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Mike McGlinchey has called the turnaround a “complete 180” from last season, though only time will tell if the on-field results follow for the Notre Dame football program.
A 4-8 finish was unacceptable. But six new on-field assistants and a revamped strength and conditioning program have jumpstarted the Irish this offseason.
“It’s absolutely different. Everything about it,” said McGlinchey, the fifth-year senior left tackle. “The way we work. The preparation we’re putting in. The detail (by which) we go about our business. The way we train. Everything has changed and we all believe it’s for the better.”
McGlinchey, one of six team captains named in December — head coach Brian Kelly said he may add one more — had trouble imagining a world in which the necessary fixes weren’t made.
New coordinators Chip Long (offense) and Mike Elko (defense) wouldn’t be around. Brian Polian would not be in South Bend to improve the special teams and Matt Balis’ spark in the weight room would not have occurred.
“After USC and your eighth loss of the season, you know something is going to change,” McGlinchey said. “We didn’t know what was coming but we trusted Coach Kelly and the guys that he’s put into place and the way he’s gone about taking back control of this football team have been tremendous.”
“It’s hard to imagine it staying status quo and it turning back. We certainly wouldn’t be in the place we are now if the changes hadn’t been made.”
For many on the outside of the program, the changes were obvious. For example, a defense that struggled to stop the run and create turnovers needed new ideas.
The Irish are getting that with the highly-regarded Elko, considered one of the best offseason hires in the country.
“Obviously we knew things needed to change,” said senior linebacker Greer Martini, also a team captain. “We put our faith in Coach Kelly and those changes have been positive with our strength program and on the field as well.”
“Notre Dame would have fixed it. Ultimately we would have come back strong, but who knows? I really couldn’t see it.”
The groundwork has been laid for the reworked Notre Dame program the past three-plus months. But as the Irish conclude spring practice in the coming weeks and enter summer workouts, staying on the course is key.
“We feel as though we’re on a great track,” McGlinchey said. “We have goals in sight and we have the confidence now that we feel can finally meet those goals. It’s been a great feeling going through winter training and spring ball, and having the success that we’ve been having and seeing it across the board.”
“We have to have a growth mindset,” Martini said. “Every day we have to attack it with the idea that we’re going to get better as a team. Ultimately that will lead to success during the season.”
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