Notebook: Kelly considered bringing in grad transfer QB of his own to ND

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — In the days that followed Brian Kelly’s quarterback depth chart getting thinned out last month by the graduation transfer exemption, the Notre Dame head football coach considered using the rule to his own advantage.

By taking in a fifth-year QB of his own.

Everett Golson’s desire to transfer, with the two-year starter eventually landing at Florida State, caught Kelly off-guard. It also left him with only redshirt freshmen or true freshmen to back up junior starter Malik Zaire.

“There were definitely conversations about it,” he said of adding a grad school-style, no-waiting transfer. “We had some guys that we had targeted that we had looked at.

“But as we moved forward, we looked at some future players that we had and were recruiting, and we didn’t want to crowd the space for them. That, ultimately, made our decision as to how we were going to move forward with the quarterback position.”

Kelly made his remarks to the media Tuesday during the sixth-annual Football 101 charity event at the LaBar practice fields on the campus of Notre Dame. He also touched on a variety of the topics that provide an offseason peek into the Irish football program:

Field trip: After an uber-early workout Wednesday morning (6:35 a.m.), the football team was scheduled to head to Chicago to visit some corporations — and the Chicago Bears.

“We wanted them to see a professional-style OTA (offseason team activity),” Kelly said.

Super-size me? The most dramatic spring practice ascender, running back/wide receiver C.J. Prosise, has continued to impress through the early summer workouts — just as a larger version of himself.

“He’s 230 now,” Kelly said of the 6-foot-1 senior who was pushing 220 pounds in the spring. “We’re going to see over the next four weeks whether that’s the right weight for him. We think the ideal weight might be 225. We’ll see how the numbers play out for us, but 230 and over 6-feet — that’s a big back with great speed.

“There’s not many times when you’re playing this game and against really top-notch players that (the word) ‘wow’ comes out, but I think there were a couple of times where you say, ‘wow, that’s pretty good.’ ”

Sharing the keys to the offense: Kelly is still open to relinquishing the offensive play-calling he’s done on game days most of his head-coaching career, including his three coaching stops before Notre Dame.

To whom (associated head coach Mike Denbrock or offensive coordinator Mike Sanford) and when aren’t his focus right now. He’s simply enjoying the journey.

“I think we have a great consensus on what we’re doing offensively, with Mike Denbrock, Mike Sanford and myself,” Kelly said. “I haven’t felt this comfortable really since I’ve been coaching, that there is such a consensus about what we’re doing, a collaboration.

“It’s not just science within your playing-calling. Somebody has to get into a flow and a feel. But I have great confidence that whenever that decision is made on our staff, we’re going to be able to turn it over and be effective in play-calling. I think it will happen naturally, and it will happen quickly. But there’s no (specific) timetable.”

Scout’s honor: Kelly said senior defensive end Ishaq Williams, back in school but still in limbo in terms of his football eligibility for fall, is open to being a scout team player in the fall and practicing with the team if the NCAA ultimately denies him a chance to play in games.

“He still has the want and desire to play in the NFL,” Kelly said. “He’s big and looks great, and we’re going to work him out. … If he plays football, we’ll be ecstatic for him, but the bottom line is he’s going to get his degree from Notre Dame.”

Fenway logistics: Playing in one of Kelly’s favorite sports facilities in November isn’t blinding the Massachusetts native to some logistics that will have to be overcome when ND and Boston College clash at the Boston Red Sox’s iconic baseball park in six months.

“Both teams are going to be on the same sideline,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure out some of those mechanics.”

The Shamrock Series matchup — an off-site home game for the Irish — will be the first football game played in the facility since the Boston (now New England) Patriots beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 1, 1968.

The Irish will use the Red Sox’s locker room for their own on game day.

Academic probe aftermath: Pete Thamel’s recent Sports Illustrated piece on reinstated cornerback KeiVarae Russell mentioned Kelly, ND president Rev. John I. Jenkins, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick had “transformative conversations” this offseason centering on at-risk student-athletes.

Swarbrick even co-chaired a task force that took a look at that issue in-depth.

As the academic dishonesty probe, that started last July, approaches final resolution for the last two of the five players involved, here are Kelly’s thoughts on Notre Dame’s effort to move forward with lessons learned along the way:

“I think we recognized that all of my football players are at-risk — all of them — really. Honestly, I don’t know that any of our players would get into the school by themselves right now with the academic standards the way they are. Maybe one or two of our players that are on scholarship.

“So making sure that with the rigors that we put them in — playing on the road, playing night games, getting home at 4 o’clock in the morning, all of the demands that we place on them relative to the academics and going into an incredibly competitive academic classroom every day — we recognize this is a different group.

“And we have to provide all the resources necessary for them to succeed and don’t force them into finding shortcuts.

“I think we’ve clearly identified that we need to do better, and we’re not afraid to look at any shortcomings that we do have and fix them, and provide the resources necessary for our guys. Our university has looked at that, and we’re prepared to make sure that happens for our guys.”

(574) 235-6112


Once Everett Golson (right) left the Notre Dame quarterback depth chart in May, Irish coach Brian Kelly considered bringing in a transfer to help back up starter Malik Zaire. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)