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#pounditThursday, August 18, 2022

Articles tagged: Notre Dame Football

Brian Kelly lied to his final Notre Dame recruit

Brian Kelly in Notre Dame gear

Brian Kelly was still on the road recruiting for Notre Dame right up to the moment that news of his decision to leave for LSU went public. That left the family of the final player he visited as coach of the Fighting Irish with an amazing story.

Tobias Merriweather, a four-star wide receiver from the class of 2022, was the final recruit Kelly visited before the news of the coach’s departure went public. Kelly and three assistants, including offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, traveled to Merriweather’s home in Vancouver, Wash. just hours before the LSU exit came to light.

Merriweather’s father Dom recounted the visit, and how there were multiple signs that something was off when looked at retrospectively. Dom Merriweather told Meg Wochnick of the Columbian that Kelly and his staff arrived an hour earlier than originally planned, and Kelly stepped out at one point to take a 15-minute phone call.

At no point did Kelly even hint that he was considering the LSU job, and none of the Merriweathers had any idea about any rumors. Even after Kelly took the phone call, he returned and stayed for another 90 minutes to eat dinner with the family, and never gave off any indication that anything was in the works.

It was only after Kelly left the home that the Merriweathers became aware that something was up. Tobias Merriweather saw reports about Kelly leaving for LSU as soon as the Notre Dame coaches left his house, and even sent a social media screenshot to the group of assistants.

“They weren’t more than half a mile from our house,” when Tobias received a response, according to Dom Merriweather.

“I showed this to Coach Kelly, and he says, ‘That’s bull (expletive),'” one of the assistants texted back.

Dom Merriweather said the family did not hear from Kelly again from that point on. Tobias Merriweather is still committed to Notre Dame and has been in contact with the remaining assistants, though other schools have reached out after the Kelly news.

The story only furthers the narrative that Kelly handled his departure incredibly poorly. By Kelly’s own retelling, he was certainly negotiating with LSU while this visit was taking place. Kelly also left the rest of the school in the dark about what was happening even as the rumors flew on social media.

A coaching change like this was never going to be straightforward, and there were bound to be hard feelings. Some might have been more forgiving of Kelly if he hadn’t been so adamant about not leaving Notre Dame. Now it just looks like he lied to and misled a lot of people that had trusted him.

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Awesome video shows how much Notre Dame players love their new head coach

Marcus Freeman greeted by players

Notre Dame were understandably upset when Brian Kelly abruptly left to take the head coaching job at LSU this week, but they seem plenty excited to play for Kelly’s replacement.

Marcus Freeman was officially introduced as the 30th head football coach at Notre Dame on Friday. The 35-year-old was promoted from defensive coordinator. Following his press conference, Freeman received a greeting from his players that will give you chills.

The results on the field are all that will matter, but it’s easy to feel like Notre Dame made the right move after seeing that video. Freeman clearly has the respect of players, and there must be a reason for that. The Fighting Irish are also still trying to reach the College Football Playoff. Promoting Freeman should make the transition easier and help quickly erase the sting from Kelly’s departure.

Notre Dame reportedly considered replacing Kelly with a more experienced coach. It appears Freeman was the guy players wanted, and the reception he got on Friday is further proof of that.

Tommy Rees staying at Notre Dame as offensive coordinator

Tommy Rees coaching

Notre Dame may have lost Brian Kelly as their head coach, but the school is doing its best to keep some continuity.

The Fighting Irish reportedly are promoting Marcus Freeman from defensive coordinator to head coach. Tommy Rees is also staying at Notre Dame as their offensive coordinator.

How do we know? Rees announced the news himself in a meeting with the team on Wednesday night.

“I love you guys. I love this place. I believe that we can win a national championship here. And I’m committed to doing everything we can to get to that point,” Rees told the players.

Rees, 29, has been a coach at Notre Dame since 2017 and their offensive coordinator since last year. He played quarterback for the Fighting Irish from 2010-2013. Notre Dame’s offense has averaged 35.2 points per game this season, good for 21st in the nation.

Photo: March 5, 2020; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees walks amongst the players during Notre Dame’s first spring football practice at the Irish Athletics Center. Mandatory Credit: Santiago Flores/South Bend Tribune via USA TODAY NETWORK

Marcus Freeman to be named Notre Dame head coach

Marcus Freeman before a game

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish moved quickly to replace Brian Kelly, and are staying in-house to do so.

Notre Dame will promote defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to the head coach position, as reported by Matt Zenitz of On3 Sports, among others.

Multiple reports also indicated that offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has agreed to remain at Notre Dame.

