Brian Kelly: 'No position that is untouchable on' Notre Dame

ByMatt Fortuna ESPN logo
Sunday, September 25, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In the minutes after a 38-35 home loss Saturday to Duke, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said that all 22 starting jobs on the Fighting Irish are up for grabs, sending a stern message to his 1-3 team.

"Every position, all 22 of them, will be evaluated," Kelly said at his postgame news conference. "Each and every position. There is no position that is untouchable on this football team. And that's the quarterback, all the way down to -- maybe the long snapper's OK. We're not going to touch him. But everybody else is vulnerable."

Kelly described quarterbackDeShone Kizer's play as "below standard" and "not acceptable" after the redshirt sophomore threw for 381 yards and rushed for 60 but turned over the ball twice. The Irish, for the first time, featured backup quarterback Malik Zaire as a receiver on two plays, but Kelly said those packages will be scrapped after the plays netted minus-8 yards.

Asked if it's a possibility that sophomore quarterback Brandon Wimbush -- who had been expected to redshirt -- will play this season, Kelly said: "That's a possibility. That's a definite possibility."

Asked later about who has to be on the field for the Fighting Irish, Kelly said, "Guys that have fire and grit and -- we had one guy in the entire football team that had emotion and fire. That is (running back)Dexter Williams. He's the only one. He's the only one that I saw. One guy.

"So, if you want to play for me moving forward, you better -- I don't care what your résumé says, I don't care if you were a five-star [recruit], if you had 100 tackles or 80 receptions or 30 touchdown passes -- you better have some damn fire and energy in you. We lack it. We lack it. Severely."

Those personnel changes, however, will leave the coaching staff unaffected. Third-year coordinator Brian VanGorder has faced plenty of heat from the fan base, with the segments of Saturday's Notre Dame Stadium crowd chanting to fire him after the Irish gave up 35-plus points for the fifth time in their past six games dating to last season.

"Actually, that's probably the one area that I feel better about today," Kelly said. "We did what I wanted today in terms of coaching. And coaching had nothing to do with the outcome today. I was pleased from that perspective."

Kizer said Duke wanted the game more than Notre Dame did, and that he has to execute the offense better.

"We're always held to a higher standard," Kizer said. " ... we understand that in order for to us win football games, we're going to have to come out with a fire and a sense of urgency, the thing that [Kelly has] been preaching all week."

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