Earlier this month, Brian Kelly caused a bit of controversy, saying that Notre Dame quarterback prospect DeShone Kizer should have stayed in college instead of entering the NFL Draft.
Kelly, though, said his statement was taken out of context.
“Unfortunately, not everybody is at the press conference, so it just depends on what you want to take from the headlines,” the Notre Dame head coach said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “If you were at my press conference, you would have heard me say that, first and foremost, he’s the most talented quarterback, in my opinion, in the draft. However, you come to Notre Dame to get a degree and you come to Notre Dame to play for championships. Two years of college does not get you that. I was merely saying that he could benefit from being in school for another year. He could benefit because he could get his degree, and he would benefit because he would be part of a great story – and that is bringing Notre Dame back to national prominence.”
Kelly told media that he understands players need “to make business decisions” but that “the reality is he (Kizer) needs more football.”
“In fairness to everybody involved, maybe those are private conversations,” Kelly said. “But I’m forthright. I’ve always been that way. I’m honest when I’m asked a question. DeShone and I have a great relationship, and when somebody asked me do you think he would benefit (by coming back to school), I told them, ‘Yeah, I think he would benefit from being in college.’ I said, ‘He has great character, he’s not immature, (but) two years of college football is not enough for anybody. Not DeShone Kizer, not anybody.”
In two seasons as a starter, Kizer completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 5,589 yards, 45 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He also ran 252 times for 1,029 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Kelly said he was not mad that Kizer decided to turn pro.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Once I was able to give him my opinion and what I thought was best for him and the family made a decision, we were 100 percent united on what we were going to do for him and provide him all the resources necessary for him to be successful as he got ready for the draft. Once the decision was made, we were 100 percent in alliance with him. But certainly when we had the meeting with the family, I’m going to voice what I believe are my opinions relative to getting his degree and why I believe that that is central to coming to Notre Dame. I’m the head coach at Notre Dame, and we recruit players to finish their degree and . . . he could be part of a great story of turning Notre Dame around. After that was vetted out and he made his decision, we were 100 percent in lockstep in terms of what the next step was.”
Since going 12-1 in 2012, Notre Dame has finished 9-4, 8-5, 10-3 and 4-8.
“Well, we went undefeated in ’12 and then in ’15 we were probably two plays away from going undefeated again,” Kelly said. “We went 10-2, had a chance to beat Clemson at the end of the game, didn’t come up with a two-point play, and then gave up a field goal at the end of the game against Stanford. So I would disagree with the fact that a 10-2 season with two plays would be on the back end of that. Having said that, Notre Dame is about playing for championships. When you take over the job at Notre Dame, (it) comes with those expectations. So I’m not running from them at any time. Part of making sure that we get back to that level of play has a lot to do with things that I did this year – because good is not good enough. We’ve got to get to great.”
Kelly took full accountability for Notre Dame’s 4-8 season, which, in terms of winning percentage (.333), was the fifth-worst season in program history.
“The whole 4-8 is on me,” Kelly said. “I did a poor job of leading our football team. There’s no bad football teams; there’s bad leadership. Clearly the football team, the season we had last year, it all starts with me.”
Kelly will relinquish play-calling duties this fall, as 33-year-old Chip Long will take over as offensive coordinator.
I felt like I needed to make a change,” Kelly said. “I don’t have a fixed mindset on it’s got to be done this way and it’s the only way, so I gave up play-calling, I’m working with all sides of the ball and with our guys, allowing relationships to be deeper and grow them, and then coach our coaches. I felt like it was necessary for us to get out of being just good at times because I want to be better than that. I want to be great.”
Notre Dame opens the 2017 season with home games against Temple and Georgia on Sept. 2 and 9, respectively. The Irish will also host USC (Oct. 21) and travel to Michigan State (Sept. 23), Miami (Nov. 11) and Stanford (Nov. 25).