Since Saturday’s loss to NC State, I can’t tell you how many articles and slideshows I have seen titled “Who will replace Brian Kelly?” or “Five Replacements For Brian Kelly”. If I’m not mistaken, Brian Kelly is still the head coach at Notre Dame and will continue to be until at least next season.
I understand why many, myself included, are tired with Kelly and ready to move on. But you got to be realistic, he’s not going anywhere after this season. The only way he gets shown the door after this season is if things get really bad internally and he just loses total control of the program.
Has Kelly coached well enough to keep his job this season? No, probably not. But the reality is Notre Dame is not going to can him after one really bad year. What will probably happen is that the administration will give Kelly a chance to a hire a new defensive coordinator and come back with an experienced and talented team in 2017. If they underachieve again in 2017 then thats when Kelly will probably pack his bags.
The better question fans should be asking is, “Who will be the next defensive coordinator?” It’s Kelly’s most important hire of his Notre Dame tenure. There are a number of good candidates candidates out there for him to hire too. Here are a few names to consider:
Mike Elko - Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest
Elko would be a really good fit for the Irish. Everywhere he’s gone he’s developed some pretty good defenses. Last year Wake Forest was ranked 38th nationally in total defense and they were also among the nation’s leaders in red zone and passing defense, two areas where the Irish struggle mightily. Remember, Elko’s defense held Notre Dame’s high octane offense to just 21 points last season in South Bend.
This year he has the Demon Deacons ranked 18th in scoring defense. At his previous stop at Bowling Green he had two top ten defenses, 10th in 2013 and 6th in 2012, with the Falcons. Notre Dame would be a considerable step up from Wake Forest, so it is very conceivable that he would be willing to take the Notre Dame job.
Luke Fickell - Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Rumor has it that Fickell wants out of Ohio State. It’s clear that he’ll never been the guy in Columbus as long as Urban Meyer is around. While he has some head coaching experience, he probably needs one more stop at a major program before making the jump to being a head coach. Notre Dame would be the perfect next stop. Ohio is one of Notre Dame’s key recruiting grounds and nobody knows it better than Fickell. He is from Ohio, played at Ohio State and currently recruits the state for the Buckeyes. So he would be a perfect fit for the Irish recruiting wise.
He’s also a pretty darn good coach and the results speak to it. Since he took the reigns of the Buckeyes’ defense in 2012, they have improved every season but one. OSU has been ranked 34th, 47th, 19th, 9th and currently 4th in total defense. Fickell and Ohio State have been accused of running a “basic defense”, but honestly that’s what Notre Dame needs right now after two and a half years of Brian VanGorder’s complicated scheme.
Charlie Strong - Head Coach, Texas
Strong very well could be his way out the door at Texas as they haven’t showed much improvement as a program over his three seasons. Prior to his head coaching stops at Texas and Louisville, Strong was the DC at Florida and a darn good one too. In his two seasons as the sole DC for the Gators, their defense was ranked in the top ten both seasons. At Louisville he consistently had a defense ranked among the nation’s best, including the No.1 ranked defense in 2013. His Texas teams haven’t been too strong on the defensive side of the ball, but really everything in Austin has been a train wreck since Strong’s arrival.
Strong would be a very good hire. He was an assistant at Notre Dame in the 90s, so he is very familiar with the environment. The downside of this potential hire would be he probably would only be in South Bend for a year or two tops. Strong would definitely look to be a head coach somewhere else.
Dave Aranda - Defensive Coordinator, LSU
When BVG was fired from ND and Les Miles was fired from LSU, Aranda was one of the first names ND Nation started clamoring for, but he’s more of a pipe dream. While Miles is gone from Baton Rouge, Aranda was not a package deal. He has his own separate contract with LSU, and it’s hard to see him leaving the Tigers unless whoever the new head coach is wants to bring in their own guy.
Everything Aranda has touched has turned to gold. He had a top 15 defense in his lone season at Utah State. He had Wisconsin consistently in the top 5 in his three seasons in Madison and he currently has a top 25 defense in his first season at LSU. If he does remain in Baton Rouge bet on the Tigers having top ten defenses, especially considering what kind of talent rolls through there.
If Kelly some how got Aranda to make the move to Notre Dame, Irish fans would be ecstatic. The Irish defense would instantly get that much better, but again he’s a long shot.
Irish fans, start speculating who the next defensive coordinator is, not the next head coach. Kelly isn’t going anywhere just yet.
All Stats per CFBStats.com