Brian Kelly has taken Notre Dame to the College Football Playoffs in two of the last three seasons and affixed the Fighting Irish as a perennially contending program just beyond the cusp of Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State.
Kelly’s also helped Notre Dame sign three top-10 recruiting classes since 2017 and helped the school increasingly integrate more early enrollees into its football program.
The Irish’s 2021 signing class had a program-high 14 January enrollees, in addition to graduate-transfer quarterback Jack Coan.
Kelly has one somewhat intangible detail that he looks to see from individuals when spring camp opens, as Notre Dame’s did on Saturday, to know that they have logged the necessary work for an optimal transition.
“Their attention to detail of the technical and the tactical pieces, because we know their conditioning element is going to be outstanding,” Kelly said. “That’s attended to daily by our strength staff. Coach (Matt) Balis oversees that and does a tremendous job. We’re not worried about that.
“There’s always the ongoing need for our peak power and strength and nutrition and that’s an ongoing battle, but we know that when we get to spring ball, they’re ready to go and compete.”
Still, Kelly also expects newcomers to have prepared with a comprehensive study of not just their individual position but their position group, as a whole.
Wide receivers, Kelly explained, shouldn’t just know routes from a singular position with the Irish offense.
“When they get into the practice, what I’m looking for is the ability to play the position and not just be the boundary corner, but you can play corner or wide corner,” Kelly said. “Not just be the field safety, but you can be the field safety, the rolled-up safety. Not just the W receiver, but you can play W, X and Z.
“I want our players to understand the position and how it fits within the defensive structure, so just a smart football player. Somebody that pays attention to detail and really learns the technical and tactical pieces to play this game. That’s really a huge part of spring practice.”