SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly recognized the irony in the circumstances.
“The annual spring practice press conference, and when I got into my car this morning, it was minus-8 degrees,” the Notre Dame coach joked Friday.
Notre Dame’s goal is to not be left out in the cold for the first College Football Playoff. To do so, the Irish will have to rebound after going 9-4 in 2013. They’ll take those first steps when spring practice starts Monday.
The team opens camp with several changes.
There is a new defensive coordinator, a new offensive coordinator and an old/new quarterback.
“As I look at it, we’re a talented football team but inexperienced in a number of areas,” Kelly said. “And it’s our job to get those inexperienced players ready to play. And this is the time to do it.”
Brian VanGorder is the defensive coordinator. He replaces Bob Diaco, who is the coach at Connecticut. Mike Denbrock was promoted to offensive coordinator. He held the position on an interim basis after Chuck Martin left to become the Miami (Ohio) coach.
Quarterback Everett Golson’s return highlights the changes to the player personnel. Golson said he was suspended for the fall for “poor academic judgment.”
Kelly listed quarterback as one of three inexperienced spots.
“Everett has to continue to evolve. Malik [Zaire] hasn’t stepped on the field, and [incoming freshman]DeShone [Kizer] is going to come in with no experience,” Kelly said. “That’s a position that needs seasoning.”
There are holes to fill on the defensive line and at inside linebacker.
Nose guard Louis Nix III and defensive end Stephon Tuitt elected to enter the NFL draft rather than return to the program. Sheldon Day is among the returning linemen.
The Irish will have to replace inside linebackers — and leading tacklers — Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. Kendall Moore, Doug Randolph, Joe Schmidt and Michael Deeb could be among those in the mix.
“Those inexperienced players are getting coached,” Kelly said. “They’ll have an opportunity in the spring to get some opportunities to compete and get this football team experienced to the point where they can compete with a very challenging schedule in 2014.”
NOTES: Matthias Farley moved from safety to cornerback. Other changes include James Onwualu (from receiver to safety) and John Turner (safety to outside linebacker). Former running back Will Mahone is at wide receiver. Running back Amir Carlisle is listed as a running back/wide receiver.
◆ Brian VanGorder also will coach the inside linebackers. Bob Elliott, who coached safeties last year, will coach the outside linebackers. Kerry Cooks is the defensive backs coach. He was the co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach last season.