Kelly: Part III

Part III of the Kelly interview focuses on advice and guidance from past Irish greats; the perception of "Notre ()Ame"; player development and upcoming player evaluations including a preview of QB-to-be Dayne Crist.

This is the third of four columns reviewing our meeting with new head football coach Brian Kelly on Tuesday morning. Also in attendance was a writer from Irish Illustrated, Blue and Gold Illustrated, and Irish Sports Daily.

In Parts I and II, Coach Kelly touched on a variety of topics, including several recruiting-related questions, which can be reviewed here.

On the value of his head coaching background

The first question posed to Kelly relayed a comment by Ara Parseghian when he took over the Irish program in 1964. Parseghian offered that he needed every bit of his coaching background in order to be prepared for the challenge at Notre Dame.

Does this apply to Kelly? And would he have been ready for the job in season's past?

"I can tell you for sure I wouldn't have been ready for it six years ago. Three years ago?" Kelly paused, "I think I was still needing more ‘BCS' experience, if you will, from a recruiting standpoint.

"But there's no question that my three years at Cincinnati put me in a position where now I've very confident that I have the background and the experience necessary to do the job at Notre Dame."

Regarding sage advice from ex-Irish leaders

"I haven't gotten to all of them; I've spent most of my time with Coach Holtz, we know each other as well.

"Ara's down in Florida and we've had a chance to write notes back and forth. I haven't (contacted) Charlie yet. I spent a good amount of time talking to Coach Holtz."

And the nature of that conversation?

"Just the uniqueness and how Notre Dame is special. As he's traveled throughout the country and seen every program and done every game, I think what's it's done for him and in his own mind, solidified the fact that Notre Dame is a special place. I think what makes it even more special is the philosophy of academics and athletics coming together as one.

"Of course, in terms of facilities, he'd (Holtz) will tell you ‘Hey, I didn't have any of this stuff, and I got it done'" Kelly offered jokingly. "And that's good, he carries with him (the mindset of) ‘You guys keep complaining about what you don't have…I don't want to hear it!'

"I think I got from Coach Holtz more than anything else that he now, even as he left Notre Dame and has seen all the other program, has developed an even stronger feeling that you can do it at Notre Dame."

Regarding the celebrated failures of the Irish defense

Kelly was informed/reminded that ND has become code for "No Defense" across the college football landscape. Is the former head coach of the nation's No. 6 ranked offense (and 47th-ranked defense) capable of changing in that reality in South Bend?

"I'm strictly about winning. And everything that I've done as a head coach has been about winning (rather than favoring one side of the ball). I've never broken up a program into offense/defense/special teams…it's all been one. "I really concern myself more with how we win; I don't care how. And if you look at our schedule (at Cincinnati) carefully, and really go through it, you'll see that we won one game 28-7. That we won another 21-14. So you'll see some low-scoring games in there and some of it was tactical, in how we played offense, to get the win that day.

"When you have what we had at Cincinnati, a prolific offense and one that could score on anybody, you don't put your defense in a good position when you play that way. But having said that, it wasn't about our defense, it was about winning."

"So we'll carefully evaluate (how to approach games next season). But you can't win games, you can't win 34 and lose 6 if your defense is lousy. You have to find a way to play good enough defense, in the times that you need it…I think as a head coach who's a play-caller; I have a lot to do with how those games shape up.

"To win here at Notre Dame, you have to play good defense. No question."

More so than at Cincinnati?

"No," Kelly answered honestly. "Notre Dame was 1-4 in the Big East." (The Irish have lost their last four games vs. Big East conference teams over the last two seasons with its most recent victory vs. a member of the conference occurring in Weis' first season, a 34-10 home win over Syracuse).

"I did pretty good in the Big East. My point is, you have to play solid defense (in any conference).

"You're living on borrowed time if you're trying to go around outscoring everybody."

On the value of a fresh start for all returning players

"There's no question that everybody starts with clearly a chance to make me notice (them). I've always said ‘It's not my job to notice you; it's your job to make me notice you.'

"I think that's what spring will be about. But before we get into spring ball, January, February, and March will be to a large degree, the three most important months as we get ready for the fall. It won't be April. It won't be spring ball. Spring ball will be secondary to what happens (over the next three months)."

On seeing the players on film first: "We'll look at the film…but the reality of it is it will be the interaction of the players on a day-to-day basis (in the next three months) that will have more of an impact then 15 practice opportunities.

"I don't want to diminish (spring practice), but in terms of priority for me, it will be those first three months."

Has he checked out much of the hand he's been dealt on film? "Not one second. Haven't looked at any Notre Dame film."

On watching Dayne Crist's high school films (with the junior-to-be) "I think we both saw somebody that has enormous talent, and that talent being developed in the system we have and that we will lay down fits him to a T.

"This was about knowing it was a fit…we both kind of knew this was going to work out pretty good."

Why, exactly?

"Escape-ability; movement; he moves a whole lot better and is a big kid now. I wanted to make sure I saw that escape-ability and maneuverability because in the spread offense it's not about what you run, what your 40-time is…you have to be able to extend plays.

The number one priority for me with the quarterback position is being able to extend plays. And (Crist) can extend plays."

Kelly added that Crist would be very active in non-contact drills (in the spring). And that for Kelly, non-contact drills are a big part of spring practice.

Regarding the ability to capitalize on players' talent

The specific question concerned Kelly's philosophy and ability to move a player who's struggling at one position and allow him to find success elsewhere.

"Where was Lou Holtz's first head coaching job?" Kelly asked (the answer is William & Mary…your favorite beat writer thankfully knew the answer after posing the initial question, by the way).

"My guess is he didn't have any four or five star guys. My first job was at Grand Valley State. The guys I recruited didn't even know what "non-BCS" was," he joked. "When your background is (such), you have to project. I've always said ‘if there's a worm in the apple, then turn the apple so you don't see the worm.'"

Kelly added that staff discussions generally include what a given player can't do; his flaws. That's not his approach to player development.

"Tell me what he can do. I don't need you to tell me what he can't do. That's not why we're in this business. We're here to develop our players, and accentuate and get the most out of them.

"There's a lot of things I can't do. If you came into a staff meeting and just pointed out things I can't do…I'd probably crawl out of here. Tell me what I can do."

"I think Lou Holtz was good at those things and (part of that) is because we have a similar background in having to do that because those are the kids we (had). You can't trade them; there's no waiver wire. Those are the kids (you coach who you have)."

Note: Part IV and the conclusion of the Kelly meet-and-greet will be published at 9:30 Top Stories