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Notre Dame Football: Where Will Irish Turn If Brian Kelly Leaves for NFL?

Randy ChambersAnalyst IDecember 1, 2016

Notre Dame Football: Where Will Irish Turn If Brian Kelly Leaves for NFL?

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    After leading Notre Dame to a BCS National Championship appearance, head coach Brian Kelly is exploring his options in the NFL.

    According to a report by Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN, Kelly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles for their head coaching position on Tuesday, and there seems to be interest on both sides. The two are also expected to meet again once Kelly returns from his trip outside of the country.

    And just like that, the Irish could end up losing the head coach that has turned the program around and made it relevant on a national level once again. It is important to note that nothing has been signed yet, and nobody is quite sure just how serious Kelly is about leaving South Bend. However, the possibility is there, and everybody needs to be prepared for a Plan B if he does decide to jump ship.

    So, where does Notre Dame turn if Kelly leaves?

    Let's take a look at some of the candidates that the Irish could look at who would be able to continue the the type of success that Kelly has during his first three years with the program.

5. Chris Petersen

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    If Brian Kelly was to leave South Bend, one of the first names that will pop up is going to be Boise State head coach Chris Petersen. After years of being in the rumor mill, he obviously seems fully committed to the Broncos, but a prestigious program such as Notre Dame and a few more zeros added to his paycheck could get him out of the MWC for good.

    Petersen is arguably the most accomplished head coach that has yet to test the waters at a big program. He consistently has his team prepared, he is a wonderful motivator and despite the lack of great athletes on his roster, Boise State still competes at the highest level each year.

    Just imagine what he would be able to do at Notre Dame.

    It would take a lot to get Petersen out of his comfort zone, as he reportedly turned down $4 million per season from the UCLA Bruins. But if this is the guy that could put Notre Dame over the top, it may be worth it to sign that big boy check.

    Still, this seems like a pipe dream at the moment.

4. Kirby Smart

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    If you can't beat him, I guess you can hire him and hope that he leads you to similar success.

    Kirby Smart is the defensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide and has helped Nick Saban win all of those national championships and individual awards.

    But while Saban gets majority of the credit, Smart is widely considered as the best assistant coach in the country. He has also been actively looking for his first head coaching gig, but hasn't been quick to jump at the first opportunity that presents itself. It won't be long before Smart is running his own program, and Notre Dame could be music to his ears.

    Smart has spent his entire life coaching in the south, but could be looking for that top program outside of the SEC that would give him a change of scenery.

    The Crimson Tide defensive coordinator is the best in the business, and with Notre Dame back on top, it certainly wouldn't hurt to at least try to pry him from Saban's hands.

3. Charlie Strong

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    Charlie Strong has been in high demand by nearly every team that has had a job opening lately, but he is enjoying his efforts in turning Louisville into a respectable team. He led the Cardinals to 11 victories this year, including a BCS win over the Florida Gators, where he simply out-coached Will Muschamp in surprising fashion. 

    Strong is a tough-nosed coach who has a personality that players seem to gravitate towards and really play harder for. He has a way of getting the most out of his players and has even bumped up the recruiting efforts for the program lately, as guys across the country are buying into what he is selling.

    The current Louisville head coach also has ties to Notre Dame—he was the defensive coordinator for the program in the late 90s. It was really his only stop outside of the SEC before he ended up taking the Louisville job in 2010.

    Strong is somebody that you can picture being with the program for quite some time, and who could end up keeping things afloat in South Bend.

2. James Franklin

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    James Franklin seems like he is comfortable with turning Vanderbilt into a respectable program in the SEC. However, a job like Notre Dame does not open up every day, and it could be that one gig that he has been waiting for all along.

    Franklin has pulled off miracles with Vanderbilt, leading the Commodores to two straight bowl games and getting them in the AP Top 25 Poll for only the second time since 1984. He has a charisma about him that attracts people, and his players would run through a brick wall for him if Franklin told them to do so.

    At 40 years old, the current Vanderbilt head coach seems to be that guy that is next in line to take college football by storm. Whether he is committed to the Commodores full time or not, Franklin will eventually realize that he has done all that he can do with the program.

    Notre Dame would be foolish not to give this guy a call.

1. Bob Diaco

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    When schools end up making a coaching change, they tend to stick to what they know.Going with a guy that has ties to the program or is familiar with how things are done is usually the best choice. It allows for an easy transition and should make for far less growing pains in Year One.

    This is why current Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco would seem like the most logical hire. He is the guy that was behind that wonderful defense, which was a significant part why Notre Dame even made it to the national championship.

    Diaco is a young guy at 39 years old, and he was considered a candidate for the Temple and Wisconsin head coaching jobs this year before they filled up. He has been with Notre Dame since 2010 and recently received the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in the country.

    It is really only a matter of time before Diaco lands somewhere as a head coach. If Kelly leaves, he should be promoted to that very position where he is currently at.

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