SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Coach Brian Kelly is promising more of just about everything against Syracuse on Saturday, including him being more fiery on the sideline, as he tries to get exhort his team to play better.
Kelly, who fired defensive coordinator defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a shocking 38-35 loss to Duke, said Tuesday that he expects to see a lot more players get in the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Saturday. He also expects to see the Irish (1-3) play with more passion.
“I think I’ve got to be a little bit more fiery on the sidelines, quite frankly. So I’m going to try to turn it up a little bit on the sidelines,” he said. “I just need to be who I am, and not be as hands off.”
Kelly came under fire early during his time at Notre Dame for yelling at players. He believes he can be more demonstrative without going too far.
“I don’t have to be a lunatic on the sideline and throw chairs and do that kind of stuff. But they have to feel that from me as well,” he said.
The biggest problem for the Irish has been a defense that has given up at least 30 points in all three losses this season and against seven of its last nine Power Five conference opponents.
Kelly said part of the problem this season is inexperience, with only four returning starters on defense. Another problem has been using some players too much.
“We’ve got some guys out there that are dog tired trying to do things and they got too many reps and we got too many good players sitting behind them watching,” he said.
Kelly didn’t divulge much about how his defense will look different under new defensive coordinator Greg Hudson, a former Irish backup linebacker for Lou Holtz who was hired in June. Kelly said the defense would be his, not Hudson’s, and that he will be more involved on the defensive side.
The defense won’t look like the bend-but-don’t break style the Irish used under former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco when they played for the national championship in 2012, Kelly said, but it will be simpler than the complex style VanGorder used.
Kelly said he pulled from VanGorder’s “library” to come up with a game plan against Syracuse.
While Kelly shouldered the loss to Michigan State a week earlier, saying he and his coaches needed to do better, after the game on Saturday he placed much of the blame for the Duke loss on players, saying they need to play with more passion. On Tuesday, Kelly again said it was his fault the Irish are off to a poor start.
Kelly said he believes the changes he’s making this week will help turn things around.
“This team clearly understands the direction that we need to go,” he said. “We made the changes that I felt were appropriate to start to move us in that direction.”