NOTRE DAME — Irish head coach Brian Kelly resumed his message Monday, exactly where he left off with it in April when the spring football season wrapped up and his players went their separate ways for summer break.
Through the spring, summer and all the way back seven months to when the 4-8 meltdown of last season ended, Kelly's mantra to his Notre Dame players has remained consistent — borderline boring, actually.
"Always trust the process," Kelly said Monday when asked to describe how he has evolved as a coach from last year. "I was focused way too much on production (last season) and not the process itself."
Kelly opened fall training camp Monday with his annual press conference before the team heads to Culver Academies on Tuesday for the first eight of its 26 camp practices before the season opener Sept. 2 against Temple.
"I let our football team down not focusing on those very important values and that process, and went right to production," Kelly continued in reflection to 2016. " … Look, we haven't played a game. We got a lot of work to do and it's going to be hard, but we're in a different place."
Part of this Irish overhaul, Kelly said, stems from creating more traceability and accountability for the players. The coaches have devised a very public scoring system that hangs in the weight room. It rates and ranks each player's effort, performance and improvement in every facet of campus life and football.
Satisfied, Hungry and Starving are the three categories a player can be listed under. Players who reach Starving status — the most flattering category — are awarded a green T-shirt for workouts. Staring quarterback Brandon Wimbush has consistently been one of the starving Irish players throughout the summer.
"He has lived in the trait of excellence," Kelly said. "So we wanted other players to see Brandon Wimbush in a green shirt and say 'that's what it looks like — the way he handles himself, the way he works, his attention to detail, the way he handles himself on campus — that's what I want to model myself after.'"
That Wimbush continues to set a great tone and embrace leadership will not only be vital to the success of Notre Dame this season but also to Brian Kelly's future as Irish coach, which is a bit unnerving considering the entire body of work for the new Irish QB is two games, five pass attempts, 17 passing yards and one rushing touchdown.
In fact, the 6-2, 226-pound junior hasn't taken a snap, called a play or thrown a meaningful pass at Notre Dame since he was a true freshman in 2015, all of which provides limited data, at best, as to whether Wimbush is the proper piece to turn fortunes for the Irish this season ... but ready or not.
"I don't have any worries other than that we continue to build on the process that we talked about with Brandon," Kelly said, "being smart, an attention to detail, and coaching him accordingly in a very positive atmosphere."