Out with the old...

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly's stated goals for spring ball: Developing an identity and depth for 2013.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly begins his fourth season in South Bend in unfamiliar territory:

Entering a fourth season.

Not since the spring of '94 as the head man at Grand Valley State has Kelly hung around for a fourth season in charge of a program.

"You know what you (have)," said Kelly of a fourth season at the helm. "You don't come in going, 'All right, if this happens…' You really know what you have and you can really identify the things you need to work on.  When you have the protocols and the process in place on a day-to-day basis, the expectations have already been set, it allows you to really work on the development of your football team."

"I like (year) fours and eights and twelves," he added.

Now firmly entrenched at Notre Dame, Kelly began a new season answering questions regarding how he finished the previous. Notably, his interview with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, and if he had to "repair his relationship" with a group of players committed to him.

"They don't like me very much anyway, so it was really very little," Kelly joked. "I think from that standpoint, it was pretty smooth after that. No, there was very little talk about it.  I talked to our team behind closed doors about the situation.  They appreciated my candor with them about it.  We moved on."

Asked if there could be future inquiries for his services, Kelly noted, "I think other teams will pursue me in the future because we're going to continue to win here. That doesn't mean I have an interest.  But I think that's going to continue to happen because we're going to continue to have success here."

Welcome to Notre Dame…the line starts back there

The continued success Kelly predicted has begun in earnest, with winter conditioning a key component heading into the spring. And for those participating this spring, it's apparent they'll have a leg up on newcomers hitting town this summer and fall.

"For me it is about developing the identity of this football team, developing the leadership within the group.  Certainly the players that are on hand in the spring is the primary focus in developing our depth for 2013.

"So leaving spring ball, we want to set our football team and the depth within the ranks. This is not about, 'Well, we know we have a number of young men coming in in the fall, they're at this position.'

"They come in and they fill in at the back of the line. We'll see how that takes form when they get here. My point being that we're setting our roster based on the players we have on campus right now.  That's the work in front of us, which starts tomorrow."

"We're in the process of not only developing our football players physically and skill-wise, but we're developing leaders within our group, we're developing position groups and depth within the ranks, and developing an identity of the football team."

That identity will differ from the late-blooming seniors that lead the 2012 Irish to a spot in the BCS Championship game.

"It now begins with a new group of players, a new football team," said Kelly of the spring's initial steps. "2012, the personality of that team is gone.  We're in the process of not only developing our football players physically and skill-wise, but we're developing leaders within our group, we're developing position groups and depth within the ranks, and developing an identity of the football team."

The process of that development is ongoing.

"I put them through a number of different opportunities through conditioning, weight training, through practice, to create those opportunities for the team to kind of show itself," said Kelly.

"We've done some things up to this point and I've seen some things as to where we're going.  Now we'll use the spring ball to find out more about our team, then we'll use pre-season camp.  I think all of those things come together and they establish the identity of your team."

Gunner, We Hardly New Ye

"He is no longer part of the program."

Kelly's terse response when asked for an "update on Gunner's situation" spoke volumes, even if the head coach took the high road in further assessing a transfer that while predictable in its eventuality, seemed ill-time.

"I don't know that I'm surprised. We had kind of created an opportunity for him to compete in the spring, " said Kelly. "So maybe a little surprised from that standpoint because he was actually told that he would be given an opportunity to compete."

Kelly added he was disappointed Kiel decided to move on.

"You never want to see guys not stay in the program. You don't bring guys in expecting them to transfer. There's always a sense from my end that we wish he would have given it an opportunity," he said. "But kids make decisions based upon what are important factors to them.  Gunner and his family felt like it was best for them to pursue other opportunities.

"We're coaches, teachers, educators.  We want to see guys succeed."

Still enrolled at the school in order to complete the spring semester, Kiel has an extensive list of programs under consideration. It appears restrictions on where the soon-to-be sophomore will transfer weren't necessary as the former Scout.com five-star is looking at teams outside of Notre Dame's traditional schedule base.

"We had an open conversation about the schools," Kelly said. "I think the schools that he was looking at were in line with the schools that I thought were appropriate relative to who was on our schedule. We gave him pretty good leeway to find the right resting place."

"There were a number of nationally regarded programs across the board," Kelly added when asked for specific destinations. "There were too many for me to even get into.  Some regionally, some national, but a pretty long list."

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