Chat with Brian Bennett
Welcome to SportsNation! On Wednesday, ESPN.com's Notre Dame blogger Brian Bennett will stop by to talk some football as his Irish spring preview hits the site
Bennett joined ESPN.com in August 2008 after nine years at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., where he covered college sports and the University of Louisville beat. He lives in Louisville.
Send your questions now and join Bennett Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Brian Bennett (3:00 PM)
Good afternoon, everybody. I'm here to talk about Notre Dame football for about the next 30 minutes, or longer than that if there are enough good questions. So by all means, fire away.
How much of a stretch is a prediction of 10-2, for the Irish?
Brian Bennett (3:02 PM)
Dare to dream, Alan, but I think that's a pretty big stretch, just considering the question marks at QB, O-line and throughout the defense. I think an 8-win season is probably more of a goal to shoot for. But the schedule is not terribly demanding, and Brian Kelly did lead Cincinnati to 10 wins his first year there.
John (Chicago, IL)
With experience and depth at RB, do you see Kelly looking to run first over the pass? Letting his QB's learn the system and put less pressure on this in the first half of the year?
Brian Bennett (3:03 PM)
Kelly will do whatever it takes to win a game and often points out how he had to change his offenses greatly during Division II championship runs. Still, I think you'll see a lot of passing and the spread be the way the Irish go.
padres8991 (Yuma, AZ)
Charlie proved he could recruit nationally and Brian Kelly hasn't. With similar high power offenses and pourus defenses, how does Swarbrick justify trading one coach for the other?
Brian Bennett (3:04 PM)
One coach has won big in college; the other didn't.
Do you feel the Irish currently have the o linemen to run the spread offense properly.In your opinion at first glance is this coaching staff better than the one that just left
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
That's a difficult question to answer about the O-line because with four seniors starting last year and little access to practice, we didn't get a chance to see the backups much. One of Kelly's most underrated accomplishments at Cincinnati was taking a line built for Mark Dantonio's power running game and immediately transforming it into one capable of running a high-tempo spread. Conditioning work will be key
Brian Bennett (3:06 PM)
As for the coaching staffs, I think Kelly is one of the best college coaches in the country, and he has hired a lot of guys he knows and trusts. But time -- and results -- will ultimately be the judge.
Irish elitist (DC)
I think Notre Dame needs to join a conference. They should go out and create their own "elite" conference and bring in schools like Texas, Michigan, USC, Florida and etc... they can shake up the ranks of college football and maybe their NBC sponsorship can extend to these schools and this "elite" conference. Im sure these top schools would love to join in a pool money with the Irish.. dont you?
Brian Bennett (3:08 PM)
I think you overestimate the influence Notre Dame has in the sport over others. But as we're seeing the possible beginning stages of new superconferences, the Irish need to re-evaluate their place in the game and whether finally joining a conference is the prudent move.
Tom (Grand Rapids)
How much of the old Weis offense and how much of the Cincinnati offense will we see at the Blue Gold game of 2010?
Brian Bennett (3:10 PM)
Knowing Kelly, he's liable to jump in full bore with his spread offense. However, he'd be foolish not to consider retaining some of the successful passing plays the Irish ran to Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph.
Brian, I feel like the Irish have a chance to be very good in 2010. Say what you want about Charlie Weis as a coach, but he was lights out as a recruiter, and there's plenty of available talent in South Bend. If Kelly can quickly get everyone on the same page, ND could be solid
Brian Bennett (3:11 PM)
His classes drew high rankings, and he definitely stockpiled certain areas. But the defense still lacks playmakers, and that remains the biggest concern
Notre Dame is loaded with RBs, will someone like Cierre Wood switch to CB?
Brian Bennett (3:13 PM)
Hard to say at this early stage, but Kelly did lots of position switching at Cincinnati and found particular success at turning offensive players into defensive contributors. I'd look for him to do the same at Notre Dame.
Rob (Columbia, SC)
Considering how highly regarded he came out of highschool, Do you think Dayne Crist has what it takes to be an elite quarterback assuming he recovers fully from his injury? I've read some people think he may be better than Clausen and Quinn.
