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Notre Dame Rounds Out New Coaching Staff

The final two names to fill out the revamped Irish staff have surfaced - one is straight from the rumor mill and one isn't, but maybe should've been. We'll look at what it means for the football program.

You know what? Wasn't a Michigan highlight then, either.
You know what? Wasn't a Michigan highlight then, either.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Multiple sources today broke the news that Notre Dame football has finally settled on the last two on-field coaching hires for this offseason. North Carolina defensive line coach Keith Gilmore will take the same position at Notre Dame, and former Irish standout and recent South Florida hire Autry Denson will join the staff as running backs coach.


Autry Denson needs no introduction to Notre Dame fans - or if he does, they can flip to the page in the media guide that has the all-time leading rushers for the Irish, where they'll see his name atop the list. Denson was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1999, and saw time over the next four seasons with Tampa, Miami, and Chicago before playing his final professional season in Montreal.

Denson spent one year as the head coach at Pope John Paul II High School in Boca Raton, then three years at Bethune-Cookman as running backs coach, then one year with Chuck Martin in Miami (OH) at the same position, and was just recently hired by South Florida. His coaching resume is somewhat thin, but no doubt Martin's ability to vouch for him and his own ties to Notre Dame and Florida were good enough to overcome that.

Like fellow staff newbie Todd Lyght, he definitely knew how to play the position he'll coach in South Bend. Can he sell Notre Dame to recruits? You tell me:

Rumors had swirled for some time that Denson was a leading candidate, but new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was not on the radar of most Irish fans. Maybe he should've been, though - he worked with Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati, and with Brian VanGorder at Wayne State. Gilmore has a reputation as both an excellent defensive line coach and a tenacious recruiter, which should be music to Notre Dame fans' ears. He has also spent time as a recruiting coordinator and special teams coordinator and could no doubt add some expertise in those areas.

He also has a penchant for churning out NFL players - Kareem Martin at North Carolina, Akeem Spence, Mike Buchanan, Whitney Mercilus, and Corey Liuget at Illinois, Angelo Craig and Connor Barwin at Cincinnati, and Antoine Bethea at Howard. Player development? Yes, please. Gilmore has history as a recruiter in Florida, Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC - it wouldn't be surprising to see him share Florida with Denson and take some of the mid-Atlantic territory off Scott Booker's heavily loaded plate.

What Does The New Staff Look Like?

Not all titles are official yet, but piecing together news, rumors, and the work history of the new hires, here's what we came up with:

  • Brian Kelly - Head Coach
  • Mike Sanford - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
  • Mike Denbrock - Wide Receivers/Assistant Head Coach
  • Harry Hiestand - Offensive Line
  • Scott Booker - Tight Ends/Special Teams
  • Autry Denson - Running Backs
  • Brian VanGorder - Defensive Coordinator/Inside Linebackers
  • Keith Gilmore - Defensive Line
  • Mike Elston - Outside Linebackers/Recruiting Coordinator
  • Todd Lyght - Defensive Backs
That's the maximum number of coaches you can have in on-field positions per NCAA rules, which means Bob Elliott (as has been rumored for some time) will likely move to an off-field position and Jeff Quinn, if he is eventually hired, will be hired for an off-field position.

I like all the new hires quite a bit. We've talked about Sanford and Lyght already. Huge, huge fan of both moves. Denson is a move in the same vein as Lyght, young hungry guy who's done it himself and can relate to kids, and he'll be in a position where being a new guy is okay. The more I think about the Gilmore hire, the more I like it - his coaching chops are unquestioned, his recruiting prowess is respected, and with big-time new blood in Sanford, Lyght, and Denson, he's a known quantity for Kelly and a nice balance to staff chemistry.