Depth will make or break Notre Dame in 2013

Published 5:33 pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks to the media about the upcoming season Thursday. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly talks to the media about the upcoming season Thursday. (Leader photo/AMELIO RODRIGUEZ)

NOTRE DAME — With the season opener just nine days away, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is beginning to prepare for the Temple Owls.

Kelly said the Fighting Irish have had a good two and a half weeks of camp, but now is the time to begin focusing on the week one opponent.

So far, focus has not been a problem for the Irish despite a lopsided loss in the National Championship game last January and the loss of starting quarterback Everett Golson, who was suspended for the fall semester.

“I am really pleased with the way our guys have focused on this year,” Kelly said at the annual Media Day Thursday. “There hasn’t been a lot of this is what we did last year and talking about the way we did it last year. It has been about this year. The focus has been on the personalities of this team and strength of building this year’s team.”

Kelly added that the process of building this year’s team began after the loss to Alabama in the BCS title game.

The Irish’s run to an undefeated season and a spot in the championship game caught some by surprise. Notre Dame will not be sneaking up on anyone this year.

Kelly pointed out that he and his coaching staff will be playing a lot of players this season, some that fans may not have heard of.

He believes the pieces are there to continue to build on the success of 2012.

“A lion’s share of the work has really been preparing the depth of this football team, which we are going to have to count on this year with the kind of schedule that we have,” Kelly said. “We are going to need a lot of players. A lot of players are going to have to play for us this year. There’s going be a lot of players who are going to have to play a significant role throughout the year at a lot of different positions.”

One of the biggest roles will be at quarterback where former starter Tommy Rees will be taking over for Golson.

Rees started most of his freshman season and all of his sophomore year, fashioning a 14-4 record as a starter. He was replaced last season as the starter by Golson, who led the Fighting Irish to an undefeated season and a shot at the national championship.

Kelly said he has faith in Rees, but he also has no fear about playing senior Andrew Hendrix.

“As I said, Tommy Rees is going to be our starter against Temple, but we prepare for all situations,” Kelly said. “The difference is as it relates to Hendrix, he was a niche quarterback for us. He is no longer a niche quarterback. He can run our offense. Last year, the year before we had to run special packages for him.

“Now we are going to take advantage of the some of the things he can do. He’s a physical runner, so we may have some more quarterback runs, but it’s not going to turn into an option game with him in there.”

On the defensive side of the football, Kelly believes the Irish will have to play well, but he stressed that the offense has got to score more points than it did in 2012.

“Certainly we’re going to have to play very good defense, I think we know that for sure. But we have to score more points. We did not score enough points. We were not effective enough in the Red Zone. Those two things are pretty clear.

“We did not throw the ball effectively enough in first and second down situations. A bigger piece falls on the offense this year than it does on the defense. If the defense can stay within the same area code as it played last year and we really up our offensive output, then we can have the kind of year we are all looking forward to.”