JOE RAYMOND/Associated Press
Following Notre Dame’s win over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl in late December, reality began to sink in: This would be a much different-looking Irish squad in 2014. Leaders Tommy Rees, TJ Jones, Zack Martin, Dan Fox and Bennett Jackson, among others, would be moving on. Who would be in the next crop of leaders? Who would be the captains?
In his opening remarks last week, Kelly said the team’s leadership remains a fluid dynamic.
“During that [first week] you're also looking to build leadership within the ranks,” Kelly said. “That is an ongoing process that will continue to work itself into our team as we go through. I don't look to name any captains right away, but we are seeing players emerge in leadership roles, and a lot of those guys have experience and a lot of those guys are our best players, and that's always the best form of leadership within your ranks.”
Kelly did later highlight senior center Nick Martin as the clear leader of the offensive linemen.
In selecting captains, Kelly could go in a variety of directions. There are seniors like Martin, and those “best players,” such as Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day and KeiVarae Russell. As Kelly said, it's always ideal when the best players are the best leaders. If those top defensive stars, for example, can develop into the leaders, Notre Dame should be in good shape.
In 2012, Manti Te'o and Kapron Lewis-Moore were the defensive captains, and Te'o in particular was a stalwart. Leadership can be easier and more natural when it comes from the top players.