Lou Holtz applauds Todd Lyght's apparent return to ND

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

Lou Holtz nearly exhausted his supply of superlatives at the prospect of Notre Dame adding former Irish All-America cornerback Todd Lyght to its football coaching staff.

But the former ND coach and recently retired ESPN college football analyst did manage to squeeze in a good-natured jab at the imminent development.

“He started (his career at Notre Dame) as a receiver,” Holtz told the South Bend Tribune on Thursday. “Remind him that I did him a favor when we put him at defensive back.

“We recruited him as a receiver, because that’s what he wanted. Receivers coaches aren’t in great demand like secondary coaches are.”

Lyght, who turns 46 Monday, is in line to succeed defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, who recently left ND to take a similar job at Oklahoma.

There’s been no official word from Notre Dame, largely because of its thorough and protracted George O’Leary-inspired vetting process, but multiple sources have confirmed Lyght’s hiring.

What isn’t clear is whether Kelly will move some pieces around to have two assistants preside over the secondary in 2015, as the Irish had under Kelly in 2010-13. Also unclear is how Lyght, one of ND’s most decorated defensive backs ever, will translate as a recruiter, given his only full-time college assistant’s job lasted less than a month.

That was a stint as cornerbacks coach for Vanderbilt that he accepted in mid-January.

“I’m very happy for Todd Lyght,” Holtz said. “However, I’m disappointed that (Lyght went) to (Vanderbilt) for a month and then left it. To watch him grow and develop was really impressive. I’ve heard nothing but good things about him (as a coach). I know a lot of people have tried to hire him.”

Lyght had spent the previous two seasons (2013-14) as assistant defensive backs coach for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

He followed Eagles head coach Chip Kelly from Oregon, where Lyght served as a defensive intern on Kelly’s staff for two seasons (2011-12). His coaching career started at national high school powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, where his time there overlapped that of ND starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley.

“The way he carries himself, he’s a Notre Dame man,” assessed Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting. “He’s won the national championship. He’s won a Super Bowl. He’s from Flint (Mich.) and went on to Notre Dame, so he’s got a great story.

“To be a great recruiter takes a lot of effort. I’m not saying he will or won’t have it; we won’t know. But with the Notre Dame logo on his golf shirt as he’s going into schools, if he is the kind of guy who makes the extra phone call, sends the extra email or Facebook message, earns trust with people, then he’s going to be right in the game.

“I already know he is very good with social media from his short time at Vanderbilt. I know he’s a very good communicator. He’s got the potential to be a very good recruiter.”

He certainly panned out as a recruit.

“He had a unique way of communicating with people,” Holtz said. “His dad was a policeman in Flint, Mich., when we were recruiting him. He was ‘class’ in every respect.”

Including performance.

Lyght was a starter as a sophomore on Holtz’s 1988 Notre Dame national championship team, then won All-America honors in each of the next two seasons.

In the spring of 1991, Lyght went to the then-Los Angeles Rams with the fifth overall pick in the NFL Draft. That’s the highest draft position of any ND defensive player since 1976, when the expansion Seattle Seahawks used their first-ever draft pick to select defensive tackle Steve Niehaus second overall.

Lyght went on to play 12 seasons with the L.A./St. Louis Rams and Detroit Lions, earning all-pro honors in 1999.

“A great player that can do it on natural talent and ability, has no idea how important technique is, no idea how important studying is, doesn’t have any idea how an average athlete can become great,” Holtz said.

“Todd Lyght was a great football player, make no mistake about it. He not only had great talent, he was a student of the game. He learned. He worked. He practiced. (As a player), he listened to everything a coach said. He not only wanted to know what to do, but he wanted to know why it was important to do it that way.”

More winds of change

Multiple sources close to Matt LaFleur and the Atlanta Falcons say it’s only a matter of time before the team puts the official stamp on the ND quarterbacks coach joining younger brother Mike with the Falcons as the quarterbacks coach.

That will be the second post-season departure from Brian Kelly’s staff, both in the works just before National Signing Day. Kelly made sure to reach out to the recruits involved with both exiting assistants either as a recruiter and/or future position coach.

“It’s never easy during the signing period, because relationships are built with coaches and recruits,” Kelly said. “So in an ideal world, you’d like to wait until after the signing day. But you don’t want to mislead anybody either, so it’s kind of one of the realities of the business that there are going to be some changes along the way.”

LaFleur struggled as a recruiter during the only season of his career spent as a full-time college assistant on the FBS level. California was his primary recruiting area, and ND landed just one of many targets from the West Coast hotbed, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown, of Anaheim.

Fellow wide receiver recruit C.J. Sanders also played his senior high school season in California, but he committed last spring while living in Tennessee and was not involved with LaFleur.

Staff writer Al Lesar contributed to this story.


Former Irish All-America cornerback Todd Lyght certainly lived up to his uniform number as a player. Can he make the same kind of impact as a Notre Dame assistant coach? SBT File Photo.