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Stories of the Year: Part II

This is second part of a three part series reviewing the biggest stories of the past 12 months on Blueandgold.com

Irish coach Brian Kelly struck up a controversy with his comments to media following the team's loss to USC in October.

The 2011-12 school year was a series of ups and downs for the Irish football team as upperclassmen adjusted to their second year with head coach Brian Kelly and his new staff. Kelly started the year by saying he thought his whole team was buying in during training camp, but was less sure about some of his players after a loss to USC in late October.

Still, the coach built enough trust in his team that for the second year in a row talented draft-ready players are returning to finish their last year of college. Irish seniors Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert provided a major boost for the team by returning this fall and their announcement tops the middle part of our most memorable stories from the past year.

6. A Line is Drawn
A bad week got worse in the days following Notre Dame’s 31-17 loss to USC in late October. The typically verbally agile Kelly stuck his toes between his teeth in a midweek interview when he made a clear delineation between the players he has recruited and those who were on campus when he arrived.

"You can see the players that I have recruited, you know who they are," Kelly said. "The other guys here are coming along. It’s a process. It can’t happen overnight. They’re getting it. They’re making good progress."

Several upperclassmen took to social media to crow back at their coach about their “progress.” The comments seemed to cause a locker room rift, but Kelly apologized during a team meeting later that week. All wounds were healed by the time the team took out its frustrations in a 56-14 win over Navy that Saturday.

5. Trouble with the Law
The quarterback competition took an unexpected twist on the last day of the spring semester when police arrested Rees and senior linebacker Carlo Calabrese at an off-campus party.

Rees, 19 at the time, had been drinking and tried to flee when police arrived to break up the party shortly after midnight. After a short chase and struggle, Rees spent the better part of a day behind bars before being charged with four misdemeanors including one count of battery for his scuffle with the officer. Calabrese, who is also fighting for playing time this fall, allegedly threatened police twice as they tried to detain Rees and was charged one count of intimidation.

Punishments from the court, school or football program have not yet been handed down to either player. ResLife, the university's disciplinary arm, softened its previously unbending rules in the past two years in cases like Irish wide receiver Michael Floyd's drunk driving arrest last spring. Their decision on Rees and Calabrese will draw national attention. Rees is due back in court on July 24 and Calabrese on August 20.

4. All-American Encore
The impact of seniors Tyler Eifert and Manti Te’o returning to the Irish football team can’t be overstated. The top underclassmen on each side of the ball decided this winter to put their NFL hopes on hold for one more year.

By coming back, Eifert gives the Irish a proven weapon in the passing game that would have been severely lacking without him. Te’o will once again be the hub of a defense with several questions marks. They also further the argument that the Irish coaching staff is doing something right. Three of the four draft-ready underclassmen in the past two years have decided to play out their eligibility in college.

“No amount of money could bring that joy and pride to my life and to my family, and that’s something that I couldn’t give up, those memories I could make,” Te’o said the day after he announced his decision in December.

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