Notre Dame’s new safeties coach will come from within the football program.
Multiple sources confirmed with the Tribune on Wednesday night that defensive graduate assistant Chris O’Leary will be promoted to safeties coach. FootballScoop’s John Brice first reported the news.
Notre Dame announced O'Leary's promotion Friday morning.
O’Leary, a 2015 graduate of Indiana State, has been on Notre Dame’s coaching staff since 2018 when he started as a defensive analyst. O’Leary held the titles of senior football analyst in 2019 and defensive graduate assistant in 2020.
O’Leary worked with Notre Dame’s rover linebackers last season, including unanimous All-American and Butkus Award winner Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
"Chris has been on a job interview the past two years,” head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement announcing O'Leary's promotion. “He has done an exceptional job of mentoring and coaching the rovers, and in particular Jeremiah Owusu-Koramaoh and Paul Moala. His ability to build relationships and motivate our student-athletes has been apparent to me, and made him the ideal candidate for this job.”
After the Irish fired defensive backs coach Todd Lyght in January 2020, O’Leary stepped in to help the Irish recruit. That month he made recruiting trips to evaluate defensive backs in California and Florida.
O’Leary was working with previous safeties coach Terry Joseph — now the secondary coach at Texas — at the end of the 2020 recruiting cycle to try to flip four-star safety Lathan Ransom out of his commitment to Ohio State, which didn’t work. O’Leary was also in touch last year with three-star cornerback signee Chance Tucker before he committed to the Irish.
Head coach Brian Kelly and new defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman tapped O’Leary for the safeties coach position over Irish defensive analyst Kerry Cooks, who coached cornerbacks for the Irish from 2010-14 before stints at Oklahoma (2015-18) and Texas Tech (2019). The Tribune previously reported Las Vegas Raiders assistant defensive backs coach Taver Johnson as a potential candidate for the job.
O’Leary played quarterback at Terre Haute (Ind.) North Vigo High School before becoming a wide receiver at Indiana State. O’Leary earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Indiana State and a master’s degree in sports administration from Georgia State, where he started his coaching career as a defensive graduate assistant for two years.
In 2017, O’Leary spent the season as the safeties coach at Div. II school Florida Tech under defensive coordinator Rick Minter, the two-time former Notre Dame defensive coordinator.
“Coach O’Leary understands the art of winning every second, minute and hour of each day,” Owusu-Kormaoah said in a statement. “He taught us that if we would continue to focus on painting the small details, that we would one day cultivate a masterpiece.”