SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — If No. 2 Notre Dame manages to secure its second College Football Playoff berth, coach Brian Kelly’s words before his Fighting Irish secured their first one in 2018 will have proven prophetic.
“Look, we need to get better from 65 to 85 — that 65th scholarship to the 85th scholarship,” Kelly said on national signing day in February 2018, more than 10 months before the 12-0 Irish faced Clemson in a CFP semifinal.
The Tigers manhandled the Irish 30-3 behind freshman Trevor Lawrence’s three touchdown passes against an Irish secondary weakened with All-America cornerback Julian Love in concussion protocol. It was evident then that Notre Dame needed to improve its talent on both sides of the line of scrimmage and create adequate depth if it wanted to challenge the top CFP contenders.