Notre Dame set for 'Act II' under Brian Kelly

Notre Dame set for 'Act II' under Brian Kelly
May 13, 2014, 11:30 am
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Over at SB Nation, good friend and numbers guru Bill Connelly previewed Notre Dame and as always there's a lot of interesting analysis in it.

The thing is, though -- it's tough to preview Notre Dame's 2014 team by looking back at the 2013 side. Not only are both coordinators gone, but so are Tommy Rees, T.J. Jones, Troy Niklas, Zack Martin, Chris Watt, Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, Dan Fox, Carlo Calabrese and Bennett Jackson. Plenty of key players this fall didn't see much, if any, action in 2013: Everett Golson, Greg Bryant, Max Redfield and an incoming group of freshmen led by linebacker Nyles Morgan.

[MORE: For Stephon Tuitt, everything worked out 'perfectly']

But I like how Bill frames the 2014 season: The beginning of "Act II" for coach Brian Kelly.

Outside Christian Lombard, Austin Collinsworth, Kendall Moore and Justin Utupo, Notre Dame's roster is comprised of players from Kelly's full recruiting classes -- that is, from 2011 through 2014. While 2012's run to the BCS Championship sped up the program-building process, athletic director Jack Swarbrick made a good point after Notre Dame secured a place in the title game two years ago: He always figured 2013 would be Notre Dame's year to make a run at a championship.

That fits with the kind of coach he hired, someone renowned for his ability to develop quarterbacks. 2013 would've been Golson's third year in the system, with the expectation he could put the team on his back and win games for Notre Dame (instead of a Manti Te'o-led defense). Of course, that timeline got thrown off when Golson got booted from school last May.

[MORE: Everett Golson may be more than a 'dark horse' for the Heisman]

But with so much turnover and a developed quarterback who fits Kelly's mold, 2014 does have somewhat of a fresh start feel to it. That may not result in contention for the College Football Playoff right away, but as Bill wrote the pieces are falling into place for another run in 2015 and beyond.