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A few thoughts from Brian Kelly

On a day when bully winter refused once more to leave the stage, Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly was thinking spring, as in football. Here are a few excerpts from his introductory session with the media today:

On the status of Gunner Kiel, who announced recently he was leaving Notre Dame: "Gunner he is no longer part of the program." (Any restrictions on where he will transfer?) "We had an open conversations about the schools, and the schools he was looking at were appropriate with what we were thinking about relative to what's on our schedule."

On whether Kelly was surprised: "I don't know that I'm surprised. We had kind of created an opportunity for him to compete in the spring. So maybe a little surprised from that standpoint because he was actually told that he would be given an opportunity to compete."

On his flirtation with the Eagles, and how the team took it: "There was very little talk about it. I talked to team behind closed doors about the situation and they appreciated my candor with them about it ... I think other teams will pursue me because we're gonna continue to win here."

On his goal for spring football: "Leaving spring ball, we want to set our football team and the depth within the ranks. This is not about, 'Well, we know we have a number of young men coming in in the fall, they're at this position.' They come in and they fill in at the back of the line. We'll see how that takes form when they get here.

"I want to leave spring ball knowing what we have, knowing the identity of our football team, I want to know where the leadership group is coming from, and I want to know what the depth looks like."

On the team's size and strength, the improvement of which has been a major offseason goal: Kelly cited a list of players, among them offensive lineman Mark Harrell ("up 19 pounds to 305"); offensive lineman Conor Hanratty ("up to 309"); offensive lineman Chase Hounshell ("up 20 pounds to 275"); linebacker Ben Councell (up 16 pounds to 248); linebacker Jarrett Grace ("up 13 pounds to 248"); running back George Atkinson III ("up 11 pounds to 217") and wide receiver Chris Brown ("up 10 pounds to 192 pounds").

On the recovery of lineman Matt Hegarty, who suffered a mini-stroke in November and underwent heart surgery in December:"He's 100 percent cleared. He's had a great off season for us. He's been able to do all the things we asked him to do ... I think any time you talk about blood flow, cardiac, all those things, those are terms that we all kind of become very cautious with. You know what I mean? We don't ever want to put somebody in a position where their life is at risk.

I thought we did an incredible job of being on top of it. He had the best doctors. He had great follow up. He took care of himself. I just think it was everybody pulling in the right direction to get him back on the field, where he feels very, very confident that he can go every single day and not have to worry about his health."

On who replaces Manti Te'o: "I think when you talk about the spring, especially when you're coming in and taking over for somebody like Manti, we're going to get the best guys on the field ... Dan Fox obviously is a guy we know can play the inside position. They played two different positions. Clearly we have Carlo (Calabrese), Kendall Moore. We've got a number of guys that we think can play in there.

"I think it's just going to be, again, setting depth. You saw us play last year. We're not just going to play one guy. Now, Manti was different. He never came off the field. But we need two and three deep at these positions. That's really how we're going to approach the spring."

On quarterback Everett Golson: "The development of Golson now will be consistency week in and week out. Getting us in the right protection. Playing at a tempo and a pace that we can control the football game at the pace that we want to play at. Just the next step in his development, which there's a lot of things that he's going to have to work on.

"He's 188 pounds. I want him playing in that 190, 192, 193 range. He's working at it. He's stronger, there's no question ... He knows what he needs to do. This isn't a message being sent out to Everett. These are conversations I've had with him. He's got to continue to put on weight and get that coat of armor for the fall."

On where the team's leadership will come from: "Each year I've had different groups. This team is different than last year's team. You have different personalities. I think every year you have to change the way you address the team because it's a different group.

"Last year I had a lot of guys that clearly understood the way I wanted them to do things. This year it seems to be a similar situation where the guys really have a great work ethic, they're starting to understand the things I need them to do to be successful. Now I have to spend more time with them individually in building that leadership as well as our coaches.

"Each year it's a little bit different. I don't think you can be the same every single year. You have to really play to the strengths of the team."

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