So much for resting on your laurels, even if they are modest in college football’s bigger picture.
The four-game winning streak to end the season — the longest by an Irish squad since 1992 — has been a boon to recruiting and an elixir to those already wearing an ND uniform who were still mentally fidgeting about the regime change. But it has done nothing to dissuade Kelly from going beyond tinkering and making bold moves in year 2.
Kelly still reserves the right to hit the escape key on some of his brainstorming, reasoning that there’s still some vetting to do, but you can wad up last year’s end-of-the-season depth chart.
The easiest move and a permanent one? Awarding record-setting kicker David Ruffer a scholarship and bringing him back for a fifth year.
The most shocking one?
Moving running back-turned-wide receiver Theo Riddick back to running back.
That one, unlike Ruffer’s, isn’t in ink just yet. Perhaps Jersey City, N.J., elite running back prospect Savon Huggins’ decision whether to attend Notre Dame or someplace else, will also factor in. Huggins, said to be leaning to homestate Rutgers, is supposed to announce his intentions Jan. 28.
"I’ve said year 2 is less about laying down a system of offense or defense and special teams," Kelly said, "and more about utilizing the players that we have help us win football games.
"Our philosophy has been laid down — the way we do things on a day-to-day basis, those kind of foundational things. (Now) let’s put our players in a position where they can help us win."
Other position shifting could involve some wide receivers ending up in the defensive backfield and some shuffling on an offensive line that at the end of the season was playing statistically the best football by an Irish O-Line in more than a decade.
The return of leading receiver Michael Floyd for his senior season, rather than playing NFL Draft roulette in April, makes many of the moves involving offensive skill players possible.
"It changed everything," Kelly said.
The one area with minimal stirring will be the defensive front seven, bolstered by Kelly landing just about every blue-chip prospect in this recruiting cycle at those positions on his wish list.
Three of those said prospects — defensive ends Aaron Lynch and Brad Carrico and end/outside linebacker Ishaq Williams — started classes Tuesday and already are experiencing strength and conditioning coach Paul Longo’s culture shock in the weight room. So too are fellow early enrollees, kicker Kyle Brindza and quarterback Everett Golson.
Golson, one of the most prolific TD pass throwers in United States high school football history, figures to be heavy in the mix at quarterback in the spring. One of Friday’s other surprises is who won’t be.
Kelly has six scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, but only four will compete for fall playing time during the upcoming spring practice session.
"I don’t want to get into specifics until we have a chance to spend more time with our football players," Kelly said, "but you can’t work with six quarterbacks. There will be some paring down. There will be some guys who understand that if they’re not in that top four, they’re not going to be able to get reps at that position."
When asked if the odd men out would be switched to other positions, Kelly responded, "That would be one of the options."
Perhaps another option would be switching schools.