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Kelly said the back end of the defense is a question mark, though Harrison Smith and defensive backs Darrin Walls, Robert Blanton and Gary Gray have experience.

Place-kicker Nick Tausch hit a school-record 14 straight field goals at one juncture last season before missing the final three games with a foot injury.

For Tausch to get a lot of PAT attempts, Crist must stay healthy.

Behind him are Nate Montana, Joe Montana’s son who had a strong spring game, and some promising freshmen in Tommy Rees, Andrew Hendrix and Luke Massa. But no experience.

“If something happens to Dayne Crist, I can’t go, ‘Guys I’m sorry we didn’t win this week, I didn’t do a good job of getting the No. 2 ready,’” Kelly said as he pretended to cry. “You don’t get that, you got to get them ready.”

The Irish have what appears to be a favorable schedule. There are seven home games _ three in the first month against the Boilermakers, Michigan and Stanford _ and a designated eighth at Yankee Stadium against Army.

Some of the players have been around for consecutive seasons of 3-9, 7-6 and 6-6 under Weis. Asked how he changed their thinking, Kelly said it was being done out of the eye of the media and the public.

“Behind closed doors is where we are really developing relationships with our players. We can push them in those spots that maybe they didn’t handle as well,” he said. “Those are areas where it has nothing to do with Xs ad Os, this is about developing a toughness, about demanding and setting expectations and understanding those.”

The expectations came into focus quickly this summer when eight football players were among those arrested for underage drinking. At a team meeting, the new coach let those involved know that this is not the type of publicity he expected to see. Translated: don’t do it again. He didn’t say how the situation was handled internally.

Now it’s time to see if the Irish can implement Kelly’s plan after he runs out of that tunnel and starts a new era.

“We took this job over with the idea that we’re not going anywhere. I’m staying here for the rest of my life and going to coach Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “This is all about getting this program nationally in the top echelon immediately and then continue to work on that every single day.”