BRIDGMAN, Mich. – The off-season for Brian Kelly is never really off.
On Saturday night, Notre Dame staged Irish Invasion, which drew prospects from coast to coast. A day later the football program teamed with local law enforcement at Four Winds Field for a charity softball game. Today, Kelly put on his annual golf outing for the Kelly Cares foundation, which raises money for the fight against breast cancer. And tomorrow, Notre Dame will stage Football 101, which raises resources for that same battle.
Also, Kelly has a football program to run and a roster to manage.
And Kelly has had plenty of management in the past couple weeks, seeing three transfers out (Tristen Hoge, Josh Barajas, Parker Boudreaux), a medical disqualification (Tyler Luatua), a graduate transfer in (Cameron Smith) and a traditional transfer addition (Alohi Gilman).
But it appears that roster reshuffling is at an end.
“We think that our roster is set as it stands right now,” Kelly said Monday morning at Lost Dunes Golf Club, adding that the Irish won’t take another graduate transfer.
Smith and Gilman will be part of those summer workouts, although it’s not clear how they’ll fit into the fall roster.
For Smith, making the move from Arizona State following basically a two-year comeback from knee surgery, the hope for Notre Dame is that his speed will boost a roster still looking for the next Will Fuller. Kelly also hopes Smith, paired with Michigan graduate transfer Freddy Canteen, can offer a leadership example to a position that could use a couple.
“Speed. The speed factor was No. 1 (with Smith). And then No.2, the maturity level,” Kelly said. “We wanted to add two more really mature players. We have some really young players. We wanted mature mentors. At times last year, one of the issues last year was maturity, attention to detail, good habits.
“In Freddy and Cam we’ve got two guys that are very mature guys, good role models for some young players. From a skillset standpoint, the speed element, where (Smith) can really get over the top of defenses.”
The biggest question facing Notre Dame’s roster might be whether or not Gilman will be part of the lineup. The University will file an appeal with the NCAA on the safety’s behalf for a waiver of immediate eligibility.
The crux of that argument will be the policy change for academies that makes service after graduation compulsory without exception. In the past, academy athletes with NFL potential could delay service. The change played a part in Gilman’s departure from Navy because he hopes to play beyond college.
“We’re going to appeal to an area that’s never been appealed before,” Kelly said. “We really don’t know how that’s gonna look.”
Kelly said he’s not clear when the NCAA could resolve the Gilman waiver, although he said it’s his understanding that because this case is “unprecedented” that it would have elevated priority for settlement.
The Irish head coach didn’t downplay what immediate eligibility for Gilman could mean either. Kelly said the 6-foot, 190-pound transfer could be part of the two-deep if eligible.
“We think his run-and-hit ability is extraordinary,” Kelly said. “Very smart, football savvy. We think he’s certainly got a chance to get on the field.”
Kelly said there are no new injuries as summer school starts and the only negative medical report was defensive tackle Elijah Taylor being behind in his recovery from Lisfranc surgery to his foot. Kelly said running back C.J. Holmes (shoulder) and kicker Justin Yoon (lower body) are both on track.
Kelly added that Taylor should be ready to practice when training camp opens, likely on Aug. 1 at Culver Academy.
“In terms of Elijah Taylor, maybe a week or so behind where he needed to be with his foot, only because he had a lot of work to do at the end of the year with academics, maybe slowed up his rehab a little bit,” Kelly said. “He’s gonna get back in time to be able to compete in camp.”
Facility Upgrade Update
There’s no public timeline for Notre Dame’s renovation of the Guglielmino center, but Kelly detailed more about what he’d like to see when it comes to the University’s blueprints.
Spoiler alert: There probably won’t be a putt-putt golf course or waterfall.
“We don’t really need that, to be quite frank,” Kelly said, when asked directly about some of the additions at Clemson and other powerhouse programs. “That’s not what our mission is anyway. Our philosophy is really about community. If I could just find a way to get four more hours of sleep (for our players), I would be happy.”
Kelly does want a new locker room in the Gug with more creature comforts. He also wants a dedicated academic space for the players, who often do academic work in the Gug auditorium. Better training table facilities is also a must considering Notre Dame literally wheels in meals for players from campus dining, then serves them in a converted lobby.
“We need more room and more space for feeding our players,” Kelly said. “We needed dedicated space for academics.
“A new locker room facility that allows them a little bit more space. It’s really a focus on the players and the needs that the players have in that facility.”
Kelly repeated that Notre Dame will build a second indoor field at some point, which should allow more scheduling flexibility with the University’s other sports.
“With the NCAA changing that everything must be mandated with a 6 a.m. start, we’re really pressed for time,” Kelly said. “It’s very difficult for us to get our run in and our lift in, prior before 6. We have to go before 6 to get all that in. We can’t go back in the afternoon, the facility is full, baseball, softball, all the different sports.
“Having a dedicated facility will allow us to lift in the morning and come back in the afternoon and get our run in.”