A season that began with BCS aspirations has now turned into a week-to-week struggle to survive for Notre Dame. A 31-17 loss at the hands of USC in which the Irish, again, turned the ball over multiple times prompted a handful of Trojans — namely Chris Galippo and Matt Barkley — to proclaim that the Irish “quit” before the game was over.
This week has already been filled with questions as to whether the Golden Domers are on the right track, and by head coach Brian Kelly‘s own admission, they’re a far cry from it. But Kelly created some internal controversy this week sparked from comments made after Thursday’s practice in which he drew a line between his players and the ones that remain from the Charlie Weis era.
“You can see the players that I recruited here,” Kelly said Thursday. “You know who they are. We’ve had one class … that I’ve had my hand on. The other guys here are coming along. But it’s a process. It can’t happen overnight. They’re getting there. We’re making good progress.”
The comments reportedly did not sit well with some of the older players — the Weis recruits, if you will — who took to Twitter to vent their frustration. Junior linebacker Manti Te'o tweeted “Playin for my bros and that’s it!!!!”
It apparently got so bad that some of those veteran players addressed Kelly directly about his comments during a team meeting Friday, sources told the Chicago Tribune. In response, Kelly gave what was reported to be a sincere apology.
Whether this Irish team has moved past the incident or not isn’t fully known yet. A good Litmus test will be today’s game against Navy; the Midshipmen have won three out of the last four meetings after decades of futility against the Irish. Times are definitely tough for Notre Dame right now, but chemistry growing pains are almost always part of the process with a newer head coach.
Comments like these can get overblown, but second-year coach or not, Kelly’s team is at a season-defining point at 4-3. BCS hopes are gone, so now Kelly has to find ways to keep his team motivated to play each week. If Notre Dame is going to accomplish anything this season, Kelly has to ditch the “my guys” attitude and project cohesiveness, especially to his players.