Freeman is in his first season as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator. He has made a strong impression this season as both a schemer and recruiter. The 35-year-old had previous stints as a defensive coordinator at Purdue and Cincinnati before joining the Fighting Irish. Freeman has a reputation as a rising star in coaching circles, and is considered an excellent recruiter. Kelly is a huge fan of Freeman, and reports suggested he had been trying to get Freeman to join him at LSU.

Freeman gets the job despite rumored interest in other more experienced coaches. It sounds like Freeman was also the preferred choice of Notre Dame’s current players as well.

Photo: Oct 2, 2021; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defensive Coordinator Marcus Freeman enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Notre Dame players had interesting response to Brian Kelly exit

Brian Kelly in Notre Dame gear

Any fears that head coach Brian Kelly’s departure might destabilize current Notre Dame players appear to be unfounded.

Kelly’s stunning decision to leave the Fighting Irish to take the head coaching position at LSU comes at an incredibly bad time from Notre Dame’s perspective. The team is 11-1, and has a legitimate shot at being one of the four teams selected for the College Football Playoff later in the month. The situation was made even worse by the nature of Kelly’s departure, which culminated in a very brief and awkward speech Wednesday morning.

However, the situation appears to have rallied the Notre Dame players together, according to Matt Fortuna and Pete Sampson of The Athletic. The players grew defiant as the day went on after the speech, and viewed Kelly’s decision to leave as him admitting he did not feel that his current team was good enough to win a national championship.

It’s also said that Notre Dame players had grown tired of Kelly’s more distant approach to dealing with his players. To that end, many had been lobbying for defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman to be named as Kelly’s permanent replacement.

There is no doubt that there are negatives in the situation for Notre Dame. In fact, it’s possible that Kelly’s decision to leave could hurt the team in the eyes of the CFP’s selection committee. It doesn’t seem like there will be problems with the players, though. If anything, they sound more motivated than ever.

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Leaked video shows Brian Kelly’s awkward farewell speech to Notre Dame players

Brian Kelly in Notre Dame gear

Notre Dame players are understandably feeling burned after Brian Kelly abruptly left the program in the middle of a national championship run, and the coach had to have felt that when he addressed the team for the final time on Tuesday.

A Notre Dame player leaked a video that shows Kelly delivering his farewell speech to his former players. The clip begins with Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick saying a few words and then turning things over to Kelly, who thanked the team and briefly addressed that they found out about his departure via social media. The speech lasted less than four minutes in total.

You can listen to the speech, which is in two parts, below:

“I know we’ve been through this together. I’ve recruited virtually everybody in this room,” Kelly said. “I wanted to be able to tell you face-to-face why we’re at where we’re at. … Many times people look for a reason to blame or if there was a reason for something. There was nothing here but first class in everything that Notre Dame has done for me and my family. I saw my time here as a blessing, working with incredible men on a day-to-day basis. There comes a time when you look in your life for another opportunity. I felt like it was time in my life for another challenge. I saw that opportunity in a very short window and felt it was best for me and my family to pursue a new challenge.”

There seemed to be a lot of tension in the room, which was to be expected. No players said anything or clapped for Kelly after he was finished speaking.

Kelly previously apologized to his players for the way they found out about him taking the LSU job. He did so via a text message, which you can read here.

There’s rarely ever a graceful way for a coach to leave one top program for another. Kelly’s coaching staff seemingly felt left in the dark like his players. Though, Kelly tried to explain on Wednesday how quickly the LSU deal came together.

Brian Kelly reveals when he knew he was taking LSU job

Brian Kelly in a suit

Brian Kelly has faced criticism for leaving people in the dark before he took the job at LSU, but the coach insists that was the result of the deal coming together so quickly.

During a Wednesday appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Kelly claimed it was not until after Notre Dame’s win over Stanford on Saturday that his agent informed him LSU was interested. He said he was actually in California on Monday recruiting on behalf of Notre Dame. His deal with LSU was finalized on the plane ride back to South Bend.

Kelly admitted that his attorney was on the plane with him back from California, which is an indication that he was negotiating with LSU. You can hear more below:

Patrick also asked Kelly if he contacted the recruits he had spoken with on behalf of Notre Dame and asked them if they have interest in playing for LSU. Kelly said “of course not” and seemed offended by the question.

A report on Monday evening said LSU was targeting Kelly as its next head coach. Hours later, the 60-year-old was finalizing his new deal. Kelly admitted that LSU contacted him on Saturday night, so the discussions were obviously ongoing throughout the weekend.

