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  • IBG: What’s Next?

    by Mike Coffey

    Irish Blogger GatheringAs we look over another regular season, the IBG takes a moment to reflect on what was, what could have been, and what is yet to come. I think the re-jiggering of the format last week worked well, and with a tweak or two, I can make it work even better. So now, on to the five … er, three questions asked by my fellow IBG participants.

    Keith Arnold, NBC: With the Irish not playing in a top-tier bowl, how do you treat the practice and run-up to the game? Is it best served getting young players practice and game reps? Is winning the game most important? If you’re Brian Kelly, what are your priorities?

    I believe winning the game is the highest priority. After an underachieving season, it’s of paramount importance ND go into the offseason having put their best foot forward, which means a good performance and win in the bowl game. We all saw what laying an egg in the bowl game got us last year. ND needs the positive momentum more than it needs a couple extra reps for players who have already spent an entire season getting them. Focus on winning the game, and cross the other bridges when you get to them.


    Frank Vitovich, UHND: What position where Notre Dame will be replacing starters in 2014 concerns you the most heading into the off-season. Additionally, what position where Notre Dame returns starters in 2014 needs to see the most improvement for the Irish to get into the playoff conversation next year?

    The most worrisome position seeing replacement will be inside linebacker. The unit didn’t perform well before it got hit with the injury bug, and it remains to be seen whether or not Jarrett Grace will return at full strength and Joe Schmidt will continue to develop. If ND’s defense up the middle doesn’t improve by several orders of magnitude next year, no playoff conversations will be had.

    On the flip side, the returning starter at quarterback must make a difference and be better than this year. I realize I may not be answering the question in the spirit in which it was intended, because Tommy Rees is graduating, but Golson was the starter in 2012 and he’ll be back next year. He has to show the semester spent working on his quarterbacking skills wasn’t a waste, and utilize the entire field while making good decisions with the ball.


    Aaron Horvath, Strong & True: Now that the 12-game regular season is done, give me the player who surprised you the most this season and the player you are most excited about for next season.

    I don’t know if it qualifies as a surprise, but Jaylon Smith certainly proved he’s the genuine article this season. For a freshman, he was extremely poised, and certainly delivered above the level you’d expect from someone with his level of experience. If he can avoid the sophomore slump, he’s poised to do even better things next season.

    The player I want to see more of next season is Greg Bryant. Tarean Folston showed us what he can do, and I’m interested to learn what Bryant can bring to the equation. A one-two punch in the backfield like that would give opposing defenses a lot to worry about.


    Jon Walsh, Her Loyal Sons: Does this 8-4 feel any different to you than Brian Kelly’s previous 8-4’s under the Dome? What I mean by this question is this: did this team under-, or over-, perform in your eyes, or did you get what you expected from the 2013 Fighting Irish? Does the loss of Coach Martin change your outlook on 2014? Does the “gain” of Golson?

    This team significantly under-performed. At the beginning of the season, I thought 10-2 was very reasonable given the talent ND had returning and the level of competition they would face. The results of the season seem to have borne that out given how ND’s opponents have fared both outside and inside of their games against the Fighting Irish.

    But this 8-4 doesn’t feel any different than the previous 8-4’s because they all came about the same way — poor decisions by the coaching staff. With four months to create a high-success game plan after having lost Golson, Brian Kelly et al chose to pound the square peg of Tommy Rees into the round hole of a QB-centric offense. Tackling on defense regressed to pre-2012 levels. And special teams, outside of Brindza, once again were abominable.

    Chuck Martin’s departure doesn’t change my 2014 outlook because I don’t believe he had a strong influence on the offense. Brian Kelly called the plays, no matter what he said in press conferences, and he’ll continue to do so. I’m relieved Golson is back for 2014 because now we’ll see whether or not 2012 was an outlier on the Brian Kelly spectrum or if it’s a reproducible result. I’m hoping very hard for the latter.


    Finally, the question I asked the group, and the one you’re welcome to respond to in the comments:

    As Brian Kelly searches for a new offensive coordinator, what direction do you hope he’ll go? Should he promote from within, or should he look outside? Either way, what name is on top of your list?

