Doyel: Embracing change allowed Brian Kelly to lead Notre Dame to College Football Playoff

Doyel: Embracing change allowed Brian Kelly to lead Notre Dame to College Football Playoff

Notre Dame has a new quarterback this season. Probably you’ve heard about Ian Book replacing Brandon Wimbush. Other notable changes from last season’s 10-win team: Two new offensive linemen, after Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey were among the top 10 picks of the 2018 NFL draft. And a new offensive line coach. Plus a new defensive coordinator. Let’s see, what else: New running back, new No. 1 receiver, new safeties coach …

Remarkable, really, what Notre Dame has achieved this season after all that upper-level upheaval: 12 victories, no losses, with only Clemson on Saturday at the Cotton Bowl between the Irish and a spot in the College Football Playoff national championship.

Look at all those new faces, and understand something: The biggest change Notre Dame has made in the past year, the most shocking change, is at head coach. And Brian Kelly didn’t go anywhere.

Deuces to the old Brian Kelly

When the Irish visited AT&T Stadium in Dallas earlier this week for their first workout, they took the field to the sound of music. No, not the musical. And not the normal stuff the Irish hear warming up. This was Tuesday — this was Christmas — and their coach had a surprise for them.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, by Mariah Carey.

He’s silly like that, Brian Kelly. Well, he’s silly now. OK, maybe this is closer to the target: He’s more willing this season to show his players his silly side. On Oct. 26, Kelly set social media afire by hopping into a photo with several players who were giving the camera two fingers — as in “deuces,” or see ya later — before a flight to San Diego for the Navy game. The picture shows Kelly, his leather work portfolio perched in one hand, two fingers stiffly pointing from the other.

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