SOUTH BEND – Brian Kelly has left last season’s success and a tumultuous offseason in the past.
The Irish went 12-0 in 2012 before losing 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS championship game Jan. 7.
The blowout loss was followed by Kelly meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles about the NFL team’s head coaching position, linebacker Manti Te’o’s relationship hoax, the transfers of former top recruits Gunner Kiel and Davonte’ Neal, the defection of signee Eddie Vanderdoes to UCLA and the suspension for the fall semester of last year’s starting quarterback, Everett Golson, because of academic reasons.
It was in the rearview mirror the next day, Kelly said of the offseason incidents during a news conference Friday to kick off the 2013 season.
I mean, we don’t even think about it, don’t even talk about it. It’s history. Our guys were focused the very next day on winter workouts, early-morning conditioning, building into our spring and into our summer. It’s not even something that’s discussed.
While Kelly wants parts of the past to remain in the history books, he also said there is the need to carry over the habits that led to Notre Dame’s first undefeated regular season since it won the title in 1988.
Our kids believe in what we do and how we do it, Kelly said. There’s a way of doing things here. So that never goes away. That has permeated this football program, the way we do things on a day-to-day basis, the expectations of how we play defense, offense and special teams, how we prepare. That will never go away.
But the players that were here last year that are no longer here are not part of this team any more. The plays that were made last year have no influence on this year. So that’s the balance. The preparation has to be as diligent and keen as it was last year. You’re maintaining the environment. You’re maintaining what has been built in the program, with the recognition that we have more work to do. We’re still building this thing. A lot of those pieces are still coming together. That combination is staying in the present with our players. I want our players to stay in the present, focus on what they need to do to be a better football player in 2013.
Kelly said moving the first four days of training camp off campus will help the players focus on this season. The Irish begin camp Monday at Shiloh Park Retreat and Conference Center in Marion with the team scheduled to return to campus next Friday.
(It) is no distractions; it’s all football, Kelly said. (Players) don’t have to worry about getting to math class. We don’t need to worry about guys off campus. We’re all together. It’s 100 percent being around each other and our football team.
And as the schedule hanging in Notre Dame’s football auditorium indicates, the Irish are 100 percent committed to returning to the national championship game.
The schedule lists all 12 regular-season games like last year, but there was one change.
Instead of having the 13th spot listed as TBD. Bowl Game, the schedule ends with January 7, 2014 BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME.
Everything we’ve worked on since that next day, and I mean the next day (after losing to Alabama), is about getting back to the national championship game and winning it, Kelly said. There’s not a man that sat in this seat, when we met as an entire team, that is not committed to that end. That’s why they’re here. That’s why there’s such great excitement and anticipation. From our standpoint as coaches, we can feel that.
So it’s pretty clear that our players are committed to one goal, and that is to get back to a national championship.