With 2009 almost gone and a new decade upon us, there are many changes taking place in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly has been on the job for three weeks and is slowly building the program again after the collapse of the Charlie Weis regime.
As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months, Kelly must follow a plan and achieve many goals before the Irish take the field in early September against Purdue. As coach at Notre Dame, his plate is more full than it has ever been and he will encounter many challenges along the way.
So with January and the New Year only a few days away, the hope is that the new calendar and head coach will bring mountains of prosperity to the Notre Dame program.
Here then, are the ten goals for Brian Kelly to achieve in 2010.
Being able to deal with the media comes with the territory as head football coach at Notre Dame. And by all accounts, it looks as though Brian Kelly is a master in public relations.
This bodes very well for the Fighting Irish.
Although handling the press with ease may not score touchdowns, it is very important to the school administration and it can be a positive factor to many potential recruits as well.
Notre Dame has not had a media savvy coach in the age of the internet and if Kelly can continue to bring energy, passion and instant likability to televisions and computers across the country, only good will come from it.
One of the things Brian Kelly mentioned shortly after being hired was that he wants to play the best teams in the country and that it is part of the tradition for Notre Dame to beat the best in order to become the best.
While I don't think Kelly needs to favor scheduling murders row, it is important for him to customize the schedule in a new and exciting way.
For now, the 7-4-1 model is the norm and Notre Dame has signed deals well into the future with many of its rival schools. But as an independent it is important to retain a schedule that is flexible and offers many options for opponents, as well as one that is respected by voters and the BCS.
Right now, the Irish schedule is as rigid as many conference member teams' and offers little excitement. Kelly can work with (or pressure) AD Jack Swarbrick to drop teams like Michigan State, Boston College, Pitt and Stanford in order to offer more home and home opportunities to stronger and more varied programs.
With the college bowl season hitting its stride and Kelly's former Cincinnati Bearcats gearing up for a Sugar Bowl contest against Florida, the assembling of a coaching staff has dragged on rather slowly.
Within a week however, Kelly should begin finalizing his coaching staff and begin turning the gears of the program full tilt. As of now, we know Tony Alford has been retained and Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin has been hired to coach the defensive backs.
Beyond those hires, it has been a guessing game in regards to what Kelly will do and whom he will hire. It is expected that a good amount of his former Cincinnati staff will come to South Bend after their final game, but that may still leave the program without an offensive coordinator and other positions as well.
Kelly has said that he likes to delegate a lot of authority to his assistants, but many expect the head coach to be heavily involved in every aspect of the program. Whether Kelly hires "hot", popular or no-name assistants may not matter as long as the team wins on Saturdays.
A major downfall for many of the recent Notre Dame teams is a lack of speed, strength and endurance. Hopefully, Brian Kelly is seeking to change that and there is every indication he is working tirelessly to do so.
Kelly has brought in Cincinnati strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo, and it is expected that a very intense off-season regiment is in store for the entire football team. With Longo there is a belief that Notre Dame can become as physical and sharp as the top teams in the country.
Beyond that, Kelly must see to it that the football training table agenda is pushed through and implemented as soon as possible. With the resources and money Notre Dame offers, there is no reason Irish athletes should not to be in tip top shape all year round.
So far, Kelly's short time as a recruiter has been neither good or bad. Two verbal commitments have jumped ship, while Kelly was able to bring in two more to the program to keep up the momentum.
As it stands, Kelly has a decent recruiting class under his wing, but there is still much work to do in the weeks ahead.
A handful of five and four star blue-chip players are still available and it would do wonders if Kelly was able to bring in one or two of these recruits.
Kelly must also address the lack of depth at several positions, including offensive line, defensive backfield, safety and quarterback. If he is able to pick up more recruits and fill these positions at the same time, it will be a very successful recruiting cycle.
With the exit of Jimmy Clausen to the NFL a year early, newly hired coach Brian Kelly is left with a dangerously thin quarterback depth chart.
The Irish do have five-star rectuit Dayne Crist ready to take the reigns, but he will be limited during spring practice after coming off knee surgery.
The most important thing for Kelly to do is to make sure verbally committed recruits like Hendrix and Rees end up coming to South Bend. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to extend a scholarship to another quarterback, someone who may fit the system a little better than perhaps the two Weis recruits.
Once the youngsters are ready for practice there has to be full development, and it is imperative that a competent second string back up is in place before the season begins.
It is probably a good idea that Notre Dame is switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme with Kelly as coach. The Irish have a hard time recruiting great lineman and the team currently has a nice corps of talented linebackers.
What Kelly should be able to do is decipher which defensive lineman will be best utilized in his defensive schemes. Will Kapron Lewis-Moore be a starter? Will Ethan Johnson be a shoe-in to move back to defensive end?
The best part of this challenge is that Kelly has stated that he will not adhere strictly to a 3-4 and will put 4 on the line when he feels necessary. This would seem like an ideal tactic so that players like Fleming and Filer may see more playing time.
A big question heading into the 2010 season is, who will play safety for the Irish?
Right now it is as big of a question mark as any position on the team. Highly recruited, soon-to-be sophomore Zeke Motta has the inside track on the position he played in high school and Jamarious Slaughter played sparingly this season.
But beyond that, the competition is wide open and it is crucial for Kelly to groom two safeties who can dominate in passing defense and lend run support as well. It seems the emphasis has been the other way around over the last couple of years at Notre Dame.
Nevertheless, I believe it is imperative for Notre Dame to have strong play from the safety position if this defense is to be improved upon. It will be a big challenge for Brian Kelly to do so.
The Irish will be returning OG Trevor Robinson, C Dan Wenger and OG Chris Stewart, but will have to replace both tackles in the off-season.
Kelly should have ample players to work with to fill these spots for 2010, but he must also recruit more offensive lineman in the future as this position will be dangerously thin very soon.
The good thing is that graduating tackles Paul Duncan and Sam Young were some of the most inconsistent players to ever suit up in the blue and gold. So in that way, their presence won't be missed to a great degree.
But a lot of the success of this Notre Dame will revolve around how well the Irish can run the ball, protect the quarterback and implement the new spread attack that Kelly is sure to employ in the fall. It should be one of Kelly's main goals to unify the offensive line and make them more consistent and hard edged, something that has been missing for three years or longer.
It is a bit of an understatement to say that this is the number one goal for the coming year.
"Are you in?"