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Notre Dame Football: Coaching Staff Is Almost Put Together. Is it Good Enough?

Sweeping changes for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football program were absolutely needed after a 4-8 season, and they are happening right now.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It may have very well been the most disappointing season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team in the past 40 years. Obviously, the 2007 season that saw the Irish finish with a worse record than the 2016 campaign (3-9) was dreadful and statistically much worse, but the disappointment level for 2016 was through the roof with such an easy schedule, a NFL first-rounder at quarterback, and the preseason “best offensive line in college football.” Please stop laughing.

It became increasingly clear that this team lacked proper coaching across all fronts. The Brian VanGorder experience alone cost this team games, and once again, Notre Dame’s roster of blue-chip players were pushed around by programs that have had much less success in recruiting.

As a response, Brian Kelly is overhauling his staff. It’s not a complete chimney sweep, but the hires thus far and even the lead candidates are interesting. This isn’t the normal “Brian Kelly buddy” hiring season. He is looking outside his comfort zone in many respects.

What I don’t understand is some of the reactions from fans. Some fans are actually angry over these moves. Not because of who the candidate is, but because they are so infuriated with Brian Kelly for the any number of reasons that from the course of his tenure, that trying his best to help the program and help himself- makes them angrier. Like, HOW DARE HE EVEN TRY RIGHT NOW?

Even I, someone who wanted Kelly to get the boot at the end of the season, can at least respect his position in trying to help the program. What is he supposed to do? Maybe you can help me understand your position (if that’s you and you’re reading this).

Here is what the staff will most likely look like when it is all said and done. Nothing is official, until it is official. (*either sources have confirmed or is leading candidate).

  • Offensive Coordinator: Chip Long
  • Defensive Coordinator: Mike Elko
  • Offensive Line: Harry Hiestand
  • Running Backs: Autry Denson
  • Wide Receivers & TE: DelVaughn Alexander*
  • Defensive Line: Mike Elston
  • Linebackers: Clark Lea*
  • Defensive Backs: Todd Lyght
  • Special Teams: Brian Polian
  • Quarterbacks: Tommy Rees*

Rees, according to many insiders, is likely to take an analyst position this winter. The NCAA will be voting to increase a schools official staff size from 9 to 10 in April. Once voted in (as expected) Rees would become the QB coach.

Lea coached for Mike Elko at Wake Forest and is expected to join him in South Bend. This move would put Elston on the defensive line and put Keith Gilmore out looking for work.

Delvaughn Alexander appears to be the leading candidate to take over the wide receivers and tight ends and has connections to Chip Long and their time together at Arizona State.

Notre Dame is also expected to replace Paul Longo as the strength and conditioning coach with UConn’s Matt Balis. Balis will also be joined by IMG Academy’s Dave Ballou.

If this is actually the staff that Kelly ends up with, I will be pleasantly surprised. It’s a lot different than what I would expect due to Kelly’s recent history, and the staff actually seems balanced in terms of actual coaching ability and recruiting prowess.

I’ll reserve any final judgment on the overall shake-up until the staff is officially announced by Notre Dame. National Signing Day is just a few weeks away, so we can expect that any official announcements will be before that, and most likely sooner.

Just from the overall look of it all, are you impressed with the changes, or are you indifferent?