Notre Dame reportedly adding Boise State's Mike Sanford as coordinator

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

With holes to fill on his staff, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly will reportedly reach outside of his coaching network to make his next hire.

Both 247Sports and Fox Sports reported Wednesday the expected hiring of 32-year-old Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who would join the Irish staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Sanford, a 2005 Boise State graduate and former quarterback for the Broncos, also has made coaching stops at UNLV, Yale, Western Kentucky and Stanford in his young career. He has already gained the reputation of having a bright mind and being a hard-working recruiter.

“Notre Dame is hiring a true up-and-comer,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong, who first broke the Sanford news. “He's considered a young sweetheart of college football.”

“He's a guy that turned down a job at Ohio State recently. He's a guy that interviewed at Oregon State and Vanderbilt. The list of calls that he's probably received is long. He's a future head coach.”

In his lone season in 2014 as Boise State’s offensive coordinator, Sanford led the Broncos to an elite level nationally. Boise State finished ninth in scoring offense (39.7 points per game) and 14th in total offense (494.3 yards per game) among all FBS schools.

Sanford spent the three previous seasons at Stanford coaching running backs (2011-12), quarterbacks and wide receivers (2013). He was also the recruiting coordinator for the Cardinal in 2012 and 2013.

"He's a really sharp, young guy,” said Scott Roussel, who covers all things football coaching on his FootballScoop.com site. “He understands recruiting like many don't. He has a wonderful handle on recruiting. Stanford is a unique place to recruit to just like Notre Dame.”

Sanford’s 2012 recruiting class at Stanford ranked No. 5 nationally according to Rivals and No. 7 by 247Sports. His 2013 class earned considerably lower rankings — No. 51 on 247Sports, No. 64 on Rivals — in part due to signing only 12 players on National Signing Day. The class still included a handful of four-star prospects.

Sanford will come to Notre Dame with some familiarity with the school and area. His father, who shares the same name, coached quarterbacks for the Irish under head coach Bob Davie from 1997-98. The younger Sanford played his sophomore and junior seasons as a reserve quarterback at nearby Penn High School during that time.

“He's a very impressive guy,” Roussel said. “Recruits gravitate to him. He was a quarterback himself. He's been there. He's done that. He's young. He's relatable. He's very good with quarterbacks and running backs. It's a really good hire."

A hiring of Sanford as offensive coordinator would indicate more shuffling to Kelly’s offensive staff. Mike Denbrock, who remains at Notre Dame, took over as offensive coordinator before the 2014 season. Denbrock has previously coached wide receivers and tight ends for the Irish.

“Mike Denbrock could do a lot of things,” Wiltfong said. “You can make him the assistant head coach. You can put him in charge of the running backs or the receivers. Whatever you want to do, he's suited to do. You could make him the recruiting coordinator as well because he's one of the best recruiters in the country. He understands how to recruit at Notre Dame."

Notre Dame lost quarterback coach Matt LaFleur to the Atlanta Falcons and running backs coach Tony Alford to Ohio State earlier this month. With former Irish cornerback Todd Lyght unofficially set to replace defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, who left for the same job at Oklahoma, Kelly appears to have one full-time assistant opening left to fill.

A number of Kelly’s promotions and hires at Notre Dame have gone to coaches who he has worked with in the past. Last year’s biggest hire, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, was once on staff with Kelly at Grand Valley State. He broke the mold a bit in Sanford.

"I'm very interested in what this says,” Roussel said. “Maybe he's looking for a spark or some outside ideas."

By the time Kelly finalizes his staff for the 2015 season, Sanford could stand as his biggest hire this offseason. He would become Kelly's first offensive coordinator at Notre Dame who hadn't previously worked for him.

“When Brian Kelly got to Notre Dame he brought guys with him that helped him get to where he's been. To me, that shows loyalty,” Wiltfong said. “That shows, 'Hey, I didn't get to Notre Dame by myself.'” 

“But now with his guys taking jobs elsewhere and moving on, Brian Kelly went outside of the group that helped him get where he's at and hired one of the best young minds in college football to help Notre Dame win the national championship.”

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford will reportedly be joining Notre Dame's coaching staff soon. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Adam Eschbach)
Notre Dame's reportedly new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford played quarterback at nearby Penn High School during his sophomore and junior years in 1997-98. His father coached quarterbacks under Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie at the time. (SBT File Photo)

The offense Mike Sanford coordinated at Boise State last season out-performed Notre Dame's offense in most major categories. Here's how it stacked up in FBS rankings.

 Boise StateND
SCORING OFFENSE9th38th
TOTAL OFFENSE14th32nd
PASS EFFICIENCY 13th30th
RED ZONE OFFENSE 17th80th
PASSING OFFENSE 23th18th
RUSHING OFFENSE29th68th