From a player perspective the National Signing Day drama was as low as can be. However, the changes to Notre Dame's coaching staff continue to evolve. Several days ago defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks moved on to Oklahoma while recently quarterbacks coach Matt MaFleur headed back to the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
Now, the Irish running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford is joining Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
Just spoke with Tony Alford. He will be the next running back coach and assistant head coach at Ohio State.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) February 7, 2015
Notre Dame running backs coach Tony Alford has accepted same job at Ohio State per sources.— Thayer Evans (@ThayerEvansSI) February 7, 2015
Goes without saying, losing Tony Alford and Kerry Cooks in one week is a major blow to Notre Dame’s recruiting machine. Rebuild needed.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) February 7, 2015
Just finished an in-depth interview with Tony Alford. Said move was for "professional development" and very emotional about departure.— Irish Illustrated (@PeteSampson_) February 7, 2015
Pete Sampson from Irish Illustrated has an interview with Alford talking about his decision:
"This is a leap of faith, one I feel I need to make for my professional development."
"This isn't an indictment on Notre Dame, Jack Swarbrick, Father John (Jenkins), Brian Kelly, nothing," Alford said. "It's something I feel I needed to do for professional growth. And I'm not saying Notre Dame was not helping me with that.
"One guy that I have a ridiculous amount of respect for is Jack Swarbrick. It's off the charts what I think of him and. I value him and I felt like he valued me. Brian too. Hopefully that will continue."
Alford is expected to be the Ohio State running backs coach with the additional title of associate head coach.
Obviously, the loss of Alford is a big deal. He would have been heading into his 7th season at Notre Dame, had a great understanding of the school and how to sell it, while he rose to become the program's recruiting coordinator and ace players coach.
From a recruiting perspective there's no doubt about it that this is not good news for Notre Dame. The combination of losing Alford in combination with Cooks in the matter of a week is a pretty significant change and not something that can be overcome rather quickly.
From a coaching perspective the Fighting Irish should be fine. Alford was a good coach at the running back position but, for whatever reason(s), was never able to progress any further up the coaching ladder in South Bend. In terms of bringing in a new teacher there should be a a quality candidate hired that can work with the tailbacks.
So, the questions moving forward will focus on why Alford left and what Notre Dame is going to do to replace his big shoes in recruiting.
On the first issue was it money concern on Notre Dame's end? Was it simply a money issue on Ohio State's side? Was it the chance to move to, for all intents and purposes, a better program and head coach? Did Alford feel like he'd reached his ceiling at Notre Dame having been passed up for a coordinator position in the past? Is he coordinator material? How much of this is Brian Kelly's fault?
Alford's recruiting connections and relationships in Florida are well known and that will be tough to replace. Yet, his influence in recruiting went far beyond just one state. Alford was a father figure to dozens of Notre Dame players, a much needed relateable black coach who understood what the University could do for young men, and the top recruiter to help out in other regions of the country when the Irish needed to seal the deal with a prospect.
This isn't the loss of a recruiting coordinator in the sense of of losing someone who was good at organization and paperwork. In many ways, it's a loss of Notre Dame's heart and soul in the lifeblood of the program.
The good news is that in many respects the University of Notre Dame and the football team are able to sell itself from coast to coast so the person who takes over Alford's role in recruiting is going to have a lot of building blocks to work with from day one. However, that coach will still have to bust his tail and work hard selling a program that is just 17-9 over the past two seasons.