"We have a new football team", Kelly said Tuesday as Notre Dame began spring football. "2012, and the personality of that team is gone."
2012 isn't the only thing that's gone. So is quarterback Gunner Kiel. The former Indiana Mr. Football has left the team, and will transfer from Notre Dame.
"Gunner and his family felt like it was best for him to pursue other opportunities," Kelly said. It's Kelly's understanding that Kiel with finish spring semester classes at Notre Dame before leaving school.
For the remaining 66 Irish players on scholarship the next 15 practices are an opportunity too, to build on the successes of 2012 with a new nucleus of leaders. Because while the next national championship game is still 294 days away, getting back, is in the forefront of everyone's mind.
"You want to get back there because there's no atmosphere like it," Kelly says of playing in the national championship. "It's not a normal bowl game. It's times 10. They all want to get back there. They know what they did last year to get there. For them to do it again, they probably have to even do more. It's a great motivator for your football team. I think the experience you gain from going through that process is invaluable."