Blog Entry

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:27 pm
Edited on: December 30, 2011 9:13 pm
Time for the last Friday mailbag of 2011. As always, send questions to me via Twitter at BFeldmanCBS.

From @FormerlyAGuest  Why are people down on Brian Kelly? Don't they remember ND getting boatraced by every good team in the Davie/Ty/Weis years?

  It's the expectations that come with the place and also with the fact that he was a "proven" head coach, not a guy growing into the job. On top of that, there was a lot of hype that this team was ready to get to 10 wins (more than even the normal ND overhype that tends to come for the Irish) and get into a BCS bowl especially since Kelly cleared star WR Michael Floyd for the season. But aside from a big win over a good Michigan State team in mid-September, it was a frustration year for the Irish with them going 3-4 against teams with winning records. Quite frankly, it's hard to look at this team and say they are close to being a powerhouse. They're a far leap from where LSU and a few others are at this point. They have some gifted players. Just nowhere near the number they need to be a real elite team.

I still am convinced Kelly is a significant upgrade over Charlie Weis and feel like he will get the Irish back to being a legit Top 20 team consistently, but I would've thought they'd been further along at this stage. I figured, at worst, they'd win nine this season. Instead, they went 8-5, getting pushed around at home vs. arch-rival USC; weren't really close to Stanford and finished with a loss to an FSU team with a patch-work O-line loaded with freshmen.

I suspect some of the digs at Kelly stem from his sideline demeanor, framed by the cameras showing him berating players and getting so red-faced. Truth be told, he's far from the only coach who has ripped a player on the sideline. It's just now the spotlight on him is brighter and more cameras are on him. It also doesn't help his cause that his team had a maddening penchant for turnovers and Red Zone problems.

The upshot coming out of the 2011 season is that you don't the sense the Irish staff feel great about the quarterback situation going into Year Three. Tommy Rees didn't seem to make much progress. The jury's still out on Andrew Hendrix, and now they lose their best weapon in WR Michael Floyd and maybe TE Tyler Eifert. You'd think they should be better with the QBs with another year more seasoning (including strong-armed redshirt Everett Golson into that mix as well), but we'll see. They missed out on five-star QB recruit Gunnar Kiel, who had ND ties so it seems that Kelly's future for ND in the next three years is tied to Rees/Hendrix/Golson. We know this: Floyd won't be easily replaced. There are reportedly some talented recruits coming to South Bend, but we'll hold off getting too fired up on that front too since we hear that every year with them.

The bright side: I do like what I see from the defense, especially in DE Aaron Lynch and the young linemen, but on the other side of the ball, it's shaky. Worse still, it seems like their two arch-rivals, USC and Michigan, are surging upward and primed for big years in 2012.

From @abellwillring  EJ (Manuel) didn't perform at the level we hoped this yr but looked very good in the clutch last night. Do you think he'll build off it?

  I do expect him and the Noles to build off that come-from-behind win over Notre Dame Thursday. I was impressed by the way Manuel kept battling after taking a pounding in the first half. The young FSU O-line looked really shaky but settled down in the second half. The other thing to really like about the outlook for the Noles offense is that two of Manuel's best targets are freshmen, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary.

Still, I suspect expectations will be kept in check somewhat because in recent years there's been so much hype about the Noles being back, and time and again, they've underwhelmed for one reason or another. Pollsters will be gunshy to buy them, I think. They'd have to be, no? No!?? I mean they seemed good on paper going into this year and still lost games to Wake Forest and UVa, among others.

From @NakedShort11 Can Weis turn KU around?

It's never smart to speak in absolutes when it comes to these things, but I don't like his chances to turn Kansas into a top 20 football program consistently. Or even close to that. He takes over a very bad team that was so far away from being competitive, that just getting them to a mediocre bowl game is going to be an uphill battle. 