Brian Bennett (3:14 PM)
That's a high bar to clear, as both Quinn and Clausen -- especially in '09 -- were outstanding. I did like what I saw out of Crist in small doses last year and he seems to have a lot of poise. Kelly makes quarterbacks look good in his system, too.
James D'Orno (Cincinnati)
Re: Brian Kelly. Does anyone need another reason to hate Notre Dame? Along with USC, these may end up being the two most hated teams in CFB.
Brian Bennett (3:15 PM)
I'm guessing by your hometown you're still bitter over the departure. Understandable to a point. But didn't Kelly give you the three best years in school history?
AJ (Overland Park, KS)
Will Kellys next recruiting class see the type of 4-5 star guys we're used to with Charlie? or will he stick to recruiting RKG's and players that fit his spread system?
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
I think so much of that stuff is overrated. Weis had all kinds of four- and five-star guys and look where that got the Irish. While Notre Dame does need to get the high school studs -- especially on the lines -- to compete at the highest levels, Kelly will develop talent better than the previous staff.
Philip Walkmin (Detroit)
Does anyone really care about ND anymore? Really.
Brian Bennett (3:17 PM)
So you logged into a Notre Dame chat and posted a question because no one cares about the Irish? Hmmm.
BB do you think a lot of players like Ethan Johnson, Darius Flemming, and John Ryan can flourish in the 3-4?
Brian Bennett (3:19 PM)
Well, they're going to have to. Ian Williams, too. Notre Dame has some players like Fleming who should fit into that outside backer/fourth lineman role but it will need some interior guys to be stout up front. That was Cincinnati's problem defensively at the end of the season. Bigger teams just plowed through the D-line.
What is the real story on Kelly as a defensive coach? What do you think of his DC and defensive staff?
Brian Bennett (3:21 PM)
Though he's known as an offensive guru, Kelly actually started on the defensive side and came up as a defensive coordinator. The 2008 Orange Bowl team at Cincinnati relied heavily on its defense through a series of quarterback injuries. The 2009 team is remembered for its late defensive breakdowns, but that was a team that replaced 10 starters and was among the best statistical units in the first seven or so games.
Brian Bennett (3:22 PM)
All that said, Bob Diaco has a big challenge in front of him and faces some doubts after the way his defense played at the end of the year. Defense will ultimately determine how successful Kelly is at Notre Dame, in my opinion.
David (Columbus, OH)
In my opinion the 3-4 is suicide to run in college unless you have a big run stopper at NT like a Cody or a Holoti Nagata, how does Kelly plan on making the D better than what they currently are?
Brian Bennett (3:24 PM)
The theory behind it is that so many teams are running the spread that you're constantly adding extra linebackers or defensive backs anyway, and this way you can be more flexible with your base package. There were many, many times where Cincinnati actually lined up with four down linemen last year. The key, as you said, is being stout up front, and that's been a problem of late for Notre Dame.
David (Columbus, OH)
What do you know about the strength coach Longo? ND looked weak down the stretch of the season(s).
Brian Bennett (3:26 PM)
He's known as a very demanding guy, and Kelly entrusts him with a lot of power. He'll whip the players into shape. Notre Dame is also instituting a football-only training table for the first time in hopes of keeping its players stronger througout the season.
So you don't think ND can win 10 games this upcoming season with the talent they have returning? In my opinion, Brian Kelly will get 100% effort out of these kids, unlike Mr. Weis, and prove to everyone that ND is back!!! Look what he did at Cincy with those kids???
Brian Bennett (3:27 PM)
Anything is possible, but going from six to 10 wins without Clausen, Tate and McCarthy and with a questionable defense seems like a tall order to me. Not to mention tough games against USC, Utah, Pitt, at Boston College and Michigan.
BK is a magician with quarterbacks, I could see ND 5-0 headed into the PItt game. Thoughts?
