Holding Court

Holding Court

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly touched on a variety of topics at his weekly Tuesday press conference. Among those discussed: the opportunity to finish undefeated at home for the first time since 1998; potential post-season opportunities for Bob Diaco, self-evaluation of the head man in his third season, and a recruiting bump for a reason foreign to the program over the last two decades.

House Secured

1987, 1988, 1989, and most recently, 1998.

Notre Dame football teams have completed a perfect home slate just four times in the last 30 seasons and remarkably, in just six others dating back to the outset of the Ara Parseghian era in 1964.

Brian Kelly's 2012 Irish have been deemed 24-point favorites Saturday for the season's final home game. And while Vegas's stated margin seems fitting in a matchup between a 10-0 and 5-5 squad, its less logical considering the Irish are 0-5 vs. the point spread in South Bend this season and just 4-12-2 in the head coach's three seasons at the helm.

"One of our goals, a tangible goal for us, was to protect our home field," said Kelly. "We felt, I felt, I think everybody in the program felt, that if you want to take that next step in terms of success, you have to win at home.

"I think we all talked about the statistics of Oklahoma, and the numbers were mind-boggling in terms their home field advantage until we beat them," he continued of the Sooners 79-4 mark during the Stoops era before the Irish hit town. "We want to have that kind of legacy.  We want to build that kind of dominance at home.  The first step is winning all your games at home, which hasn't happened in a long time.

"So we actually talked about that yesterday, how important it is for us to finish the season undefeated at home.  Our guys know that as a real goal."

Notre Dame has lost at least two home tilts 14 times since 1990 including five straight and in eight of 10 prior to 2012. Can Kelly envision a time his program enjoys home field success reminiscent of Bob Stoops' first 13 seasons in Norman?

"Yeah, if I stay employed here long enough," he offered. "That's the toughest part.  If you can stay in one place long enough you've got to a chance to do that. I think we've won 18 out of our last 20 regular season games. We're towards that direction. Now just need to keep doing that."

Notre Dame's current seven-game home winning streak is the longest since Bob Davie's Irish won 10 straight from October 1997 to late September 1999.

Keeping it in the Family

Kelly has made it clear, both through the press and in real world practice at previous stops: he's not a fan of lateral moves from his coaching staff. 2011 staff members Tim Hinton (RB) and Ed Warinner (OL) made such moves last January, joining Ohio State for disparate reasons. Fellow assistant Charley Molnar took a promotion, joining Massachusetts as the program's head coach.

The latter is something Kelly has and will always embrace.

"I want to provide all my coaches an opportunity. If it advances their career to a leadership position, we want to be able to give them that opportunity," Kelly said.

Such an opportunity will likely arise for 39-year-old defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. When a coordinator's defense ranks first nationally, its inevitable his name joins the short list of every athletics director searching for new leadership.

"Quite frankly, we don't spend much time talking about it. You know Bob, he doesn't want to talk about it," said Kelly of the plan at present. "He didn't come to Notre Dame to be the head coach somewhere else.  He came to Noter Dame to help win a national championship.

"We got a lot of the work left.  But if the right situation comes for Bob and he comes to me and asks me to give him advice on it, I certainly will.

"I think any great head coach is going to have to have more than just understanding it's Xs and Os.  You've got to understand the players and the University and how to work within that entire setting. I think Bob really knows that well."

Diaco's defense has allowed two touchdowns or fewer to opposing offenses in 23 of the team's last 28 games played. In two of the five contests that included more than two touchdowns scored, Notre Dame won by at least 24 points.

Self-Evaluation

Manti Te'o, Bennett Jackson, Prince Shembo, Danny Spond, Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Zeke Motta, Theo Riddick, T.J. Jones. Nine names and but a sampling of players that could be considered among Notre Dame's most improved from last year.

With three fewer losses than in either of his previous seasons as the University through 10 contests, how has the team's head coach likewise improved.

"I just think spending more time with the players," Kelly said. "I've been a play caller and so focused on managing the day-to-day (in the past).

"(This season) I've let my coaches coach, and I've tried spend more time with our players on a day-to-day basis. I think it was needed and necessary in our third year. The first couple years I had to set a bar and a standard and an operation of the way we wanted things done on a day-to-day basis. Sometimes that means that you got to be hard on some guys.

"This third year was a year where you knew our guys knew exactly what was expected, and it allowed me to spend more time with my players and build those relationships that are so important to having great morale."

On the Bandwagon

Notre Dame brought in a quality recruiting haul following Kelly's first season at the helm. Scout.com's #8 ranked class has played a key role in the team's jump from eight wins through 13 games in their first season to 10 in 10 this fall. It received a late bump from the team's 4-0 finish that fall with Stephon Tuitt, Troy Niklas, Ishaq Williams, since-departed Aaron Lynch, and Everett Golson each joining the fray following the end of the regular season -- all but Golson following the bowl win over Miami.

Kelly's current 22-man group for Signing Day 2012 is ranked #2 overall. One spot higher than the on field Irish.

"It's been a great year, there is no question. I will tell you that winning helps in recruiting," said Kelly. "It also solidifies those commitments. We have a number of mid-year enrollees that obviously are very excited about the direction of the football program.

"There is no mistaking that that kind of success helps you in recruiting. Having said that, I think we had made great progress coming into the season where we had a number commitments already in place. I think the winning has obviously enhanced that and strengthened those commitments. But I don't think there is any question that winning definitely gives you a bump in recruiting."

Notre Dame had 19 of its 22 current pledges already in place before it won its first game this fall. Of those 19, at least three were, or continue to be, heavily courted by opposing programs with each remaining pledged to the Irish.

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