- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and his team, the goal has not changed. What’s different this year is how they’ll have to get there.

“Every year our expectations are to compete for a championship,” Kelly said Thursday at a football camp he hosted at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. “With the playoff format now it’s ‘How do you get to the playoffs?’”

After a disappointing loss in the BCS National Championship to a rolling Alabama team in 2012, Kelly’s team went 9-4 in 2013 but struggled to win against teams it was favored over. Its frustrating season was summed up in a 28-21 loss to Pittsburgh late in the year. That’s not a place the Irish want to be.

“We don’t play for a conference championship, you know,” said Kelly. “We won our bowl game last year, won nine games and many people see that as a disappointing year. I think the expectations are to get back there. We’ve got a young team, but a talented team, and we’re excited like everybody else about the schedule.”

Though the talent portion of Kelly’s prediction has yet to be tested, it can’t be disputed that his roster is young. The Irish lost several key players to the NFL draft, including 11 starters. The 2014 roster however, will be bolstered by the 11th-ranked recruiting class in the nation.

One key change for Kelly is at quarterback. Senior Tommy Rees’ departure left the starting spot vacant for the incumbent redshirt senior Everett Golson, who beat Rees out for the starting job in 2012. He spent that entire season as the Irish starter, but was suspended for cheating on a test in May 2013. He was reinstated by the school in December 2013.

“Getting him back to school — he obviously played in the national championship for us — getting him back obviously is a boost for our team,” said Kelly. “He brings the athleticism to the position that I like at that position especially for the type of offense that I want to run.”

The Irish are hoping that Golston brings the same measure of success in 2014 as he did in 2012 when Notre Dame went undefeated until it faced Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide for the national championship.

Said Kelly: “I think we’re in a good position I think people clearly know that he brings a new dimension to our offense and it should be a fun and exciting season for the Notre Dame fans.”

There will be plenty of question marks for the Fighting Irish heading into the 2014 season, but Kelly is optimistic that his young team will meet expectations and contend for a championship against some of the best teams in the nation.

The schedule includes tough games for Notre Dame against Stanford, USC and Florida State as well as a Nov. 1 game against Navy at FedEx Field.

“We’ve got a difficult schedule,” said Kelly, “but one that we feel [is manageable]. Every year that’s why you go to Notre Dame, is to compete for championships.”

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