SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) - Ask around the Notre Dame football program about why they're 12-0, and you'll hear the words "unity," "brotherhood," and "family" tossed around in bunches.
It wasn't always like that.
Following last year's loss to USC, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly drove a major wedge between the players he recruited and the players recruited by his predecessor Charlie Weis.
"You can see the players that I recruited here," Kelly told media. "You know who they are. We've had one class that I've had my hand on. The other guys here are coming along. But it's a process. It can't happen overnight. They're getting there. We're making good progress."
The comments alienated many and divided the locker room. After the outburst, the players from the prior regime took to social media to lash out. Star linebacker Manti Te'o even tweeted, "Playing for my bros and that's it!"
Kelly apologized afterwards, but it's what he did this year to make amends that has Notre Dame at the top of college football once again.
"I made it a point to spend more time with our team this year because that's why I got into this. I want to develop 18-21 year olds," said Kelly last month. "You want to learn about them. You want to know your strengths and weaknesses. You want to help them with leadership skills. You want to help them when they're not feeling confident in their ability."
The players agree that Kelly's new approach has got them where they are today, playing for a national championship.
"He really took the time out of his schedule to get to know his players, and it has obviously paid dividends this year," said Te'O.
"He's really learned a lot about each individual guy and what you can do to push guys to different limits," added senior center Braxston Cave. "The first year, I think it was hard to learn every guy and what makes him tick, but he's done an awesome job of learning that, and it's definitely taken this team to a different level."
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