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Sounds like Fighting Irish fans have their guy

If Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly can fire up his players like he did his Monday luncheon audience, the Irish may be playing for a national championship soon.

Of course, the members of the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Hilton Head do not have to put on uniforms and battle the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Southern Cal and Stanford on fall afternoons.

But let there be no doubt, a national title is on Kelly's mind as he "talks the talk." The question is does he have the players that can "walk the walk" to a BCS bowl?

Kelly has a firm grasp of what is expected of him at Notre Dame. "We have no five-year plan, no three-year plan," he said at a small press conference prior to his pep talk at the Sea Pines Country Club. "At Notre Dame you are required to win every game, every year."

Kelly went on to say that the Fighting Irish "will not be taken seriously on a national level until we beat a team from the Southeastern Conference." And since ND has no SEC teams on its current schedule or any on its upcoming schedules, that means they have to qualify for a BCS bowl for such a matchup.

"Since we are not in a conference, we need to go undefeated to get a spot in one of the four BCS bowls and hopefully play an SEC team," he said. "That's the goal."

Last year there was a great deal of speculation that Notre Dame might be joining the Big Ten. Kelly said this is not on his agenda.

"We recruit from coast to coast and we play teams all around the country, so it makes no sense to me to join a conference," he said.

"Of course, the decision is beyond my pay grade, but I think it is very important that they (the administration) listen to me," Kelly quipped.

Notre Dame's first season under Kelly had its ups and downs. The Irish went 8-5 and three defeats were by a total of eight points. The low point was a 28-27 loss to Tulsa, which gave the Irish a 4-5 record.

"We had the largest pep rally in Notre Dame history after the Tulsa loss," Kelly recalled. "The spirit throughout the campus was unbelievable. That was a turning point for our team."

Notre Dame finished the season with four straight victories, beating Southern Cal and then Miami in the Sun Bowl.

Kelly expects to do better than the Sun Bowl this season and he was asked about two players who might play a key role. One is former Myrtle Beach star Everett Golson, who is one of four quarterbacks vying for playing time in 2011. The other is Michael Floyd, the leading receiver last season who is currently suspended after an arrest for drunk driving in March.

"Golson is a young man who enrolled early, and based on what we saw of him in the spring, it is really going to be difficult to keep him off the field," Kelly said.

Asked about Floyd's status, the coach was very direct.

"He has a number of things he has to take care of," Kelly said. "One is academics. He had to have a specific GPA last semester and he did that. He's got some community service duties and he's got a court date to get past.

"If Mike is capable of changing his life, he will play every game. If he is not, he will never play another down at Notre Dame."

The Hilton Head Alumni Club earned the coach's appearance when it was named the best of its size, and the 92 members and guests walked out of the luncheon singing Kelly's praises. One comment I overheard said it all:

"I think we have finally found our man."

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