Once the news broke that running back Cierre Wood and defensive end Justin Utupo were suspended for the first two games of the season, you knew everyone was going to point the finger at head coach Brian Kelly.
Both players were suspended for a violation of team rules and will have to pay the consequences that so many have already endured. Kelly said, via Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com:
Our players are aware of the standards I set for our program and that failure to meet my expectations will result in consequences. Justin and Cierre violated our team rules so I've suspended them for the first two games of the season.
But this is certainly not the first incident that has happened under coach Kelly. He had to suspend star wide receiver Michael Floyd last season after a DUI charge. There was also the offseason arrest that involved quarterback Tommy Rees and linebacker Carlo Calabrese, which included charges such as battery to a police officer.
We also can't overlook the offseason transfer of defensive end Aaron Lynch, who left South Bend to play for the mighty South Florida Bulls. He says it was because of being homesick, but you can be the judge of that.
Via Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, Lynch said:
I want to thank Coach Kelly for giving me this great opportunity to attend Notre Dame and be part of the Fighting Irish football family. This was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make, but I want to go back home to Florida. I'm grateful to Coach Kelly for understanding and allowing me to return home.
This is a 5-star recruit from the 2011 class who had offers on the table from schools such as Florida and Florida State (two home programs that are considered more prestigious than the school he is at currently). So what was the real reason for Notre Dame's sack leader of a year ago deciding to leave the program after one season? Did he know something that we didn't?
This program also lost two top recruits in cornerback Tee Shepard and wide receiver Deontay Greenberry, two recruits who looked like a slam dunk to suit up for Notre Dame. Shepard left the program a month before the spring game, and Greenberry chose Houston, of all schools, over the Irish.
So what do the suspensions, transfers, arrests and loss of commitments all mean for head coach Brian Kelly?
I'm not sure it means a whole lot. While we know Notre Dame has lost a bit of its edge over the years due to subpar play, this has been an offseason that has been filled with arrests, many of which have included star players.
Florida State cornerback Greg Reid has been kicked off the Seminoles' team. Drugs were found on Clemson's Sammy Watkins, which resulted in a two-game suspension. And of course Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from LSU after a violation of team rules.
Violating team rules seems to have been the theme of the 2012 offseason. The only reason it is more of a story with Notre Dame is because the team has struggled under Kelly, and it is Notre Dame. Everything is magnified times 100 when it comes to the Irish.
While I don't think it is fair to say Kelly has lost his team yet, this is the season he must turn things around. This will be his third year with the program, he has oodles of potential at the quarterback position, and it is time for him to either put up or shut up.
If the criticism was bad and the hot seat was beginning to warm up last season, another below-average year will only make things worse for coach Kelly.
This is the year that he must show some type of light at the end of the tunnel. Because if the losses continue to pile up and the suspensions add on, it would then be time for Notre Dame to be looking for their next head coach.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!