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Notre Dame's Brian Kelly on a Very Short Leash

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 11: Notre Dame atheletic director Jack Swarbrick (R) greets Brian Kelly as he is introduced as the new football head coach at Notre Dame University on December 11, 2009 in South Bend, Indiana.  Kelly most recently led the University of Cincinnati to two consecutive Bowl Championship Series appearances including a perfect 12-0 record this past season. (Photo by Frank Polich/Getty Images)
Frank Polich/Getty Images
Brendan CollinsCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2010

As Brian Kelly enters his first season at Notre Dame, the pressure to produce early could not be heavier.

A coach with a history of winning at the college level has spent that majority of his career at the Division II level, and his Division I experience has been at relatively weak college football programs.

After a few weeks he was able to put together a staff and head out into the recruiting hot spots, putting together a Top 20 recruiting class according to Rivals.com.

Why is next year so important for Kelly? 

 

1. College Football fans are not patient

In general, college football fans expect results and have adapted the "what have you done for me lately" mentality.

Irish fans are no different, and many of them still feel Notre Dame should be a top-ranked team year after year the way they were 25 years ago.

 

2. Brian Kelly inherited the most talented ND team in the past 20 years

Notre Dame has a great deal of talent and is deep at nearly every position. They have some of the biggest recruits in the country in their respective recruiting class.

These players include Dayne Crist, who was a five star quarterback coming out of high school and considered by many to have more potential than Jimmy Clausen; Michael Floyd, who has the size and speed to be the best receiver in Notre Dame history; and Manti Teo, who might have been the most important recruit Notre Dame ever landed with his exceptional talent, instincts and character. 

He will not have the same excuse as most coaches who enter a struggling program, because the talent is there.

 

3. Kelly and his staff's resume is not good enough to lure recruits alone

Charlie Weis was able to recruit the No.2 class in the country after going 3-9 in 2007. How? Its simple; his name alone carried a great deal of clout after winning four Super Bowls in his career, having connections all over the NFL and coaches like Polian and Ianello were considered some of the best recruiters in the country.

However, with Kelly and his staff having no NFL experience, the "I can prepare you for the NFL" will fall on deaf ears after the recruit talks to the Nick Saban's, Lane Kiffin's, and other coaches with an NFL background.

His coaching staff comes from Division II schools and low-end Division I programs and the pitches they can make to these high school kids is limited at best.

Therefore Kelly's greatest attribute right now in recruiting is that he is a winning coach that can turn Notre Dame Football around, but if they are unsuccessful in 2010 then he won't have that pitch, either.

It will not ruin his reputation for being a winning coach as some will give him a pass being his first year, but it will be a significant blow; a blow he may never recover from.

College football starts with recruiting and ends with coaching and leadership. The recipe has been on display as the top recruiting teams in the country are constantly battling for the BCS, and the best coaches are turning those high-profile recruits into great football players who make great football teams. 

If Brian Kelly enters the 2010 season and has growing pains, which is to be expected from even the best of coaches when first entering a program, then his future at ND will be short-lived like his predecessors. 

Although every year is important for a coach because a lot can change in one season as shown by Charlie Weis going from back-to-back BCS Bowl games to a 3-9 record, from the hottest coach in the country to the hot seat; this is without question Kelly's most important season of his career, and failure would be devastating.

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