Brian Bennett (3:28 PM)
That's optimistic, with virtual toss-up games against Michigan, Stanford and Boston College, not to mention a trip to East Lansing in the first five weeks
Hey Brian just curious i see a glaring weakness at safety for the Irish , Knowing Kelly's track record of working players at other positions into positions of need who are your best guesses of some guys that could be getting a look at safety who are not listed on the depth chart at safety? What about Deon Walker?Thanks.
Brian Bennett (3:30 PM)
Keep an eye on Dan McCarthy, Kyle's younger brother.
Shouldn't we be a little skeptical that Kelly can win early at the BCS level of Division I? He has never game planned against a Michigan, a USC, or made offensive adjustments against an Alabama, or even a Michigan State.
Brian Bennett (3:31 PM)
He's also never had access to this much talent. Football is football.
Can a Notre Dame player ever win the Heisman again with their NBC contract? It seems the only highlight footage that gets air time on ESPN after gameday is from road games, which severely diminishes their exposure.
Brian Bennett (3:32 PM)
Oh, sure. Notre Dame does not suffer from a lack of exposure. Had the team been better, you can bet Clausen and/or Tate would have been right in the thick of that mix last year.
Do you think any freshman will make an immediate impact this year for the Irish?
Brian Bennett (3:33 PM)
I'd watch the early enrollees, obviously, particularly the defensive backs like Wood and Badger. Anyone good enough to play on defense will probably get a shot.
Do you think nd shuold have duel qbs this season with dayne crist and john goodman and if so how muck passing do u see from goodman?
Brian Bennett (3:35 PM)
I would think Kelly sticks with one quarterback if possible and tries to use Goodman at receiver. He wasn't a big Wildcat guy at Cincinnati.
Do you expect Shaq Evans to emerge as the main complement to Floyd?
Brian Bennett (3:36 PM)
He would seem to have the talent to do so. He looked good at times last year and then seemed to disappear. Wondering if Kelly can get more out of Duval Kamara as well.
Dan (Las Vegas)
Who is the better coach Lane Kiffin or Brian Kelly?
Brian Bennett (3:37 PM)
Based on accomplishments, it's a no-brainer in Kelly's favor. What has Kiffin ever done besides make news in recruiting and with outlandish comments?
Ok, How long of a leash does Brian Kelly have, how quickly does he need to win? How long will we tolerate sub-par performance from the football team before we have to through this whole process again?
Brian Bennett (3:38 PM)
Everybody's on a short leash these days. The days of five-year plans are gone. Weis only stuck around that long because of his early success and his huge contract
Who do you think the linebackers will be this year?
Brian Bennett (3:40 PM)
Manti Te'o and Brian Smith for sure. Fleming seems like a natural choice for the hybrid backer/lineman guy. The other spot should have plenty of competition.
Shawn (Stamford, CT)
Does Teo make a leap this year?
Brian Bennett (3:41 PM)
I think so. He was making a ton of plays toward the end of the year, and I think this is the year we see him really start his march toward being a superstar.
Patrick (New Brunswick, NJ)
Hey BB. How's the offseason treating ya? Given the landscape of college football today .. along with the type of kids that ND recruits ... and Kelly's resume .. is it safe to say that if Kelly doesn't bring ND back to the 'glory days' .. no one will?
Brian Bennett (3:43 PM)
Things are great, thanks. Interesting question. It certainly seems like a perfect match, and Kelly is unquestionably the best pure college coach Notre Dame has had since Holtz. Other than maybe an Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, I can't think of too many guys capable of doing a better job. So we'll see. The "glory days" of multiple national titles may be gone forever, but I still think Notre Dame can be an annual BCS contender.
What will be the biggest adjustment for Teo in the 3-4? Will he be able to make more plays?
Brian Bennett (3:44 PM)
It shouldn't be that much different. The biggest adjustment is for the guy who's playing that hybrid spot. The question is whether Te'o moves to the middle this year or stays on the outside.
Brian Bennett (3:46 PM)
OK, folks, that's all the time I have for today. Thanks for all the great questions, especially on a cold and snowy February day!