Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 3/27/12

College football fans have long believed that year three is a critical year for a new coach in a program. At Notre Dame, coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all won National Championships in year three. Year three will be very important for current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, but in my opinion it's not as critical as some may lead you to believe.

Now don't get me wrong, I do believe Kelly's Iirsh need to show vast improvement this year. Kelly is starting to get his players into his program and run his schemes. The change in mental toughness is evident, but the Irish need to show more attention to detail and discipline this year. This year losses should be because the oppostion was simply better, and not because of a lack of mental discipline. 

As important as year three will be for Kelly, in my opinion it's not do or die. With a tough schedule and young players the Irish have a tough road, but improvment for the team will mean more wins than losses. This will continue the postiive trend that Kelly has instilled in the program so far. And that in turn will fuel recruiting such as we are seeing with his Class of 2013.

Additionally, I believe that Tommy Rees cannot be named the starting quarterback. Understand that I like Rees and feel he has done an outstanding job in his two years at the reigns. But for the offense to function at full speed, one of the young and moblie quarterbacks must get the nod. A quarterback who can run will really open up the offense considerably, and the good thing about Kelly's system is you don't need to have three years in the system to execute it well like you needed under Weis.  Whomever the returning starter would be would have enough experience to make enough plays to win the tough games in 2013.  

Running back would also be stocked.in 2013 with Cierre Wood possible coming back for  a fifth year, George Atkinson and Amir Carlisle would give the Irish plenty of speed and playmaking ability at the running back position, more than they've had in a very long time, and Will Mahone would add a different element to gain the tough yards and inside running they'll need in certain situations.  

Notre Dame also has a bunch of up and coming receivers who will get some valuable experience and the chance to contribute this year. DaVaris Daniels has impresse this spring and is expected to make a huge jump this season. T.J. Jones is another player who many expect to step up his game this season after a very difficult 2011 season with the death of his father.  These two would seem the most likely to take a step forward in 2012 to grab starting spots and step into "playmaker" roles.  

On defense, they will have a few more holes to replace, but the core of talent returning is excellent at most positions.  Aaron Lynch, Stephon Tuitt, Louis Nix III, Kona Schwenke and Chase Hounshell along with talented freshmen Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones have the ability to form one of the best defensive lines in college football. Depth, experience and talent is in abundance for 2013.  

At outside backer, the Irish need Ishaq Williams to emerge and Prince Shembo, Danny Spond and Ben Councell to all bring athleticism to the other position.  The outside backer position hasn't been overly productive so far in the Bob Diaco system, but the Irish staff should have plenty of athletes to coach up at this position.  They just need to coach some of these talented prospects to become more productive at these positions.  The talent is there to be highly productive in the future.  

Believe it or not, safety and not cornerback will be the biggest issue in 2013. The Irish have good size and players at corner with Bennett Jackson, Josh Atkinson, and Jalen Brown. However, at safety, they will lose  Zeke Motta, Jamoris Slaughter and Dan McCarthy after 2012.  It will up to Eilar Hardy, who was hurt most of this season, and then five freshmen, who have zero experience thus far in practicing and playing in Notre Dame's system.  This will be the big question mark heading into 2013.

The future is bright for Kelly and the Irish, however, to get there in good shape, they'll have to show strong improvement in 2012.  The pieces are in place.  This team just has to do their job this season and Irish fans could be in for some great football in 2013 and beyond. Again, in my opinion, 2012 is not a make or break season for Kelly and his staff, but I do think it's an important season for the Irish program.  Looking ahead, fans should be able to see a solid foundation being built.  

Should the Irish be successful in 2012 they will be well on their way to Kelly's goal of a competitive and consistent BCS caliber team.  So the questions becomes for Kelly, in year three, will the 2012 squad do their job to get them there?

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

TJ Ward on suspension appeal: ‘My last name’s not Brady’

Jerry Jones on Brady ruling: ‘I’m ready for us to play football’

Report: Jim Harbaugh's 'Summer Swarm' tour cost $211K

Three injured when bolt falls from roof of Lucas Oil Stadium

Utah beats Michigan 24-17, ruins Jim Harbaugh’s debut

Patriots keep Tom Brady excitement close to vest

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Wayne happy about Brady verdict: 'That's my quarterback'

Markieff Morris on Twitter: ‘My future will not be in Phoenix’

Jonathan Kraft on asking for draft picks: 'Never say never'

Redskins charge non-season ticket holders $50 to use will call

Arthur Blank on Roger Goodell: ‘Change may be appropriate’

Belichick gives typical reply to question about Brady's freedom

Daughter unimpressed by dad playing golf with Tiger Woods

Best and worst surprises of NFL preseason

Tim Tebow shines in Eagles’ final preseason game

Minnesota loses against TCU, but shows it belongs

Trevone Boykin’s Heisman bid off to rocky start against Minnesota

Michigan lost their opener, but showed signs of improvement

Aaron Rodgers on Brady ruling: ‘It’s a good day for the players’

Jim Harbaugh uses Seahawks play card and Seattle loves it

First drive of Jim Harbaugh Era in Michigan ends in interception

Redskins fan who named son after RG3: ‘I don’t regret it at all’

Freshmen to watch in Week 1 of college football

Early returns on Manny Machado, MLB shortstop

Judge Berman offered free coffee for life

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Best, worst surprises of NFL preseason

The Gospel Of Harbaugh prepares for its ultimate test of faith

Meet the Utah Utes, the pluckiest program in college football

Iman Shumpert will name daughter Iman Shumpert Jr.

Dallas company celebrates Romo with DirecTV 'crownies'

Top 10 storylines for Week 4 of the NFL preseason

Matt Williams is still hopelessly married to the idea of the closer’s role

Five unique CFB games to watch this weekend

Be careful what you wish for, Jay Gruden

Ryan taking leap of faith with Bills

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker