Brian Kelly calls out, lashes out at Irish players lacking ‘fire and grit’

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If you thought the Notre Dame coaching staff, specifically the defensive side of the ball, would be publicly held accountable by the head coach, you’d be dead wrong.

Following a 38-35 home loss to Duke that featured a blown 14-0 lead and fourth-quarter defensive shrinking, Brian Kelly decided instead to lash out against those players listed as first-teamers on his depth chart.  Most notably, starting quarterback DeShone Kizer was singled out after a performance that included 381 yards passing and 60 yards rushing was labeled by Kelly as “below standard” and “not acceptable” thanks to a pair of turnovers.

Aside from the longsnapper, though, Kizer wasn’t alone in feeling his head coach’s postgame wrath.

Every position, all 22 of them, will be evaluated. 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. …

“Guys that have fire and grit [will be on the field] — 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.

I’ve never coached above the high school level so I could be wrong here, but isn’t it the responsibility of the coaching staff to get their players ready to play, to show “some damn fire and energy?”  And, if that doesn’t happen and if they “lack it” — “severely” — shouldn’t the coaching staff, the head coach specifically, shoulder that failure instead of publicly throwing their players under the bus?

Unlike the players, though, one person who won’t see the undercarriage of said bus, apparently, is defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

In falling to 1-3 on the year, the Irish’s defense has been a significant part of the problem.  In each of the three losses, the Domers gave up at least 36 points, leading Kelly to give what could’ve been a dreaded vote of confidence earlier in the week.

Even after the 94th-ranked scoring offense in the country hung 38 on the Irish, and that same lacking offense marched down the field on a back-breaking 10-play drive that resulted in what turned out to be a game-winning field goal with 1:24 remaining, Kelly steadfastly stood by his defensive man.  In fact, Kelly was decidedly pleased with that side of the ball — the coaching side, that is.

“Actually, that’s probably the one area that I feel better about today,” Kelly said of his defensive coaches’ efforts. “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.”

UPDATED 12:04 a.m. ET: I would be remiss if I didn’t include the following note from the Notre Dame sports information department.

Asked the reason for the lack of energy, Kelly said, “I must be doing a poor job. I’ve got to do a better job of finding out what those things are that are putting our football team in that position.

Adam Schefter: ‘strong conviction’ among people in the sport there will be college football this season

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It appears a pair of highly-criticized college football coaches have some company. Anonymous company, but company nonetheless.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was roundly criticized when he argued that college coaches should get back to the business of football May 1, with players following shortly thereafter. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney took numerous shots when he very boldly claimed there’s no doubt the college football season would start on time.

OSU was forced to publicly address the kerfuffle kicked up by Gundy. An unapologetic Swinney, meanwhile, defended his faith-based opinion.

Thursday, however, an ESPN NFL insider offered additional optimism. In a tweet, Adam Schefter wrote that “there is a ‘strong conviction’ there will be college football this season.”

Below is the full text of Schefter’s tweet:

Speaking to people in and around college football this week, there is “strong conviction” there will be college football this season. Uncertainty about when – multiple scenarios being debated – but they sound certain there still will be college football this season.

As is the case will of these types of opinions, though, there’s no timeline attached to it.  Nor should there be, at least at this point.

At this point, it’s decidedly uncertain when the 2020 college football season will start. Or if it will even start, despite Schefter’s positive missive. There’s chatter that it could start in October, although one Bay Area health official doesn’t expect sports to return until at least Thanksgiving. January has been floated as a possibility as well. So has the spring of next year.

Playing games with no fans has also been tossed around. More than one prominent athletic director, though, has tossed cold water on such a plan. Fan-less games would very likely be an absolute, utter Hail Mary of a last resort to salvage some semblance of a season.

We’ve said myriad times before and we’ll continue to say it: The only certainty in all of this is that everyone involved in the sport will go to extreme lengths to ensure that a season is played in some form or fashion. Head coaches, though, will be far down on the list of people who will determine when a season starts. Or even if it does.

