Friday, January 22, 2010

New Coaching Roster...Prepped and Ready to Go

Pretty much every major Notre Dame news source has been busy covering the new coaching staff (especially the always excellent Blue-Gray Sky blog) recently. I have particularly enjoyed The Observer’s series of articles about each of the new coaches.

If you click on the Blue-Gray Sky link above, you can check out their complete listing of the new coaching staff, which provides a run-down of what position each coach has been hired for, how many years of experience they have in that position, what BCS teams they have coached (if any), and little trivia bits for each coach.

Since I’ve already babbled on long enough, I’m just going to give a brief listing of the coaches and provide a few thoughts about things I’ve noticed so far. Here’s the basic run-down. Next to each coach’s name, in parentheses, is the title of the position they coached in 2009, and the name of the school where they coached that position:


Head Coach: Brian Kelly

Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks Coach: Charley Molnar (Passing Game Coordinator & Wide Receivers Coach, Cincinnati)
Offensive Line Coach: Ed Warinner (Offensive Coordinator, Kansas)
Running Backs: Tim Hinton (Same position, Cincinnati)
Wide Receivers: Tony Alford (Running Backs Coach, Notre Dame)
Tight Ends: Mike Denbrock (Associate Head Coach, Indiana State)
Graduate Assistant: Michael Painter (Staff Assistant, Cincinnati)

Defensive Coordinator / Inside Linebackers Coach: Bob Diaco (Same position, Cincinnati)
Defensive Line / Special Teams Coordinator: Mike Elston (Same position + Assistant Head Coach, Cincinnati)
Outside Linebackers: Kerry Cooks (Defensive Backs Coach, Wisconsin)
Defensive Backs: Chuck Martin (Head Coach, Grand Valley State [Division II])
Graduate Assistant: Bill Brechin (Graduate Assistant, Grand Valley State)

We’ve got a new Strength & Conditioning staff for the team, too, which will have a huge impact on the team and their preparedness for next year, but I don’t really have any observations to make about them, so I’m not including them here.

So, here are some things to note:

~ As you may have noticed, 5 of Notre Dame’s new staff members are direct hires from Brian Kelly’s Cincinnati staff (Molnar, Hinton, Diaco, Elston, and Painter). Of these five, four retained their coaching positions, and one (Charley Molnar) was promoted to Offensive Coordinator.

~ The lone holdover from Weis’s coaching staff is Tony Alford, who has been moved from running backs coach to wide receivers coach. This will be his first year at the new position, so we’ll see how that goes. It looks like he’ll have a pretty good resource to draw on in Charley Molnar, though; Cincinnati’s fast passing attack in 2009 not only led the Bearcats to an undefeated season, it also led to them finishing dead last in time of possession (averaging 25:46 per game). So. This seems like good news for fine-tuning receivers, but possibly bad news in terms of an overall scheme…we’ll have to see how that works out for the defense, eh?

~ The only other coach on the staff who has experience coaching the Irish is Mike Denbrock (tight ends coach), who coached offensive tackles and tight ends under Willingham from 2000-2002. He helped coach Ryan Grant and Julius Jones, and recruited the likes of David Bruton, Travis Thomas, and Brady Quinn.

~ Ed Warinner is the only coach who has no previous connections to Kelly. Molnar, Hinton, Diaco, Elston, and Painter are obviously connected to Kelly through Cincinnati; one of Alford’s relatives played for Kelly when Kelly was coaching at Grand Valley State, and Alford has also previously worked with Molnar; Mike Denbrock served as Offensive Coordinator and Defensive Coordinator under Kelly at Grand Valley State; Cooks was a teammate of Bob Diaco at Iowa; and Chuck Martin worked on Kelly’s staff at Grand Valley State and was promoted to Head Coach when Kelly was hired at Central Michigan

~ This is a highly experienced staff. Most of them have at least 5 years of experience coaching the specific positions they’ve been hired to coach (3 have more than a decade of experience), and the majority of the staff has experience at higher-level coaching positions. This is Molnar’s first season as Offensive Coordinator and Diaco’s third as Defensive Coordinator; Ed Warinner spent three years as OC at Kansas; Denbrock has served as OC & DC at the D-II level and an Associate Head Coach at the D-I level; Elston was Assistant Head Coach at Cincinnati; and Chuck Martin went 74-7 as the Head Coach at Grand Valley State.

