With a disappointing 8-4 season for the Notre Dame Football team in 2013, many Irish fans are ready to pull the plug on Brain Kelly and his staff. The Irish struggled in many areas this season, and the blame seems to belong squarely on Kelly and his assistants.
The quarterback play was inconsistent, which reflects poorly on Kelly because of his level of involvement with that position group in the program. The special teams play was terrible the entire season and has been, for the most part, since Kelly took over. The biggest disappointment of the season was the play of the Notre Dame defense.
In the midst of all of this, the Irish somehow managed wins over a very good Michigan State Football team, and wins over USC, BYU and Arizona State. In the last game of the season against Stanford, the current standard for an elite football program who also has elite academics, the Irish — with a limited athlete at quarterback, a number of Weis recruits starting, a maligned coaching staff, an offensive line minus three key starters and a patchwork defense — found themselves in a competitive game on the verge of upsetting a top-10 team.
What this should tell Notre Dame Football fans is that the football program is a work in progress, but trending upward. The program is miles ahead of where it was prior to Kelly’s arrival.
The future actually looks quite bright for Notre Dame going forward. Kelly and his staff have worked tirelessly at recruiting and have created a team that has depth, which was evident this season in light of all of the injuries.
The outlook at quarterback looks very good. Everett Golson should be next year’s starter and has been mentioned by some as a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy. The offense has some potential playmakers in George Atkinson, Tarean Folsten, a healthy Gregory Bryant, Davaris Daniels and William Fuller. The offensive line, to some, looked stronger with Steve Elmer, Ronnie Stanley, Conor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty in the lineup than it did with the original 2013 starters.
The defense, however, remains the biggest question mark. The Irish return a number of a player who logged important minutes this season and frankly, graduates some Charlie Weis recruits who were limited athletically as well. Jarron Jones, Romeo Okwara and Jaylon Smith seem to be the real deal, and many would not be surprised if Stephon Tuitt returns for one more season.
With a little bit of luck and barring any major injuries to key players next season, the Irish should continue moving in the right direction and should certainly do better than 8-4.
Jeff Merritt is a contributor to RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ merrittcoach, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.