Justin Fields takes veiled shot at ex rival Tate Martell

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Justin Fields hasn’t said much about Tate Martell since enrolling at Ohio State. Actions speak louder than words, after all, and 51 touchdowns says plenty all on its own. But that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten.

Martell, of course, was an Ohio State quarterback before Fields, and all but challenged Fields’ manhood to come in and try to take the job Martell viewed was his.

“[W]ord of advice: don’t swing and miss… especially not your second time,” Martell tweeted on Dec. 22, 2018.

“Why would I leave for somebody who hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?” Martell later said. “I’ve put two years of working my ass off into something that I’ve been praying for and dreaming of my whole life. To just run from somebody that hasn’t put a single second into workouts or anything like that and doesn’t know what the program is all about, there’s not a chance.”

Two weeks later, Martell was in the transfer portal.

So, yes, Fields hasn’t said much, because he hasn’t had to. Fields led Ohio State to a Big Ten title and a College Football Playoff berth in 2019; Martell led Miami to seven passing yards.

But, on Tuesday, Fields reminded Martell that he still remembers that since-deleted tweet.

Fields won the battle with Martell a long time ago. Won it before it even began, actually. But Tuesday’s tweet was a nice victory lap, 15 and a half months in the making.

Louisville assesses pay cuts for all head coaches, senior athletics staff

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On Thursday, Louisville followed Iowa State’s lead in implementing pay cuts for all 21 of its head coaches plus its senior athletics department staff.

AD Vince Tyra told WDRB the cuts are necessary to make up for $2.1 million in lost revenue from the canceled ACC and NCAA tournaments, plus anticipated losses from the football season.

“We’re looking at everything,” Tyra said. “There’s nothing that’s not on the table to me. You have to (look at every expense). When I got into this job (in 2017) I had no idea I was going to have to use my business skills as much as I have.”

WDRB reported Louisville’s four highest-paid coaches agreed to salary cuts on Friday. The head coaches plus Tyra and 12 senior staffers will say goodbye to 10 percent of their salaries. For head Cardinal football coach Scott Satterfield, that means a drop of $325,000 from his $3.25 million salary.

Tyra will slash $85,000 off his $850,000 salary. He’ll also forgo bonuses due to him both this and next June.

Tyra also said the department is looking to cut its budget by bussing to games eight hours or fewer from campus, which figures to affect other sports more than football. Peering ahead to Louisville’s 2020 schedule, that could mean bus trips to Clemson on Sept. 12 (a 7-hour drive, per Google Maps), Virginia on Nov. 7 (7 hours, 30 minutes) and Notre Dame on Nov. 21 (4 hours), though that may prove to be one of those things where Tyra is talking to other U of L head coaches more than Satterfield.

Louisville is implementing such efforts to avoid cutting any of its 21 sports. One aspect not helping see-saw the budget in the right direction, according to Tyra: the $14 million buyout the school owes Bobby Petrino.

Colorado State losing LB Trey Sutton to transfer portal

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If you had Colorado State as the next participant in the spinning of “Ye Olde College Football Transfer Portal Wheel of Future Fortune,” collect your winnings. Which is essentially a cyber pat on ye olde back.  Congrats?

As most of the cool transfers are doing these days, Trey Sutton utilized Twitter to announce he’s made the first move in leaving the Colorado State football team by entering his name into the NCAA transfer database. The linebacker stated that he will be leaving the Rams as a graduate transfer.

That means Sutton would be eligible to play immediately at another FBS school immediately in 2020. He also claims he will have another season of eligibility he could use in 2021 as well.

That, of course, means he was granted a sixth season of eligibility at some point by the NCAA.

Sutton was a three-star member of the Colorado State football Class of 2016. The Florida product took a redshirt for his true freshman season.

After playing in four games in 2017, Sutton saw action in a career-high 12 the following year. He started three of those contests. Those were the only starts of his collegiate career thus far.

Interestingly, Sutton didn’t see the field at all in 2019.

Colorado State will be under new leadership this fall as Steve Addazio was hired as the program’s new head football coach. Addazio replaces Mike Bobo, who was fired earlier that month.