Weis' rep for developing QBs will help, and it's obviously helped him land former ND quarterback Dayne Crist and ex-BYU quarterback Jake Heaps (both were top recruits but had struggled before losing their starting jobs.) I expect them to get better on offense, but it's the defense where they've been spectacularly inept, and Weis never was able to get a defense going in South Bend. And I just don't see him having the recruiting cache to get enough playmakers on that side of the ball to contend with OU, OK State, Texas and now TCU and WVU. His staff recruited well at Notre Dame, but that was ND, not Kansas, and his profile doesn't carry as much juice as it did when he arrived in South Bend. Kansas football doesn't have the appeal that Notre Dame does and Weis was more of a big deal 5-6 years ago then he is after fizzling out at ND and having a mediocre season in Florida. I suspect his pitch will play well to QBs and tight ends, but won't get blue-chippers at other spots that fired up, compared to some of those other Big 12 schools.

Mark Mangino did a really good job at KU. He left there with a 50-48 record and won three bowl games, including a BCS bowl. I'll be very surprised if Weis leaves there with as good a winning percentage.

From @melesse Wondering where you stand on Dooley's decision to not give freshman WR Arnett his full release? 

First, some background on what has become a messy story involving a former four-star prospect in last year's recruiting class at Tennessee: A UT spokesman says Arnett, a Michigan native who wants to transfer closer to home, is not being denied the opportunity to play at the FBS level. The school also has a policy of not releasing players to schools the Vols play against or "recruit against". O.K., that last part is interesting because you could say that would stop them from any school in the country if the want to stretch it that way. After all, guys like Arnett are "national" recruits and therefore the Vols had to beat virtually everyone to land him. Anyhow, Arnett says he wants to transfer closer to home to be near his ailing father, but some of the schools he's intrigued by--Michigan and Michigan State--Dooley won't release him to. Just MAC schools.

[If Arnett enrolls at a school Dooley won't release him to, he has to foot the bill for a year, which the kid says he and his family cannot afford.]

This is just the latest Dooley goof after a dud of a 2011 season. It's a PR nightmare. To say this isn't going to play well for Dooley is an understatement.  By all accounts, Dooley is playing hardball with Arnett. The kid is clearly unhappy about something there. The guy who recruited Arnett to Knoxville, Charlie Baggett, the Vols receivers coach, retired after the 5-7 season.

If a guy doesn't really want to be somewhere or part of something, do you want that person around? I'd say no, especially if he's gone to the levels of this that Arnett and his family have. Then again, Dooley's got to be feeling the pressure after a dismal 2011. Fact is, stuff like this isn't going to make landing blue-chippers any easier for him. The kid is a talented receiver and would be a significant blow if he opts to leave. The Vols WR depth chart is already pretty thin. Dooley needs to show marked improvement in 2012.

Word is Arnett will make his decision by Monday. You have to wonder if the perception of Arnett going to a mid-major program closer to his home will compel the Michigan native to stick it out in Knoxville. I imagine that is what Dooley is hoping. I don't see Dooley relenting and releasing him to the big Michigan schools. Dooley's taking the PR hit already. I'm sure rival recruiters will remind prospects of this story a lot as long as Dooley is coaching at UT. Then again, with the moves Dooley has made, you chave to wonder if that'll be more than another year or two.

From @erik_gillespie  Does Keith Price have any sort of NFL future? Or will the "not tall enough, arm strength not good enough" catch up to him?

He just finished his sophomore year and ended on an impressive note. Price has a good arm and very good feet. His size isn't good at about 6-feet, 195 pounds, but he'll get stronger and he is a guy who throws well on the move. He's as tall as Drew Brees, Mike Vick, Chase Daniel and a bunch of other QBs. Price also plays in a very good pro-style system right now. Sarkisian's staff knows how to develop a QB in terms of an NFL game. I'll be very surprised if in 2014, Keith Price isn't on an NFL roster as a back-up QB.

From @steakNstiffarms  Ducks struggle when opp has >1wk to prepare, Wisc struggles w/ great teams away from Camp Randall. Which holds true on Monday?

Well said. For both of these staffs, as much as they don't want to acknowledge outside skepticism, you want to quash it as soon as you can because all of the questions that keep coming (about both issues you point out) can become distractions and push their way into people's minds. My hunch is Oregon will win. Part of that is because the Badgers are dealing with some coaching staff transition with Chryst getting the Pitt job, and things like that, always make life a little harder even if Wisconsin had to deal with it last year when Dave Doeren took the NIU job. 

From @felimalipe RG III is a better college FB player than Cam Newton was?