To conclude, here are some quotes that jumped out at me from the introductory press conferences / Observer articles:

From new O-line Coach Ed Warinner:
“Football is teaching and coaching fundamentals relative to what system you’re in, and the advantage I have of coaching a lot of different systems and a lot of different places and a lot of different kids is anything we want to do offensively, I’ll have some kind of perspective on that, and the different issues each kid has.We’ll be able to find ways to make them better.

From new OC Charley Molnar:
“I would be disappointed if we went through this season without a 1,000-yard rusher at the running back position.”

“We are very aggressive in our offensive approach.We are looking to score virtually every time we have the ball. Even at the end of the half, we are looking to score a touchdown if we can. Aggressive also means the type of kids that play for us. We have turned down many good athletes that were offered [scholarships] by other schools because we did not think they were aggressive enough physically on the field to play in our system.”

“In 2008 and 2009 we were Big East Champions. The thing I learned from [those seasons] is that you don’t always have to have the very best players on the field in order to win football games,” he said. “It’s about playing harder than your opponent, and believing in what you do, and really that’s about it. If guys would just [play harder than their opponent], you have a chance to win each and every week.”

So…there you have it, folks. Now we just have to wait…and wait…and wait…and see.

T-minus 224 days until kickoff.


Things that don’t completely piss me off: aka Notre Dame Football’s off-season

It’s not that I’m particularly fond of the off-season or anything. It’s just that the football team can’t do anything to break my heart over the off-season. (Well. Unless they decide to start going around knocking over liquor stores, getting into fights with our basketball players, stealing rosaries from little old ladies on the side of the road, etc. But since Brian Kelly is all about making sure his players are “tough gentlemen,” we’re going to go ahead and assume that he is not going to put up with that sort of hanky-panky during the off-season. Just as soon as he makes sure Michael Floyd gets whapped thoroughly around the wrists and ankles [but not the shoulder—anything but the shoulder.] for a bonehead underage drinking violation that occurred over winter break, I’m sure the team will be all in tip-top shape.)

The exciting news of the moment is that we finally have an entire football staff assembled, we’re going full-speed ahead on recruiting, we have five early enrollees on campus for spring ball, and now—it’s just a game of waiting.

Which is why I’ve got to babble about all this, because I hate waiting.

Interesting Tidbits

--So I hear the football players have all been put on diet plans. FINALLY. One would think that this is pretty much a no-brainer. I mean, come on, you’re unleashing college-age males into an all-you-can-eat dining hall three times a day and you expect them to just magically make all the right food choices on their own? Ppbbbt.

--In the midst of the coaching flux, we’ve managed to lose only two recruits. Whose names I can’t remember, but they’re lousy little de-committers, so who cares anyway?

--Our QB situation is distressing, but not as dire as it could have been. Dayne Crist will still be recovering from his torn ACL during pretty much all of spring ball, but the good news is that we’ll still have two fully healthy quarterbacks on campus for spring ball: one of the early enrollees on campus this semester is freshman QB Tommy Rees, and he’ll be competing alongside Nate Montana, who is back from his less-than-lackluster stint at Pasadena City College (35% in pass completions…youch). But hey, two-and-a-half quarterbacks competing for a starting job is better than nothing, and keep in mind that Kelly has experiencing winning games with inexperienced quarterbacks. In 2008, the Cincinnati Bearcats rotated five different quarterbacks through the lineup and still managed to win the Big East.

Also, in the fall, Crist, Rees, and Montana will be joined by freshman QB Andrew Hendrix. Hendrix was almost a lousy de-committer, backing away for a bit after Weis was let go, and he almost got himself sucked into Urban Meyer’s Evil Recruiting Vortex of Death, Lies, and Doom. (Whoops, sorry Urban, forgot you’re still busy being indefinite about your leave of absence. I’ll have to rephrase that. “The Indefinitely Absent Urban Meyer’s Former Recruiting Vortex of Statements That May or May Not Have Involved Death, Lies, Doom, and Visions from God”) But then Hendrix backed away from Florida, reconsidered, and decided he’d rather attend, to use Hendrix’s own words, “the best University on the face of this planet.” Good boy, Andrew. Way to suck it up to the alumni. You’re going to fit right in here. (You can see this quote on his blog, where he briefly describes the decision-making process involved in committing to the Irish over the Gators. It seems to involve a lot of gut feelings, but no direct visions from God.)