    Click here to see what Jon said
    Click here to see what Keith said
    Click here to see what Frank said
    Further links added as they become available


    22 Responses to “IBG: What’s Next?”

    1. ND Chicago says:

      This season was a huge disappointment and I think the biggest reason for that is the lack of progress. There isn’t one area where the Irish have improved from the previous three seasons under Kelly. Kelly’s first two years he was 8-5 and they may very well be 8-5 again this year. No matter who the QB was supposed to be, no matter who got injured, no matter who defected from the recruiting class, no matter what calls went against you; at the end of the day you are what your record says you are and 8-5 at ND isn’t good enough especially after 4 years into building your program. Coaches who turn programs around usually have it done by year four. The areas they struggled with in year one, they continue to struggle with today; turnovers, inconsistent running game, poor tackling, atrocious special teams, and overall poor game management/coaching. Even last year’s great regular season team had a very average offense that was helped out by a very opportunistic defense. I would hope that regardless of who replaces Martin and who plays QB next year that Kelly shifts the focus of the ND offense to a power running game, but his ego and arrogance will never allow that. I would love nothing more than for Kelly to prove me wrong and I was in favor of his hiring 4 years ago, but he hasn’t shown me anything to lead me to believe he’s the guy to make ND a consistent BCS contender.

      • The difference is that Kelly has been able to produce consistent results (however underwhelming they may be) rather than having 10 win seasons followed by several duds that previous staffs had produced. I feel that 8 wins is no where close to where we need to be but it is better than 3 or 5 and I know that as long as Kelly is coach we will never sniff those type of seasons again. In year 3 he went to the National Title game for crying out loud. My biggest issue with Kelly is that we haven’t developed on the offensive side the way I had anticipated. Great teams (Alabama, Oregon, Alabama, Alabama) seperate themselves in today’s game because on days when the defense isn’t there their offense always picks them up. We played all time great defense a year ago which led us to the show, this year we weren’t even close but the issue was that the offense was incapable of picking us up to help us win some very winnable games. This is the area Kelly has underachieved. With Martin leaving I see this as an opportunity to address some offensive problems that have been plaguing us under Kelly. A smart hire here WILL solve a lot of our issues.

        • It won’t matter who Kelly hires as the OC because Kelly is going to run the show in every aspect
          of the game. I can only speculate, but I believe he makes the decisions as to who plays on game day,
          what plays are called and the OC basically sits around with his thumb up his but while Kelly runs the
          show. That might be one of the reasons Martin left. On game day Kelly is a one man band.


    2. Notre Dame gets the some of the best athletes in the world.. Not since Holtz, have they
      been “coached up”..

      I truly don’t understand how teams like N.Illinois and Boise State (with no four or five star
      recruits) can compete on a national basis every year.. I can’t name more than one player
      on N.Illinois” team and yet they seem to compete for a BCS bowl every year.

      Kelly needs to wake up and address the special teams fiasco ASAP!! Quit making excuses. He’s
      had plenty of time.. I can’t believe how many times he’s been out schemed on both sides of
      the ball. Heck, even Purdue knew what we were doing — shameful….

      2014 has to be huge or let’s go another way.. No more EXCUSES from the coaching staff.

      • Well, I’m not going to defend the below average job the coaching staff did this year. But don’t you think ND would go 12-0 if it played N. Illinois’ schedule? Or Boise State’s? Those teams are playing Eastern Michigan and Wyoming while ND is playing USC, UM, Oklahoma and Stanford. They are good teams at their level, but not national powers.

    3. Garr Isacco says:

      I don’t think Chuck Martin leaving has any effect on 2014 as it is Brian Kelly’s offense. Personally, I wish he would call the offense and hire a special teams co-ordinator. That (aside from quarterbacK) was our weakest area. I think winning a bowl game is a must particularily if our opponent is not BCS caliber like Rutgers. 9-4 and some momentum going into 2014 would be really helpful.
      After Golson’s return, getting 2 strong middle line backers will be imperative for success next season.

    4. I completely agree with the post by ND Chicago.
      There has been no significant change now in four years. Our recruiting has been very good so key injuries while critical should be the reason for four losses. The reason for four loses this year was horrifc coaching. Except for stanford we really were better than the other three teams we lost to. Even Stanford should have been a toss up. Wiing that game was a completely realistic goal.
      One only has to look at special teams to chart progress of the kelly era. Zero!.
      I am loyal and will continue to go to games and root hard for the Irish but if there are not major improvemnts acroos the board next year then I believe Kelly must go. His ego and arrogance are glaring. On the other hand after four years the offense has no identity and we are sorely lacking with in numerous areas despite to 10 recruiting classes year after year

    5. There are so many areas in which the Irish need to improve upon before the 2014 season, but the one I would address most ardently is special teams, especially the kickoff and punt return units. How many games in the Lou Holtz Era were turned on a touchdown return by either Rocket, Tim Brown, Mike Miller, Autrey Denson, even Clint Johnson for heaven’s sake? Those plays were huge, taking a lot of pressure off the offense to score points and giving a lift to the defense. I don’t know if we have such a player on this roster, but finding one should be a top priority for this coaching staff.

