It’s been a little over a week since the spring game, and I’ve had some time to mull over the game and Coach Kelly’s commentary. Here are my thoughts on the Irish and what we have to look forward to (dread?) this fall.
Blue-Gold Game 2017
I know it’s difficult to really see how good we are from a spring game. Yes, Wimbush looked good, but was I blown away? No. Maybe my expectations were too high? He looked good, but at the same time, he didn’t blow my socks off.
Was I impressed with his backup, Ian Book? Yes. Maybe, on the flip side, my expectations weren’t high enough for Book, and that’s why I was so impressed. But at the end of the day, both of the quarterbacks did look good, and I feel confident in their leadership capabilities moving forward.
The rest of our offense looked pretty solid. The running game moved down the field efficiently. Our wide receivers and tight ends were catching passes without much effort. The defense looked strong, with visibly improved tackling skills, and our pass rush seems to have re-emerged with a vengeance. And we got a sneak peek at a new kicker (Kohler), who also looked like he was ready to take the world by storm.
I didn’t see any gaping holes on either side of the ball; and I left the game feeling pretty optimistic and excited about the football season ahead. That being said … it was only a spring game.
I did hear a few comments from Coach Kelly that were kind of interesting. He commented on the drastic changes that he made to his coaching staff. He said that he realized that his toolbox was incomplete, and that in order to achieve improved success, he was going to need to restock his toolbox. Interesting.
He also commented that while he felt his overall strategies for the team in the past were on the right track, their implementation was possibly a bit off; that “our process and preparation should put us in a position where we don’t give games away.” Hopefully this return to preparedness mantra will help the team perform better on the field, as was the case under Coach Holtz who also stressed the philosophy of being prepared. Yes, I know I am a huge fan of Coach Holtz and his coaching style, but I firmly believe that being prepared is the key to success … both on and off the field.
Obviously a lot of new things going on within the stadium. So what excites you most as you head into this season and the potential for the atmosphere that you’re going to have in that stadium?
COACH KELLY: Well, I think, you know, all of the renovations look tremendous. Particularly the north end zone, what they have done down there, it’s going to be a great feel for us to come out of that tunnel the way it’s put together, the new locker room obviously gives you a great feel. But as I told our guys, there has to be a great sense of pride when you walk into that stadium and that pride has to carry over in your preparation and being focused and locked in every time we come into the stadium. It’s a stadium that is rich in tradition and our guys need to know that they play football at the University of Notre Dame and it’s just a great, great thing that they have and appreciate it. Now, as I told them after, that we want to play a certain style, and we don’t ever want to give football games away. We feel that, you know, our process and preparation should put us in a position where we don’t give games away.
A few of Coach Holtz’s thoughts on leadership …
One other comment from Coach Kelly that stuck out for me is that we are going to emphasize academics. I sincerely hope that he holds his players feet to the fire this year (and in years to come), and enforces the fact that yes, they are STUDENT-athletes, with an emphasis on student. We are Notre Dame, right? That is what we do … educate our students.
The optimist in me hopes that all of the changes Coach Kelly has made does indeed right the ship, and that we have a 10-2 season. The realist in me is still a little worried.
Some Thoughts from Former ND Players
One more thing before I leave you … I did have a chance to catch up with some former Notre Dame football players. Check out my interviews here:
Cheers & GO IRISH!