Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Brian Kelly's Legacy at Notre Dame Will Be Defined by Malik Zaire
It's almost here. It is just over a month away when Notre Dame opens against Texas. Coach Brian Kelly is heading into his sixth year as head coach. It is a year in which he has to produce a team that is a playoff contender. His first five years have really been a roller coaster. It has seen it's moments of hope and of great disappointment.
His first couple seasons saw the Irish earn great victories over historic rivals USC and Miami. But it also saw losses to teams like Tulsa and South Florida. Then came the magic season of 2012 only to get blown out to Alabama in the Title game. Then last season was really the story of what Kelly's whole career has been. They start off 6-0 and lose to the defending champs (Florida State) in a very controversial matter. Then they lose 4 straight including a loss to lowly Northwestern. Yet somehow they are able to beat LSU in the Music City Bowl. That's the definition of inconsistency.
Now came the offseason which saw Everett Golson leave for Florida State leaving Malik Zaire as the undisputed starter. In what limited playing time he has had, he has looked good but the reality is that he is still unproven. That makes the outcome of this huge in the legacy of Brian Kelly. If Zaire lives up to the hype than that it was the right decision and what Golson does in Tallahassee becomes irrelevant. However, if Zaire does not live up to expectations than it looks bad for Kelly. It will sting even harder if Golson leads the Seminoles to another playoff appearance.
Having said that, Kelly's best success at Notre Dame has come with a first year quarterback, a simplified playbook, and stout defense. That was the case in his first season when Tommy Rees replaced an injured Dayne Crist leading the Irish to 4 straight wins. That was also the case in year 3 when Golson was a redshirt freshman.
I am not sure how simplified the playbook will be here though because Zaire has been there 2 years already. I am also not sure how good the defense will be to help the young quarterback out. That's the next blog.
But one thing is for certain. Kelly's legacy in South Bend is directly tied to Zaire.