But player personnel is his turf. He's not going to gush over a player he feels doesn't deserve the praise. He'll yell at quarterback Dayne Crist on the sideline on national television if he feels that's the best way to get the message across. And he's not going to shed too many tears over losing Kyle Rudolph if he thinks he can win without him.
''Well, certainly, you lose one of the best tight ends in the country, that's a loss,'' Kelly said when asked about ''missing that kind of weapon'' from his offense. ''But one playeris not going to stop what we do. It's a next-man in philosophy for us, Tyler Eifert, Mike Ragone, [Jake] Golic; those guys are going to have to step up and play the position for us at a high level. We think those guys can. We have a lot of confidence in them.''
Ever the pragmatist, Kelly came close to acknowledging the likelihood that a healthy Eifert/Ragone will give Notre Dame more than they were getting from Rudolph over the past three games. The 6-6 junior had one catch for one yard against Stanford; one wide-open catch for a two-yard touchdown against Boston College; and five for 38 yards against Pittsburgh last week.
Notre Dame will miss Rudolph. But it's a hit Kelly's offense can take. Nothing against Rudolph, but losing an All-America offensive tackle would be more damaging.
It will be interesting to see if Kelly tries to make that point against Western Michigan. The next-man-in philosophy is dear to his heart. At mid-season last year he lost quarterback Tony Pike who was a longshot Heisman Trophy candidate. Zach Collaros was so effective in four starts in Pike's place that when Pike was healthy, Kelly was compelled to announce Pike as the starter against Illinois just to quell any burgeoning quarterback controversy.
And that's at quarterback. So when Kelly loses a tight end, even one as good as Kyle Rudolph, he'll keep right on going. With all due respect, of course.