I think both are fantastic QBs and franchise guys. Robert Griffin III changed the way people think about Baylor. He is awe-inspiring, on and off the field. He deserved the Heisman. Keep in mind, Baylor has one of the six worst defenses in college football this season. Four of those inept defenses were on teams that didn't win more than two games this season. The other team, Texas Tech, went 5-7. Baylor won 10 games. Baylor. 10 games.

That said, for one season, Cam Newton is the best college QB I've ever covered. What he did for Auburn and how he did it, when all of that scrutiny mounted, unlike anything any other top college football player has faced in the spotlight, was truly remarkable.

Since: Dec 7, 2011
Posted on: January 6, 2012 5:19 pm

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

nd is better, but they are still up to expectatios of nd fans. with everybody and their brother on tv these days, that hurts their recruiting.yhere are plenty of good athelets out there to recruit, so he has a chance. what i wonder about for next year, is the qb position. his offense is predicated on the qb. kelley does not yet appear to be the offensive guru, of some of the other coaches out there. he appears tobe the ceo type that dos not really motivate players. young men are quick to grasp if you are on there side, or like them or not. 

Since: Jul 9, 2010
Posted on: December 31, 2011 11:24 am

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

Let's face it, the University of Notre Dame has never had a money problem, and probably never will.  There is nothing like having a league to play in, to develop the teams incentive to be the league champion and so on and so on. I really believe Notre Dame football could be much more relevent competing in a BCS football league then staying independent in todays era of football realignments.  Whatever BCS Conference that would be; would be the one ND feels better suits the school's overall sports programs. I just think there is a lack of incentive for not competing in a football league at this level of competition, and 99% of the other BCS schools feel the same. There is just too much parity in the FBS schools today, which was not there say 15 years ago. For whatever reasons Notre Dame's AD continues to feel the school is better off as an independent, does not hold true financially today, like it did years ago. Conference members in the elite conferences get a hunk of money today for their sports programs and these monies are football driven. With regards to Brian Kelly, I really do not know how good his football accumen is; however, I do know his deamenor as a head football coach with his players is very poor. I can think of many reasons of why a "Blue Chip" athlete would not want to go to Notre Dame at this time; with other great BCS football programs doing much better and playing in a conference. So, in this day and time, I think the BCS Conference schools have already left on the train, and Notre Dame is still at the station wondering where the IRISH are going in football !! Change is not bad, it's how you adjust to it. With all due respect to the great Notre Dame allumni and fans this is my opinion only. 

Since: Apr 1, 2008
Posted on: December 31, 2011 10:15 am

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

ND needs to bite the bullet and join a conference.  They and their fans live in the past and think that just because they are ND they are "ALL THAT" and should be entitled to special considerations.  They insist on playing the same schedule including the military academies and come up short year in and year out.  With the money and following ND has they should be a major powerhouse.  Most recruits today want more than tradition and a fine education. 

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: December 31, 2011 9:07 am

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

If ND fans are patient with Kelly, they should return to their "glory days" soon.  They need more consistency.  They need to be the team that unmasked Michigan State as impostors instead of being the team that blew fourth quarter leads to Michigan and FSU.  I have asked this question to some ND fans, and they have no answer: 

If Brian Kelly is the problem at ND, why haven't they won anything important for over twenty years?  Really, the only things that have been constant at ND for the last twenty years are losing and excuses.  If they fire Kelly, they might as well change their de facto battle cry to "We Are Mediocre." 

Since: Feb 11, 2009
Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:46 am

Friday Mailbag: Getting a read on Kelly's ND

Undoubtedly Cam Newton was better than Robert Griffin III.  One item stands out in particular.  Every former quarterback and coach I've ever heard makes the flat statement that a quarterback needs to set his feet and throw the football.  A cardinal sin is throwing the ball off of the back foot, which usually means that the throw has less direction and speed on it.  I saw Cam Newton do this time and again, throw off of his back foot when he had to, and manage to get enough zing on the ball that it went directly to his receiver.  Of course, Newton was bigger and stronger than a lot of other quarterbacks, so he was able to pull this off where others could not.   But for me it was one of those things which distinguished him from other previous quarterbacks or even Robert Griffin III.  And I am certainly no Auburn fan, being a graduate of Florida.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or