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.


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