What's the biggest problem for Notre Dame's new coach?

Given that, how many games will Brian Kelly's team win next season?

December 14, 2009

Let's focus on 'D'
Chris Dufresne

Los Angeles Times

There are several "biggest" problems facing Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. Let's focus on defense, where the Irish continued to get bowled over by opponents even as their offense became potent under the "schematic" genius Charlie Weis.

The Irish's woeful tackling almost earned a Heisman for Stanford's Toby Gerhart. Notre Dame finished 87th nationally in total defense, between Tulsa and Nevada.

The Irish were 64th in scoring defense, allowing a whopping average of almost 26 points a game. Kelly has mostly been known as an offensive coach, although he was on the other side of the ball early in his career, but he has to immediately instill an identity that has been missing for years.

The Irish have to beat USC to get more difference-maker recruits. cdufresne@tribune.com

Feed the defense
Brian Hamilton

Chicago Tribune

Apparently the nutrition of Notre Dame defensive players was so mismanaged last season that they lost an average of 13 pounds during 2009, inspiring administrators to fast-track a football-only training table.

Tackling that problem is a start. That's new coach Brian Kelly's primary problem: Fixing a defense that lacked difference-makers up front and demonstrated horrific fundamentals across the board. The tackling issue is teachable. The talent issue could linger for a couple of recruiting cycles.

But Kelly did more with less in Cincinnati. A merely adequate Irish defense should be enough for seven or eight wins in 2010. Heftier production pushes that total higher and makes Kelly's debut memorable.

bhamilton@tribune.com

One issue eclipses others
Andrea Adelson

Orlando Sentinel

Notre Dame has so many problems, where do we begin? Defense has to be the biggest issue that must be resolved for the Irish to start winning more games. That is not a strong suit of Brian Kelly, who has made his name on offense.

The Irish lost by seven points or fewer in all six of their losses, including three times when they led going into the fourth quarter. Their defense ranked No. 87 in the country. No matter how great your offense, it is difficult to win 10-plus games and play in a BCS game when you have to outscore everybody every week - especially without Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.

So the pressure is on Kelly to hire a defensive coordinator to improve this unit. The 2010 schedule is pretty difficult. With the playmakers they are losing, Kelly will be lucky to win seven games next season.

aadelson@tribune.com

Work recruiting miracles
Bill Kline

The Morning Call

If you want to be No. 1 - and Notre Dame sandblasted that into Brian Kelly's contract - you need top talent that expects to play in the NFL. Notre Dame is not getting many of those athletes, and that is Kelly's biggest challenge, one that has two obstacles bigger than Charlie Weis' buyout: high academic standards and cold weather.

When you fill out the SAT box of your Notre Dame application, it's not like at a football factory where all you do is check-mark that you took them. To play at Notre Dame, you have to book as well as you block. Secondly, not even Touchdown Jesus can stir a kid to leave the year-round warmth of the talent-rich South or Southwest.

So, say your prayers, Mr. Kelly. We'll give you eight wins next year - and a loss to a Sun Belt school in your bowl game.

wkline@tribune.com

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