Kelly was accused of ghosting Notre Dame, and one assistant coach was said to be furious that Kelly made him look bad.

High-level coaching departures are always tricky. Kelly probably didn’t want to put everything on hold in case the deal fell through with LSU. Still, Notre Dame players could not have felt good about the text message they received from the coach.

Photo: Sep 28, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly waves to fans as he enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Virginia Cavaliers. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Notre Dame has its top target for head coach job

A player in a Notre Dame uniform

Notre Dame has lost Brian Kelly as their head coach, but they might not be in too bad of shape.

The Fighting Irish already have a national brand, tradition, history and their own TV deal with NBC. Those selling points have always been part of the program. But they may have their eyes on a head coach who should be able to keep them winning the way Kelly was.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd reported Tuesday that Luke Fickell is apparently Notre Dame’s first choice as a replacement for Kelly.

It’s unclear whether Dodd is basing his report on inside information, or whether he’s piecing clues together. But Fickell makes plenty of sense as a top target.

Fickell, 48, has been at Cincinnati for five years and enjoyed great success, including beating Notre Dame in South Bend this season. Fickell went to a Catholic high school in Ohio before later playing for Ohio State, where he spent most of his career as an assistant.

As a Catholic football player from the Midwest who has already proven he can be a successful coach, Fickell seems like the ideal candidate. If Notre Dame is able to successfully transition from Kelly to Fickell, they may be able to remain at a top level without missing a beat.

Notre Dame also may have some other very qualified candidates in the mix, such as Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, as well as defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, who has been recognized as a top recruiter.

Notre Dame could be penalized by CFP for Brian Kelly leaving

Brian Kelly in Notre Dame gear

Brian Kelly may have hurt Notre Dame in more ways than one by leaving them for LSU.

Notre Dame is 11-1 and ranked No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings. They theoretically would need two of No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Cincinnati or No. 5 Oklahoma State to lose this weekend, in order to move up two spots to qualify for the Playoff, which features just the top four teams.

But that might not actually be enough.

CFP chairman Gary Barta said on ESPN Tuesday that the committee’s criteria does take into account the availability of players and coaches for games. That means Notre Dame could be penalized for not having Kelly coaching a playoff game.

Even with Barta making that acknowledgment, Notre Dame’s chances of making the playoff shouldn’t change considering they are guaranteed to be one of the (at most) six 1-loss teams.

If only Georgia loses, the top four will probably remain the same. The Fighting Irish still need two of Bama, Michigan, Cincinnati or Oklahoma State to lose. But if Cincinnati and say Michigan lose, while Oklahoma State wins, would the committee keep Notre Dame ranked ahead of Cincinnati despite losing to them head-to-head, or would they just pick a 2-loss team instead? Maybe that’s the scenario under which Notre Dame would qualify. Or, maybe in that scenario, the CFP would penalize Notre Dame for losing Kelly and include a 2-loss Alabama team in the Playoff.

Maybe with Kelly leaving, Notre Dame now needs three teams ahead of them (not named Georgia) to lose in order to qualify.

Photo: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Kelly’s final text message to his Notre Dame players leaked

Brian Kelly in a suit

Brian Kelly’s final text message to his Notre Dame football players leaked on Monday night.

Pete Sampson, who covers the Fighting Irish for The Athletic, shared a screenshot of the message, which Kelly apparently sent to his players through the Teamworks app.

In the message, Kelly apologized to his players that they learned about his impending move to LSU via the media. He said he would be sharing more information with them during a 7:00 a.m. meeting on Tuesday.

“Men…Let me first apologize for the late night text and, more importantly, for not being able to share the news with you in person that I will be leaving Notre Dame,” Kelly wrote. “I am flying back to South Bend tonight to be able to meet with you in the morning but the news broke late today and I am sorry you found out through social media or news reporters. I will have more to share when we meet tomorrow at 7 a.m. but for now, just know my love for you is limitless and I am so proud of all that you have accomplished.

“Our program is elite because of your hard work and commitment and I know that will continue. I will share more in the morning when we meet. Again, my sincere apologies for not being able to be the one to share the news directly with you. Coach Kelly.”

Kelly is taking the LSU job and reportedly set to make over $100 million on a 10-year deal.

The 60-year-old has coached at Notre Dame the last 12 seasons, winning double-digit games for five years in a row. His Irish are 11-1 this season and in contention to make the College Football Playoff.

Hopefully Kelly also had a message for his coaching staff, which apparently felt left in the dark.

Photo: Sep 28, 2019; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly waves to fans as he enters Notre Dame Stadium before the game against the Virginia Cavaliers. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports