The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have a new defensive coordinator and his name is Clark Lea. The Irish chose to promote Lea, a linebackers coach, to take over what Mike Elko left rather than look outside of the program for a seasoned defensive coordinator.
Lea has never been a defensive coordinator at any level.
So, why would Notre Dame make this move? Well... they believe in him. Belief is a powerful thing, and as many of you reading this are Catholic (or at least cheer for a Catholic institution) you should understand how strong that is.
It's a little risky for sure, but with risk comes reward.
Notre Dame really didn't have a lot of options in front of them. The Mike Elko departure happened entirely too soon - even if they had some sort of plan in place. Notre Dame wanted to, and perhaps needed to, get this thing wrapped up as soon as possible.
One of the big draws of the Mike Elko hire was the 4-2-5 system that he was bringing with him. The system not only fit Notre Dame's current roster, but it also fit Notre Dame's recruiting profile a little better than what they were trying to do with Brian VanGorder. With Lea, the system remains intact, and Notre Dame doesn't have a wasted year of development.
When we usually talk about a "fit" at Notre Dame, we are discussing the character of an individual, their personality, and how that intermingles with the University and its mission. All that is true of Lea (of course) but I'm more interested with his fit with the team. He has really made an incredible impression on guys like Te'von Coney and Drue Tranquill. So, the players love him, trust him, and want to play for him - that's like coaching 101.
We all know the mantra of recruiting being the "lifeblood of a program" because it's insanely true. You get the best players you can, and the then you also grab players that you are able to coach up and develop within the system. In short order, Clark Lea's recruiting prowess has been celebrated. The current recruits speak in glowing terms of Lea, and there are a few guys left on the trail that Notre Dame still has a chance at because of this hire.
WE GOT HIM
Can you imagine what the difference in the direction the Notre Dame program would have been had a guy like former Irish assistant Urban Meyer been continually promoted? Who knows, really, but that's the kind of hire Notre Dame believes it has in Lea.
Forget about the inexperience for a moment. Perhaps this chance will provide a ton of positive results, and then they all look like geniuses. Notre Dame probably could have got a guy like Iowa State's Jon Heacock, but went in this direction instead. Heacock runs a similar system, has experience as a DC, but isn't quite the bulldog recruiter that a guy like Lea is.
In the end, I like this hire. Notre Dame is showing faith in a guy they already hired, and they're willing to keep the same train moving with a different conductor. The energy that Lea will bring to the position should be contagious and infect the rest of the team. `
THE BEST THING ABOUT LEA
The best thing about Clark Lea is something that probably has little to do with him being a defensive coordinator. He played FULLBACK for the Vanderbilt Commodores. That's excellent.
Lea wasn't the only one to get a promotion. Mike Elston got a title bump (after being passed over for the 2nd time in as many years).