Notre Dame adds former All-American Jeff Burris to staff
It’s not just the splash moves, it’s the subtle ones that have added octane to Brian Kelly’s coaching staff at Notre Dame.
The latest — announced Friday — is the addition of former Notre Dame All-America safety Jeff Burris as a defensive analyst, an add-on position that has some limits, per NCAA guidelines, in terms of daily contact/coaching of players.
Being part of scouting, special projects, team meetings and helping to concoct practice scripts are all spelled out as part of the analyst’s duties.
Former Irish full-time assistant coach Bob Elliott, in an add-on position last season, helped the Irish improve dramatically against option offenses. His research and suggestions in terms of practice structure made a huge difference in games against Georgia Tech and Navy.
Kelly is hopeful Burris can have the same kind of impact on his 2016 football team, in other areas of need. His expertise is the defensive backfield, arguably the position group that is in most need of extra attention.
The Irish ranked 57th nationally (out of 127) last season in pass-efficiency defense and 109th in turnovers forced/gained. The only defensive backs in the youth-heavy secondary with more than four career starts at ND are senior cornerback Cole Luke and senior safety Max Redfield.
And Redfield continues to be challenged for his starting spot by early enrolled freshman Devin Studstill.
Burris, who will be 44 on Monday, was the assistant defensive backs coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2015 — his third season with the NFL team. Previous coaching stops since his 10-year NFL career came to an end in 2003 include UMass, the United Football League and Fishers (Ind.) High School.
Since Dave Duerson earned All-America honors as a free safety in 1982, just five Irish defensive backs have earned first- or second-team All-America honors since. And now two of them, Todd Lyght and Burris, are members of Kelly’s coaching staff (the others are Bobby Taylor, Shane Walton and Tom Zbikowski).
Lyght, a consensus All-America cornerback in 1989 and ’90, is in his second season as Notre Dame’s defensive backs coach. Both Lyght and Burris were first-round draft choices, three years apart (Lyght in 1991, Burris in 1994).
The Irish open the 2016 season Sept. 4 at Texas.