Kelly invited Bradley to speak at Notre Dame’s coaches clinic last month. On Thursday, Kelly was in town to attend the Notre Dame Club of Greater Jacksonville’s luncheon at the River Club atop the Wells Fargo Center.

“I’m fortunate enough that I get the chance to be around many head coaches across the NFL,” Kelly said. “I have a great relationship with a number of them. I think Gus Bradley is one of the finer head coaches that I’ve been around. I’m a big believer in the way he’s built this program. You could see it last year with the way they finished, the buy-in.”

Kelly believes Bradley’s interaction with people makes him unique.

“What’s struck me is that he really focuses on the individual,” Kelly said. “I think you see it from some of the free-agent signings. Guys that are coming to Jacksonville without even taking a visit, because they know about Gus Bradley. So, you’ve got the right man, a great leader. It’s pretty clear what he did in Seattle. You saw the remnants of that defense he put together. I’m a big Gus Bradley fan.”

Kelly had plenty of fans on Thursday, eager to hear about the Fighting Irish’s outlook for the coming season. Notre Dame went 9-4 last season after reaching the national championship game the previous season.

Kelly, 37-15 in his four seasons at the school, will have plenty of key players to replace. One of those veterans is defensive tackle Louis Nix, a Raines graduate.

Nix signed with Notre Dame as a blue-chip recruit and lived up to the hype. He’s expected to be a first-round pick on May 8.

“We’re very proud of his accomplishments and it starts with him getting his degree from Notre Dame,” Kelly said. “He took the challenge to go to Notre Dame and it wasn’t easy. He could’ve went anywhere in the country, but he chose to come to Notre Dame and helped us go to a national championship game. So, a great career, and I think he’s going to have a great career in the NFL.”

In addition to Nix, Notre Dame could have two more players selected in the first round. Offensive tackle Zack Martin is a near lock, while defensive end Stephon Tuitt has a solid chance.

“We’re a younger team,” Kelly said. “We lost a lot of veterans. I mentioned Nix and Tuitt, but Zack Martin will be a first-rounder. I could go on and on, so a lot of players that we lost. But we have the remnants of a very good and exciting football team coming back.”

Notre Dame closed spring practice without naming a starting quarterback. Kelly wants senior Everett Golson and sophomore Malik Zaire to continue battling. Golson started 11 games for Notre Dame as a sophomore, but was suspended all of last season for cheating on an exam.

Notre Dame has its usual rivalry games with Michigan, Stanford and Southern California this season, but there’s another contest that is the headliner.