The Fighting Irish lost five of thirteen games on their schedule this season. This is unacceptable for the most prominent college football program in the country.
The team has floundered ever since the Lou Holtz tenure ended. There are some glaring obstacles to success that must be addressed before moving forward.
Brian Kelly’s demeanor: The players are continuously walking on egg shells around the coach because he becomes a raving lunatic every time that someone makes a mistake. Today’s athlete is used to being coddled. The person being berated is one of the best at his position in the country. He doesn’t know how to handle this type of confrontation. Inevitably, these scenarios lead to more substandard play on the field.
Michael Floyd’s void: It was refreshing to see him returning punts during the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. Offenses have certainly taken over at the college and professional levels and Floyd was the prototypical player with size and speed. He also had the ability to go up in a crowd and come away with the ball. The coaching staff has to find a way to replace all of these receptions and yards for the coming season.
Two quarterbacks: Kelly must select a player to back. The dichotomy of Andrew Hendrix and Tommy Rees is a detriment to the continuity of the offense. The difference in styles causes confusion with blocking schemes and the difference in release points-timing is a challenge for the receivers. This case also addresses the coach’s demeanor once again. It’s tough to play well when constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering if you’re going to get pulled from the action.
Red Zone turnovers: Even casual football fans realize that it’s more difficult to run the ball inside the red zone. Defenses tighten up and it’s necessary to spread the ball out. Tommy Rees threw multiple interceptions in the end zone that cost the team the bowl game. With TJ Jones, Tyler Eifert, and Floyd in the mix, it’s obviously a psychological issue for Rees. If he simply treated the red zone situations as he does on the rest of the field, execution wouldn’t be a problem.
Game Selection: As an independent, there is a certain freedom that comes with the scheduling options during the regular season. When it comes to the postseason, the squad misses out on the bowl alliances that the major conferences possess. But, with the national following for Notre Dame, it becomes an attractive opponent for possible at-large teams. The Southern teams have the advantage of playing close to home during bowl season. The administration should have looked harder for an advantageous situation. The crowd was predominantly for Florida State in Orlando. It’s not the most critical issue, but why not control it if you can?
I have no doubt that Brian Kelly is qualified to lead the team. He has had success at every level in the past, but some adjustments could make Notre Dame a BCS team. Fans have been waiting for this for nearly twenty years.
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