--Jack Swarbrick has been discussing the Irish’s future football schedules with the media. If you are like me and you despise the 7-4-1 model Kevin White came up with, you will be pleased to see this quote from Swarbrick:

We have the goal of the 7-4-1 model, but there may be some years where an opportunity presents itself that we may go to 6-5-1 or 7-5. We’re open to those sorts of modifications.

Yessssssssss. This makes it possible for us to schedule more games with schools that have great football traditions, and who aren’t willing to get skewered by the Irish’s refusal to screw people out of home-and-home series (which is the only thing that makes 7-4-1 possible). However, Swarbrick followed up this comment by saying,

I'd like to try and figure out how to keep the Stanford relationship, because in so many ways, that's an institution we like to do business with and have multiple relationships with across the university. ...I'd like to do more with Duke and Wake and some of those schools. It's really more institutionally focused - what's a good fit for Notre Dame? What sort of looks and feels like us?

Which sort of makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

That is SO not the point of football scheduling, Jack. SO not the point. I mean, okay, I have nothing against building relationships with those schools academically, but not at the cost of sacrificing games with schools that actually have decent football programs. I mean, Stanford is one thing, but Duke? Wake Forest? (Tulsa? WESTERN MICHIGAN?) You’re killin’ me, Petey, you’re killin’ me.

Upcoming: Observations on ND's new coaching staff

Coaching Carousel

Seeing as the grand majority of people who regularly peruse my posts (without leaving comments) seem to be people who only read my enraged drivel because they find it amusing (and not because they regard Notre Dame football as some sort of rare and precious elixir that will last only long enough to ensure that no internal organs shrivel up during the dry, blistering desert that is the off-season), I feel the need to post a note regarding the current activity of the college football world. Purely for educational purposes, of course, which means that obviously I should not feel any guilt whatsoever about composing this during work.

So, if you have not been paying any attention at all since Brian Kelly was hired, or since Jimmy and Golden declared for the NFL draft, or since the last time I posted a deranged Facebook note (and I suspect that the people who have not been paying attention to any of this are the same people who are unclear about what it means to say that Notre Dame’s defense will be switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 this season)…here are a few important updates of which you should be aware:

My Least Favorite Person In All Of College Football resigned. And then un-resigned.

You may be shocked to realize that this person has never played a down of football for the Irish and also does not reside in the state of California (or rather, Washington, as we will discuss in a moment). No, my least favorite person in college football is, in fact, the walking pinnacle of un-Popeliness himself: Coach Urban MCMXCIX.

(…and he parties like it, too.)

I find this most distressing, mostly because I can no longer express my utter distaste and unfounded loathing for this conniving little slop bucket with quite as much zeal as before. I mean, it’s one thing to rail against a smarmy little sunshine-dwelling, recruit-stealing championship-winner whose players have a complete disregard for other people’s eyeballs…but there’s just something wildly indelicate about insulting a man who has just realized that he doesn’t know his family and is on the verge of cardiac arrest because his entire life for the last twenty years has consisted of yelling at out-of-breath twenty-one-year-olds who are simultaneously trying to decipher the significance of "Ace Right z-Dig x-Shallow Bananaberry Split London Bridge on-one on-one" and recall the last name of the girl whose phone number somehow ended up scrawled across their right forearm this morning.

I mean…it just doesn’t seem sporting.

Unless, of course, Meyer really is the kind of fargin’ icehole that anyone with morals / a conscience / a human soul that hasn’t been sold to the devil always suspected him to be.

Shortly after stepping down from the head coaching position at Florida, he decided to change his resignation to an “indefinite leave of absence,” which is so indefinite that he “expects to be on the sidelines for the 2010 season,” at least according to this article from ESPN.

And then there’s the wild rumor surrounding the recruiting of Sharrif Floyd, one of the top defensive tackles in the country, who was recently named National Football Player of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club. He had offers from Penn State, Ohio State, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the Trojans, but after a long and stressful decision-making process that apparently involved Urban Meyer receiving visions from God, he settled on Florida.

