Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Kelly Fine Being New Kid On The Block

December 6, 2018

It’s easier to understand if Brian Kelly feels like the new kid on the first day of school right now.

After 28 seasons of being a head coach, it’s got to be a bit odd to be in such a new situation, but after leading Notre Dame into the College Football Playoff for the first time, Kelly finds himself surrounded by three coaches who have all been here before, last season in fact.

“It's certainly an honor for the University of Notre Dame to be a part of this great group of coaches and certainly teams,” Kelly said during a press conference with all four head coaches on Thursday. “We're the new kid on the block. This is our first time in the College Football Playoffs, but it's something that we obviously look towards each and every year.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has appeared in every College Football Playoff since the format was established in 2014. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley reached the final four a year ago, his first season as a head coach.

Meanwhile, Kelly’s counterpart in the semifinals, Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has been in every Playoff except the inaugural.

“We're certainly looking forward to an incredible matchup against a team in Clemson and a coach in Dabo Swinney who's been here four years, knows what it's like, and we'll have a great challenge,” said Kelly. “But we have a great respect for all of the coaches that are here. They've done it before. We certainly look at it each and every year as a goal for our football team.

“It's a difficult one but one that we all look forward to in getting to this. So again, a great honor, great to be with these coaches today, and looking forward to the challenge in front of us.”

There was a time when Clemson was known for blowing its chances, the school’s name had even turned into a verb in some circles, but that’s no longer the case.

“When you talk about playing an opponent, it's the ability to close games out, the ability to know how to win, and that's Clemson,” said Kelly. “They know how to win football games. They've been winning.

“I think everybody that's up here has developed and built a winning culture within their football team. You can't pin that on any one particular player. That's something that's within the fabric of the football program that's been built over time. So that would be the X factor.”

Kelly also talked about how the new redshirt rule, which allows for players to appear in up to four games while maintaining a year of eligibility, has impacted the season.

“We lost a good player in the first game of the year,” he said referring to defensive tackle Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa. “We'll be able to get him back for this game, and then he'll have only two games and the potential to gain a year back because he wasn't redshirted.”

Kelly also mentioned how the rule change allowed the Irish to get freshman five-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec on the field this fall.

“You get a chance to get him out and get a little experience in those situations. But I think by and large, I think it's -- it really hasn't changed the landscape. It gives you maybe a little inventory on special teams here and there, but I think by and large, it's been a good rule.”

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