    6. yeah, defense regressed significantly as indicated by points allowed. Unless that end is shored up, no way they go anywhere. These pass happy offenses all seem to get exposed when a legit defense comes to town. Back to the weight room for 2014.

    7. Look OUTSIDE for the next OC. Golson will be back, we have a wealth of young running backs, we have good WRs, the supply of Tight ends seems to be holding up – let’s get some POINTS on the board. Given what they have to work with the offensive performance has been poor. And given the injuries suffered by both lines we have to keep a steady supply of big uglies coming in on both sides.

      Simplify the offense!! When Golson started last season he had been at ND for 18 months, had been through 2 spring practices and 2 preseason practices, had won a squad MVP award for impersonating the QB on the upcoming team, and he STILL had to stand there looking at the signals for the next play, as did Rees.

      Or get a smarter QB. Zaire? Kelly was saying that he has already demonstrated he can operate the offense.

      ND Chicago – “He hasn’t shown me anything to lead me to believe he’s the guy to make ND a consistent BCS contender.”



    9. […] NDNation – […]

    10. Until ND has top flight dual threat QB play, they will not be a consistent top BCS Caliber team…All of the top teams have them…Tommy Rees is a great kid but was very limited……Even with their other shortcomings…..If you put Jameis Winston, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariotta, Johhny M etc on ND, I believe that the current team would have won at least 10 or 11 games this year…Lets hope that Golson or one of the other young QBs they have recruited becomes that top flight QB we need…

    11. Agree with all. Very well thought out questions which were answered with facts and not emotion(except a few)
      In addition to the obvious short sighted development and play caalling,this team needs a good defensive secondary coach. It is a nightmare to watch this: let them catch it,don’t let them get behind you and miss the tackle.
      I dred to see the off season report of how many pounds the kids have gained. Why not how faster they have become?

    12. Just heard that ND accepted a Bid to Pinstripe Bowl. My feeling is ok, let’s get this LAST year and a month behind us (Teo’ Embarrassment, NC Game Embarrassment, Golson Embarrassment, and now the 2013 Season Embarrassment). Alot to take for an IRISH fan. But this is what ALMOST everyone wanted….now that Golson is enrolling in Mid-December AND back to ND. So now I’m Expecting a 10 win season with a BCS Bowl game and a BCS Bowl Game win!!! Right??!! This is Kelly’s blow off year right!?!? Same with some ND fans right!?!?! Now 2014 is the year for ND to be back as a TOP 25 TEAM year in and year out for the next 10-15 years!!!! Right!?!?!

      But like me as well as other ND fans who saw ND REALLY play football in the Mid/Late 80’s and Early ’90’s will know if OUR BELOVED IRISH ARE BACK FOR REAL OR SOME FAD THAT LASTS LIKE THE NEXT HAIR STYLE!!!

      ENOUGH IS ENOUGH being average at best with excuses or below average!!!!

    13. Fenian_32 says:

      I certainly agree that this team under-performed. I can’t really decide which regression is worse: the running game or the defense. It was the defense in the beginning of the year, for sure. They couldn’t get to opposing QB’s (whatever happened to Shembo??), and the inside linebackers had serious issues in pass coverage. I went back and read John Vannie’s pre-season primer, and he was concerned with this issue because of our lack of speed at inside linebacker.

      I do think the mounting injuries prevented the defense from re-grouping as the season progressed, however. If we look back to August. Of the original fourteen or fifteen-man two deep of LBs and D-Linemen, seven of them would suffer injuries that prevented them from playing games and slowed them down in others, and five of them suffered season-ending injuries. The 2012 squad was blessed with good health. I expect the defense to play better next year.

      The lack of a running game doomed this season to mediocrity. I read some of the other ND blog sites, and everybody is raving about Hiestand and the offensive line. I just don’t understand that at all… 149 yards a game on the ground??

      Btw, I’ve watched the entire pregame festivities for the SEC championship. It seems like ages ago that I was in Miami for the ND-Alabama game. But if you want to watch a spread offense that can dominate on the ground, watch Mizzou!

    14. watching the progress of Auburn and Missouri makes me realize just how far ND is from being a good team. Even seeing Michigan State who we beat play so well against OSU makes me realize how poorly coached ND is. I think we have talent enough to be a BCS team this year. The fact that not only are we not a BCS team but we are not even ranked confirms that we played way down this year. Kelly has to be totally accountable for all of it. It is true that we didnt have a DI QB this year but again that is his fault for not having developed anyone but Goldson in four years. Using Rees as a starting QB was an embarrassment.