Can Brian Kelly Lead Notre Dame Back to National Prominence?

Eric HolzmannContributor IAugust 17, 2010

SOUTH BEND, IN - DECEMBER 11: Brian Kelly attends a press conference where he was named 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

As the dog days of summer are winding down it means that college football is just around the corner. 

In South Bend, In., it means a new year is beginning.  No, I don't mean a new school year, I mean a new season of Notre Dame football. 

Expectations for the Irish are always sky high, and this year will be no different.

However, Notre Dame football is starting over yet again.  This time former Cincinnati Bearcats head coach and reigning National Coach of the Year Brian Kelly and his reputation for turning around programs will take over the program from the much maligned Charlie Weis. 

Is he up for the task?

On the surface, it looks like a match made in heaven. 

Kelly is an Irish-Catholic from Massachusetts whose family watched Notre Dame football every weekend.  Because of this he understands the history and tradition and what that means to everyone connected with the university. 

In fact, in a recent interview Kelly said he has felt the pressure to win every day since accepting the job as head coach, and he wouldn't want it any other way.

His coaching credentials speak for themselves.  As a head coach at Division II Grand Valley State he went 118-35-2 over 13 seasons.   

At Central Michigan, he took over a team that had only won more than three games once in four seasons prior to his arrival.  When he left them in 2006 they were MAC Conference Champions and won the Motor City Bowl.

At Cincinnati he transformed the football program from a good Big East team to a national powerhouse.  In 2007 he lead the Bearcats to their first 10 win season since 1949 and ended the season with a Top 25 ranking. 

In 2008, he won Cincinnati's first ever outright Big East title and earned a BCS Orange Bowl bid.  Last year the Bearcats went undefeated and entered Bowl season ranked No. 3 in the BCS Standings, earning them a trip to the Sugar Bowl. 

Kelly finished his tenure at Cincinnati with a 34-6 record over three seasons. 

Based on everything I've explained, Kelly definitely looks like he'll be successful as the next head football coach at Notre Dame. 

However, we all know looks can be deceiving. 

He is taking over a team that just lost its two best offensive players from last year.  His most experienced QB is coming off an ACL injury and hasn't played many meaningful snaps.  The left tackle position is still very much a mystery, so much so that if not for the tragic death of incoming freshman Matt James, Kelly might have been starting a true freshman at arguably the most important position on the offensive line. 

So many questions surround the first year of Kelly's tenure that it is really difficult to know what to expect. 

I will say this.  Brian Kelly is doing things the right way. 

He has emphasized conditioning for the team so they no longer get winded at the end of games, a significant problem under Weis.  He has poured cash into the team's game room, putting a pool table and various TV's with video games to promote team camaraderie. 

He has met with the dean of the Business school to make sure the players know that at Notre Dame it's not only what you do on the field that's important, but also in the classroom. 

Will these changes have a profound effect?  Nobody knows, but we'll begin to get some answers on Sept. 4 when they take the field against Purdue.


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