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Notre Dame Football: What Does Terry Joseph Bring to Notre Dame?

The Irish have a new coach in the secondary, but just what does he bring to the table?

NCAA Football: Citrus Bowl-Notre Dame vs Louisiana State Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

After an abysmal season for Notre Dame’s safety group, many Irish fans were looking forward to the progress that would be made in the second year under guru Mike Elko.

Well, as we all know, things have changed. Such is life as a Notre Dame Fighting Irish football fan.

Elko is gone, and now Terry Joseph takes the reins as the coach of Notre Dame’s safeties. This is a move that has been generally praised, both by fans and those close to the program. Joseph is well regarded by the current staff, and highly thought of by many of his peers.

Anecdotally speaking, he is considered a solid recruiter with the bonus of ties to talent-rich areas in the South, mainly Texas and Louisiana. Additionally, the current staff reportedly loves him as a teacher of the game. These two traits are very reminiscent of Elko, who was said to be a tireless recruiter and very good teacher, as I'm sure many remember. While Elko's decision to leave left a sour taste in many Irish fans' mouths, he was no slouch as a coach. Being by all accounts comparable to Elko in those facets is indubitably a good thing for this program.

Everything discussed about Joseph thus far has been more or less qualitative, which is a fine method of learning about a coach. As the saying goes, however, "numbers never lie." An empirical, quantitative look gives a much more complete idea of what to expect out of Joseph once his tenure gets under way.

Joseph first served as a defensive backs coach at a Power 5 program when he was with the Tennessee Volunteers during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons — for what it’s worth, he also served as the Vols' recruiting coordinator for the entire tenure. A look at the statistics of his defensive backfield in Knoxville:

Terry Joseph: A Brief Statistical Breakdown

School Year Passing Yards Allowed Per Game (Rank) Defensive Passing Efficiency (Rank) Interceptions Interceptions (Rank)
School Year Passing Yards Allowed Per Game (Rank) Defensive Passing Efficiency (Rank) Interceptions Interceptions (Rank)
Tennessee 2010-2011 81 N/A 18 19
Tennessee 2011-2012 12 N/A 9 85
Nebraska 2012-2013 4 2 13 44
Nebraska 2013-2014 33 46 14 40
Texas A&M 2014-2015 82 64 5 121
Texas A&M 2015-2016 4 18 11 71
Texas A&M 2016-2017 91 45 12 49
North Carolina 2017-2018 63 80 7 102

A general look at the data above yields a few reasonable conclusions about Terry Joseph as a coach.

First and foremost, the potential for success is there. He coordinated three defensive back units that ranked within the top 15 in the nation in terms of passing yards allowed per game, and twice he helped lead defenses to top-20 ratings in defensive pass efficiency (it should be noted that statistics for defensive pass efficiency were not available for Joseph’s years at Tennessee).

Furthermore, Joseph is consistently a part of defenses that pick the ball off at an adequate rate. Throughout all of the years listed above, the average Interceptions per season for all of the defenses was 11.125; for comparison’s sake, Notre Dame picked the ball off 10 times this year. While not producing “extreme ball-hawking units” — to use a technical term — an average of 11 interceptions a year is sufficient.

Arguably, the most immediately noticeable thing about the data accumulated from Joseph’s coaching stops is the strangely consistent inconsistency. Only once have defenses he was a part of finished within 25 spots of each other for passing yards allowed per game in consecutive years. If we switch metrics to defensive passing efficiency, the pattern remains, as again only once have consecutive defenses ranked within 25 of each other. Will he continue this pattern at Notre Dame? If so, the Irish are probably looking at a solid year from their safety group in 2018.

To digress from the statistical talk: it needs to be made clear that all of this data is little more than an arbitrary assortment of information. Joseph’s previous statistics are incomplete, as you can’t attribute the former statistics entirely to Joseph’s presence. He was never a coordinator of the entire defense, other factors can affect a secondary’s performance (like a lack of a pass rush), and there’s no guarantee that the secondaries he coached are entirely responsible for their good or bad rankings. So, you can only try to determine a correlation (and good luck with that). Each situation and each season presents a different set of challenges, so of course these past numbers will have minimal if any impact on his group’s performance for the Irish in the upcoming season.

Instead of telling you “Terry Joseph is a great hire!” or “Terry Joseph is not as good of a hire as you may think...” this data should serve as food for thought. Whether it gives you hope for the safeties, or induces an all-too-familiar feeling of dread, is entirely up to how you interpret these numbers.

And I mean, it’s not like we can do anything about it now, anyway. Or maybe we could. I’m thinking we should express our collective anger through an advertisement in a newspaper or something. Who’s with me?!

Jokes aside, how do you feel about this hire? If you could grade it A through F, what would it be? Be sure to let us know in the poll below!


How would you grade the hire of Terry Joseph?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    A; This was a tier one hire, about as good as I was hoping for.
    (350 votes)
  • 42%
    B; Not a bad move, could have been better though.
    (366 votes)
  • 8%
    C; meh.
    (77 votes)
  • 2%
    D; Mediocre hire at best, disappointed with this decision.
    (22 votes)
  • 5%
    (50 votes)
865 votes total Vote Now