Sources point to Denbrock as Notre Dame OC

South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - As Monday night turned into Tuesday and the number of sources confirming Mike Denbrock’s coronation as Notre Dame’s new offensive coordinator swelled, the larger question wasn’t when but how all this would look in practice.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly provided an important piece Tuesday morning on Bill King’s On Campus national radio show on SiriusXM.

Kelly will return to offensive play-calling duties after a year away from it, though Denbrock figures to have significant influence in what the offense looks like, just as he did when he served as interim offensive coordinator for ND’s 29-16 Pinstripe Bowl victory over Rutgers on Dec. 28 and during the prep leading up to it.

“I want to be back involved,” Kelly told King. “I think it’s been for me — I don’t want to say frustrating — but we haven’t had the ideal situation for the quarterback ... I just feel like we have the right quarterback in place. I think that we’re at that point now where the offense is in a position where we’ve got the skill players that we can be much more aggressive offensively.”

It appears that Denbrock will retain his wide receiver position-group duties, details that should surface officially next week when the hire is expected to be officially announced. Denbrock replaces Chuck Martin, who became Miami of Ohio’s head football coach on Dec. 3.

Martin is the fourth straight Irish offensive coordinator from ND — or assistant head coach/offense in Rob Ianello’s case — to parlay his position with the Irish into a head coaching job in the Mid-American Conference (Mike Haywood to Miami, Ianello to Akron, Charlie Molnar to UMass were the others).

Kelly said his outside hire on offense is a quarterback coach and that the decision has already been made and will likely be announced next week.

WSBT’s Rick Schutt reported, and a source confirmed, three men who interviewed for the position as Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, a former Notre Dame grad assistant; East Carolina QBs coach and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, a Mike Leach protégé from their days together at Texas Tech; and former Washington Redskins QB coach Matt LaFleur, who worked for Kelly at Central Michigan during the 2004-05 seasons.

Kelly said he was looking for someone to develop his young quarterbacks (freshman Malik Zaire, 2014 recruit DeShone Kizer and 2015 commit Blake Barnett).

“We want to make sure we’re developing our quarterbacks, because we have young kids,” Kelly said.

Around presumed starter Everett Golson, Kelly said he’ll have the best offensive balance he has had since coming to ND following the 2009 season.

“That’s why I want to call plays,” he said, “because I’m going to be smart again.”

And he also wants to because he sees scores rising around the country, including at the elite level. Florida State on Jan. 6 became the 15th national champ in the 16-year BCS Era to win the title with a total defense national ranking of 25th or better (the Seminoles were third). Yet their 34-31 survival of No. 2 Auburn wouldn’t have been possible without a powerful offensive complement.

“You’ve got to score points in college football today,” Kelly said. “We won a lot of games when we went 12-0 (in 2012, by scores of) 17-14. You can’t do that (anymore). I think we’ve got to score more points.”


•With Kelly committed to adding four more players to a 22-man recruiting class, that would leave only two spots for fifth-year seniors if no other attrition were to occur. In past years, there has been more attrition, so that number could bump to three or four.

The two locks seemingly would be current and/or future starters safety Austin Collinsworth and offensive guard Christian Lombard. Kelly said Tuesday all the fifth-year situations have been decided.

Ten players entered the offseason with a fifth-year option. Nose guard Louis Nix opted for early entry into the NFL Draft, while quarterback Andrew Hendrix, tight end Alex Welch and cornerback Lo Wood all requested and were granted releases to pursue grad school-style transfers with no sitting-out period.

Hendrix and Welch have landed with Martin at Miami of Ohio. Wood hopes to have his destination firmed up this week.

The others who had fifth-year options are wide receiver Luke Massa, offensive lineman Bruce Heggie, defensive end Justin Utupo and linebacker Kendall Moore.

•On tight end Troy Niklas’ decision to forgo his senior year and enter the 2014 NFL Draft, Kelly said, “When you come to Notre Dame, you don’t leave your degree on the table. … We wish him the best. Hopefully, this becomes a good business decision.”

Notre Dame head football coach, who relinquished offensive play-calling last season, said he'll reclaim that responsibility in 2014. SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER