Regarding the belief that Notre Dame's prospective coach had to ask for academic exceptions
"First of all, Jack (Swarbrick), Father Jenkins and I all believe that you can maintain academic integrity and still win a national championship in college football.
"Maybe there were some others that (were) interviewed in which that had to be spelled out. He didn't have to spell that out for me, because I didn't want to coach at Notre Dame if we were going to change the direction of achievement and excellence academically.
"So there are no ‘five exceptions' but there's a clear understanding that if you (a prospective student-athlete) can handled the academic rigors of Notre Dame, and we can predict you to graduate…there are a number of predictors outside of SAT and ACT scores. So I think we can all feel very confident that there are predictors out there that we'll look for."
Note: "Five" was the number posed to Kelly, who later used that number in his answer.
"We all know this: it doesn't do me any good to go after a kid that can't graduate from Notre Dame. So we start with that premise. But, are there other predictors that we feel comfortable would allow a young man to graduate from Notre Dame (relative to test scores and GPA)."
On the role of a recruiting coordinator on his staff
"That would be less important to me. We have an off-field recruiting coordinator, Dave (Peloquin) who does a tremendous job. I kept him on (from Charlie Weis' previous staff) because of the work that he does. He's somebody that in a very short period of time that I have a lot of confidence in.
"The recruiting coordinator as the (assistant) coach will certainly work with Dave but it will be in concert. Rob (Ianello) was a respected recruiting coordinator throughout the country, and everybody saw Rob as a recruiting coordinator that did a great job.
"I don't know that you'll see the same kind of position here at Notre Dame (going forward)."
On the message board perception that Kelly did not, or has not contacted each of the prospective Notre Dame recruiting targets
"Do I seem like a guy that's been sleeping on the couch?"
After a round of laughter and definitive "no" from the reporters, Kelly later responded that he in fact watched every recruit on tape, adding "There were some dynamics that, as I got a chance to talk to some exiting coaches and the staff, that maybe there was not ‘across the board unanimity' …a consensus (of opinion on all prospects).
"Sometimes information is given on the way out that maybe wasn't given when (the coach) was on staff. And I've been a head coach for 20 years. I'm a pretty good listener. I'll put all that information (together) and then make my own decisions."
On recruiting "extra" players at a position (such as QB)
"I've never closed the door on any position," Kelly offered. "If one year we take over the amount of (expected) linemen, well next year there might not be any (that he wants) of them out there.
"Now I understand the implications clearly: when you're recruiting two high-profile quarterbacks, they'd like separation in the class. And sometimes it's a logjam if you bring three in. But my motto that I've used at a number of schools is maybe they don't all (need) to play quarterback? Maybe they can play another position?"
Kelly's comments above led to the most revealing (and for me interesting) oration of the morning...
His recruiting template and philosophyKelly offered his three-fold approach to player evaluation and scholarship offers, one which we later ascertained was his (unique) model for high school player evaluations.
"I have a different way of categorizing (prospects): I recruit Power; Big Skill; and Skill. Those are the three categories; the only three categories I operate out of.
"A ‘Power' player fits a profile. Generally those are your linemen.
"The 'Big Skill' is profiling (projecting) out – if I could take 20 guys that were ‘tough gentlemen' that also fit the profile of Notre Dame academically, that were 6'4" and 215 or 220 pounds, you'd (writers and fans) never be able to track who's playing where. Some play defensive end, some play tight end, some are safeties… ‘Big Skill.'
"And ‘Skill' (players) have a particular strength in a particular area: be it ball skills, throwing, kicking…I've always operated out of those three categories and will continue to operate out of those three categories here at Notre Dame."
Kelly added that his recruitment of current Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (who chose Miami of Ohio) was that of a ‘Skill' player, i.e., specifically as a quarterback.
As well, Kelly noted that the larger, ‘Big Skill' category he searches for puts more of a premium on a "football player" one that likely possesses "certain traits that make you who you are as a football player."
Likewise, if a player doesn't hit one of the three listed profiles above, that player can still be viewed as a prospect for Kelly and his staff, but he has to meet what Kelly referred to as the "compelling" reasons.
The example used was Dwight Freeney (Syracuse and Indianapolis Colts defensive end) who did not fall into the ‘Big Skill' category, but his incredibly quick first step was a "compelling" reason to recruit him as an undersized player into that ‘Big Skill' category.
"Give me the compelling reasons that he doesn't hit the 6'6" range as an offensive tackle," Kelly used as a general example. "There must be compelling reasons (to nevertheless recruit a player)."
Note: Parts I and II focused solely on recruiting-related topics. Part III of our Kelly interview will cover a variety of subjects, including what to expect from a Kelly practice; the formation of a future coaching staff; how Kelly plans to handle the gray area of a "5th-year player" at Notre Dame; how Kelly plans to handle the media (namely the four of us, of course) and how Kelly plans to approach evaluating his current Irish roster.