Sunday's question: What's the biggest problem Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly faces?
What's the biggest problem new Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly faces and how many games will he win next season? Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they are wrong.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
There are several "biggest" problems facing Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. Let's focus on defense, where the Irish continued to get bowled over by opponents even as their offense became potent under the "schematic" genius Charlie Weis. The Irish's woeful tackling almost earned a Heisman for Stanford's Toby Gerhart, who put together a pretty good highlight clip against one team. Notre Dame finished 87th natioanlly in total defense, between Tulsa and Nevada. The Irish were 64th in scoring defense, allowing a whopping average of almost 26 points a game. Kelly has mostly been known as an offensive coach, although he was on the other side of the ball early in his career, but he has to immediately instill an identity that has been missing for years. Kelly needs an Olympian recruiting approach on recruiting defense, as in "bigger, faster, stronger," Notre Dame will continue to score points under Kelly, but the key will be to not let opponents score so many. The Irish have to beat USC to more difference-maker recruits such as to-be sophomore linebacker Manti Te'o, a party crasher in the mold of former Trojan Rey Maualuga, Take note: the top three defenses in the nation right now are TCU, Alabama and Texas. All three are unbeaten, two are playing in the BCS title game and TCU thinks it should be.
Andrea Adelson, Orlando Sentinel
Notre Dame has so many problems, where do we begin? Defense has to be the biggest issue that must be resolved for the Irish to start winning more games. That is not a strong suit of Brian Kelly, who has made his name on offense.
The Irish lost all six games this season by seven points or less, including three that they led going into the fourth quarter. Their defense ranked No. 87 in the country. No matter how great your offense, it is difficult to win 10-plus games and play in a BCS game when you have to outscore everybody every week – especially when you consider the Irish go into 2010 without Jimmy Clausen and Golden Tate.
So the pressure is on Kelly to hire a defensive coordinator to improve this unit. The 2010 schedule is pretty difficult. With the playmakers they are losing, Kelly will be lucky to win seven games next season.
Photo: Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly. Credit: Matt Cashore, U.S. Presswire.