Four years of following Brian Kelly has given me much insight into the man charged with bringing Notre Dame football back to the level expected by fans, administration, and college football as a whole.
However, has Kelly answered the questions of the Irish faithful? We look at several areas talked about when Kelly was named Irish head coach.
Small Time College Coach @ The Greatest College Program
While on the field Kelly found heartbreak a few times, he never lost his faith in his abilities or his coaching staffs abilities. In doing so, Kelly showed the mental strength to stay true to his program and the coaches he entrusted to get the job done.
While Kelly was sure to learn about the everyday pressures and commitments of being the head coach at Notre Dame, he handled it in the manner I expected from having dealings with him during his three seasons at Cincinnati.
Being a Top National Recruiter
The number one questions asked when Kelly was hired was his ability to go into a recruit's home outside the states of Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana and convince them Notre Dame was the best choice they could make.
As I had learned in the past, Kelly is great in a recruit's home and knows how to get his vision across to parents and recruits.
Those already in the committed list for the Class of 2011 come from fourteen different states and go from east to west, and north to south.
Small Time Assistant Coaches Recruiting Abilities
Another area of great concern just a year ago was the abilities of Notre Dame assistant coaches on the recruiting trail.
Not only has Tony Alford proved Kelly was right in keeping him from the previous staff, but coaches hired a year ago each provided the Irish with one of the top recruiting classes in the country.
However, while many will talk about Alford, the new legend of Notre Dame recruiting is Bob Diaco, who closed one of the biggest recruiting stories with a 4:30 a.m. visit to New York 5- star defensive recruit Ishaq Williams, stopping an official visit to Penn State with his verbal commitment to the Irish.
Add in the recent loss and recommitment of Stephon Tuitt, and Irish fans are learning Kelly and crew are ready and willing to take on all comers in the battle for the talent to earn Notre Dame back into BCS and National Championship talk.
Offense For Show / Defense For Championships
While I do not feel Kelly will venture too far from his offensive roots, I do believe he looked back to his defensive days and has stressed his teams need to play high-level defense as compared to his high scoring events of the past. Despite the growing pains against Navy, the Irish finished strong earning them a bowl berth when most had written them off. Defense was the key to this turn around and with the recruits being brought in the Class of 2011, this should not change.
In Brian Kelly fashion, I am sure he is thinking his team is on the brink of taking part in a bowl game with a consumable product. Oranges, Sugar, Chips, you get what I'm talking about?
While Bob Diaco will continue to build upon the defensive success seen late this past season, look for Kelly to have the offense moving up with its production as he finds the right fit at quarterback.
Assistant Coaches Leaving
There has been talk of assistant coaches leaving Notre Dame for other jobs. Much like Kelly said during his Friday press conference, if the job is not a step up, the coach knows his job will be handed to someone else.
In talking with a current Irish assistant coach about the possibilities of him leaving South Bend, it was quickly pointed out there is no reason to leave Kelly and Notre Dame when you work for the best coach in college football and the most storied program in the history of college football.
While assistant coaches from across the country are changing jobs each year, a coach under Kelly's watch will only be allowed to look at position that move them up in leadership.
This is not something new to Kelly, as he has shown in the past how much he demands loyalty to him and the goals that have been set in place.
More Winning On The Way
Keep the faith that more winning is on the way. This season saw Kelly lose five games, in the previous three seasons I watched his teams lost six games.
How would a one-loss season feel in 2011?
Taking The Hits And Still Believing
Over the course of the past few months, some have expressed I may be too close to the subject (Brian Kelly) to have a fair assessment of the job he has done or will do in the future. However, I will stay with my original assessment; Brian Kelly is on a path to win big at Notre Dame.
A top recruiting class, another year of players in Paul Longo's strength program, finding the right quarterback to run the offense, and players understanding their roles in the program are in the future. Right now Notre Dame's football future looks very bright in my eyes.