SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Following the official announcement of his team's postseason destiny, and following a preliminary title-game conference call with opposing coach Nick Saban, Brian Kelly stepped to the podium of the Gug Auditorium on Sunday night and issued somewhat of a challenge.
"OK, fire away," he began. "I'll try to answer the questions that have been asked a different way for the eighth time. So let's be creative."
Turns out an undefeated regular season and chance to play for the sport's highest prize comes with its challenges, too.
All of which are welcomed by a Notre Dame program that has not seen heights like these in 24 years.
There's the issue of seniors with another year of eligibility remaining. There's the issue of underclassmen debating early entry into the NFL draft. There's the issue of getting everyone healthy for one more game. And there's the issue of assistant coaches becoming targets to lead other programs.
The last issue may be the biggest one as it relates to Notre Dame's prep for the Jan. 7 title game against Alabama. Reports indicate that defensive coordinator Bob Diaco will interview for the head-coaching job at Boston College, following a regular season that saw the Irish lead the nation in scoring defense (10.33 ppg).
"First of all, it doesn't surprise me if they want to talk to Bob Diaco," Kelly said. "I think he's the finest defensive coordinator in the country, so I think Bob is a bright football coach. We have conversations about it, and all I can tell you is that it doesn't surprise me that he's part of it. I won't get into the specifics about conversations with particular schools out of respect for them and their process, but it wouldn't be a surprise to me that they'd be after Bob Diaco."
"I'm not a guy that's going to run down his office and give him the top-10 list of questions you're going to get asked on the interview," Kelly later added. "But if he asks me for some input I've been happy to help him with that. But I will tell you this: Bob Diaco is an incredible coach, and he knows he fits so well here at Notre Dame, and that's why we haven't had a ton of conversation about it."
DaVaris Daniels, who broke his left clavicle in a Nov. 10 win at Boston College, should be full-go in two weeks.
"He's doing really well. He started moving his shoulder the first week after Chris Brown caught a couple of passes out there," Kelly said. "It was really quick medicine for him and he's been on the fast track ever since. Week 5 will be full contact for him, so that's the date for him. He's running already. We will have non-contact with him starting on Friday. So you'll see him in 1-on-1 without anybody shadowing him, getting in and out of his routes. We want to get to specific route running and some change of direction stuff. He's making great progress."
The rest of the issues will sort themselves out over these next five weeks, in between preparation for a Tide team that is going for its third national title in the last four seasons.
For an Irish program aspiring to reach that level of consistent greatness, no one is complaining.
"The preliminary conversations have already taken place with those guys that have another season of competition," Kelly said. "We haven't made any decisions but a lot of that is a lot of our guys know where they're moving. I think that we have some guys that want to look at the NFL opportunity and we filled out the paperwork for guys to be evaluated by the NFL. And then we have coaches that will be targeted by other programs. That's a good thing.
"All three of those things, that means good things are happening in your program. Those are the kind of problems that I want to be able to deal with on a day-to-day basis, because that means you're developing your program in a manner that's putting you in position to compete for championships. Those are all things that really good programs have to deal with, and we'll deal with that appropriately in the same manner."