment of performing while exhausted.
- Constant and consistent messaging through the staff on work ethic and toughness. “How do you come to work every day.”
- Creating more of team feel by keeping the players in the Gug.
- Preaching the three themes of Lou: Caring, Commitment and Trust.
- Motivating kids to their potential rather than their current level.
Under different coaches bore unequal burdens in recruiting.
- Kelly put into place a process and a database to manage recruiting and filter up information on recruits.
I’m sure there are many more from admin to the field crew. What does all of this mean? My guess is that where a Weis team (2007) might have folded, this team will show more resiliency. I’ve yet to witness a great coach have a great first year at the helm with a new team and that’s usually because they’re changing so many things about the processes, the habits, the offense, etc. Many coaches have started out strong, but because they didn’t build a strong foundation for long-term success, eventually failed.
Of course none of this means Kelly should have gone for it on 4th down with 6 minutes to go against Michigan State or not taken the three against Michigan. I’m also cringing at thought of Harbaugh coming to South Bend and beating the Irish handily, which is a distinct possibility. If Kelly goes 1-3, he better also have a new process for keeping the Irish hordes at bay.