Now, of course, these comments are so outrageous that they are most likely complete hogwash. The following quote apparently surfaced first on a South Carolina blog, and skipped around the blogosphere for a while before being refuted by Floyd himself, via a Florida Gators blog.

The following quote purportedly came from Floyd’s high school coaches, describing the decision-making process behind Floyd’s commitment to Florida:

Sharrif was really confused and put a call into Coach Meyer. When they spoke Coach Meyer told him that he had a ‘dream’ the night before, and that Coach Meyer saw himself on the sideline coaching Sharrif. Told him that is was a “message from God that I should come back and coach, as I guess if it’s my time to die, I’d rather die on the sidelines coaching you than anywhere else in the world.

Sharrif talked to us the next day and said Ohio State is great and all, but Coach Meyer said he would DIE for me. That’s pretty intense…

Oh, Internet. The things you come up with.

The rebuttal from Floyd is posted on this here Gators fan message board:

I read those comments and when I did I immediately spoke with my head coach Ron Cohen. Coach Cohen told me that it was not true at all and nothing like that was ever said. I immediately called Urban Meyer to let him know what was being said on the internet. I wanted to let everyone know that this is total and false information. I never said that to my coach because it did not happen and my coach never said that to anyone. I am going to the University of Florida because that is where I want to go. I have a great relationship with Urban Meyer and I am a Gator. A lot of schools tried to hit me with the religion pitch but not Florida, not at all and that's how it is and I am not going to change my mind. I have talked to a bunch of my friends and they think this is something that started on one of the Ohio State boards. People are trying to get back at me for not going to Ohio State and not going to their team but I know what I am and that is a Florida Gator.

So what do we believe here? Was it irate Ohio State fans – or perhaps irate South Carolina fans—making things up to get back at Floyd? Is Urban Meyer really just an unholy corksoaker who will stop at nothing to land recruits? Are the Florida fans just trying to cover their team’s ass by blaming everything on the Ohio State fans? (The Internet reports: You Decide.)

Whatever the case, I’m going to try to tone down the Urban Meyer-related rage until the fargin’ bastige is actually back on the sidelines again.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll have to find another target at which to direct all the impotent anger I feel for coaches who get away with being walking penises simply because their players actually win football games. Speaking of which,

The World’s Largest Walking Penis Has Officially Departed from Condom Land.

It is possible that, in the course of this insult, I have inadvertently paid Pete Carroll a compliment. (I understand that men are quite sensitive about this whole “size” issue.) But let me assure you that no kind intentions were meant. Any lapses in my ability to properly lambast this man for being a licentious piece of weasel dung with all the aged dignity of a man whose face / integrity looks like it has been slowly reduced to a pulpy oozing mess by a never-ending string of BB pellets, apparently being fired at him by his own inner child, result from the sheer frustration of knowing that this man never lost a football game to the Irish.

And now he’s bolting for the NFL.

Yes, it seems the Amazing Walking Penis caught a whiff of changes afoot in South Bend / the cantankerous scent of justice being spewed forth by NCAA Violations Committees (well. perhaps that’s stretching it a bit.) and decided to head north, toward the scent of several million dollars being thrown in his general direction by the overzealous management of the Seattle Seahawks, who apparently decided that lusting after Carroll was a better game plan than holding onto Jim Mora, Jr., whose first and only season with the Seahawks resulted in a lackluster 5-11 record. (And people say Notre Dame’s too hasty with its coaching turnovers.)

What a skeaze bucket. Skeaze. Bucket.

There’s been so much change already in this off-season. I can’t handle it. I feel like the college football landscape just jump-shifted slightly to the left and now all the sportswriters (read: Sports Illustrated) are falling all over themselves to talk about how good Alabama is, because apparently they’ve lost all faith in Florida, USC, upstart teams like Cincinnati, etc.

Oh, SI preseason poll. You are smoking the hardest kind of crack there is. Ohio State at number three? Ha! Ha ha! Please stop trying to pretend like the Big 10 is good, or that anybody outside the state of Ohio actually cares about teams from Ohio. (I mean, there may be 110,000 people sitting up in Ann Arbor’s ass crack who possibly care about a certain team from Ohio, but their opinions aren’t really worth endorsing, either.) I cannot believe somebody gets paid for coming up with the outrageous horseshit that is a preseason poll in January.


Upcoming: Actual commentary on what's going on with ND's football program.