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Football: Kelly discusses Eagles interview, 2013 personnel

Matthew DeFranks | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Philadelphia Eagles came calling, and Brian Kelly answered – but that’s all it was.

For the first time since Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, the Irish coach addressed the media regarding his interest in the NFL.

“I will tell you that the discussion was more about intrigue on my part,” Kelly said. “I had obviously always been in the college game, really did not have a good grasp of the NFL set up. So for me, my head said let’s be more informed as it relates to the NFL, but my heart is in college football and with Notre Dame.”

Kelly said he wanted to learn more about the NFL but ultimately found the college game more attractive.

“Because we’re going to win again next year, and there are probably going to be teams that have an interest in coaching in the NFL, and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college,” Kelly said.

Kelly said the Eagles’ opening was not a distraction in the lead-up to the championship game.

“I wasn’t even certain I was going to interview,” he said. “It wasn’t even on my radar. So there was never any consideration. It wasn’t an option. I think I even said that it wasn’t an option for me because I wasn’t even thinking about it, and hadn’t decided that that was the direction I was going to go.”

Kelly said the Eagles reached out via Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick either the day of or the day after former coach Andy Reid’s firing. Kelly’s agent then set up a meeting with the Eagles in Nashville – where Kelly accepted the AFCA Coach of the Year award – the day after the national title game.

“If there was anything that I would have done differently, it would have been to close that timeline relative to my interview and coming out with a statement,” Kelly said. “I was on vacation with my wife, we were away, we weren’t watching TV, but I should have been more sensitive to the fact that there was a time period going on and released a statement much sooner.”

As the recruiting cycle winds down and Kelly closes in on a top-five class, the possible coaching change could have been a problem, but Kelly downplayed the issue.

“So I think the recruits, I tell them up front that I’m committed to Notre Dame, flattered that the NFL would want me to be one of their coaches, but it’s just not what I want to do,” he said. “I want to be a college football coach.”

Kelly talks extension

In light of Notre Dame’s first 12-win season in nearly 25 years, Swarbrick and Kelly have been discussing a contract extension since Dec. 6.

“We both want the same thing,” Kelly said. “That is the long term consistency of the program. So we’re, again, I think the best way I could say is that Jack and I are in lockstep in how we want to continue to build this program. So I feel really good about that.”

Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis signed a 10-year contract extension in his first year with the Irish. Swarbrick recently extended both women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw and men’s basketball coach Mike Brey’s contracts.

Surgeries force Jackson, Fox out

Senior cornerback Bennett Jackson and fifth-year candidate Dan Fox both underwent postseason shoulder surgeries that will keep them out of spring practice. Jackson’s procedure repaired a torn labrum, and Kelly said Fox had a similar surgery.

Jackson started all 13 games for the Irish and racked up 65 tackles and four interceptions. Fox is expected back in the fall for a fifth season after totaling 63 tackles and a sack.

Kelly said he expects senior safety Austin Collinsworth, who missed the entire 2012 season after sustaining a shoulder injury, to return to action in the spring. Junior center Matt Hegarty and senior cornerback Lo Wood have also progressed in their recoveries, Kelly said.

Senior offensive tackle Tate Nichols may not recover and may not play again, Kelly said. Nichols was sidelined with a leg injury and may be eligible for a medical hardship. Junior offensive lineman Brad Carrico and senior running back Cameron Roberson were given medical hardships last semester.

A numbers game

Kelly said the possible fifth- and sixth-year players have not been decided.

“Once we finish up our numbers in recruiting, then we start to talk about our fifth year guys,” he said. “They’re all, as we’ve had in the past, they’ll continue to train because they’re in school anyway. Then we’ll let them know what our decision is as we talk to the University relative to granting that additional year.”

Potential fifth-year players include left tackle Zack Martin, left guard Chris Watt and linebackers Carlo Calabrese and Fox.

Graduate student safety Jamoris Slaughter missed most of last season after he tore his Achilles’ tendon and has applied for a sixth year of eligibility.

“We’re still in the process of an appeal for an additional season of competition.  We’re hopeful we’ll hear something before the conclusion of recruiting,” Kelly said. “It’s one of those things that everybody wants to know.  I know I want to know.  The media wants to know.  Certainly Jamoris wants to know.  But we just don’t have an answer at this point.”

Replacing Te’o, Cave

The Irish will have to fill glaring holes next season after the departures of All-American linebacker Manti Te’o and center Braxston Cave.

Kelly said Calabrese, Fox and sophomore Jarrett Grace are in the discussion to replace Te’o. Senior Kendall Moore is also in the mix, Kelly said. The Irish have received a commitment from Michael Deeb, a three-star middle linebacker from Plantation, Fla.

Kelly said Hegarty, junior Nick Martin and sophomore Mark Harrell will all get looks for the center position.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu