Reports: Brian Polian returning to Notre Dame as special teams coordinator

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Brian Polian is returning to Notre Dame, according to multiple reports.

Polian, an assistant coach for the Irish under Charlie Weis from 2005-2009, is expected the fill the role of special teams coordinator. Polian led Notre Dame's special teams all five seasons he spent in South Bend.

FootballScoop.com first published the news but did not specify Polian's role. WSBT's Pete Byrne reported Polian will be hired as special teams coordinator.

Notre Dame has not commented on the reported hirings of Polian and defensive coordinator Mike Elko, which the Tribune reported Thursday.

Polian spent the last four seasons as Nevada's head coach. After a 5-7 season, including a 39-10 loss to Notre Dame, Nevada and Polian agreed to part ways last month. Polian finished his Nevada tenure with a 23-27 record, including trips to the 2014 New Orleans Bowl and the 2015 Arizona Bowl.

Notre Dame parted ways with special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Scott Booker earlier this week. The special teams units were a source of repeated blunders in 2016.

North Carolina State blocked a Notre Dame punt and returned it for a touchdown in the 10-3 victory for the Wolfpack. C.J. Sanders fumbled a punt return at Notre Dame's one-yard line against Miami and the Hurricanes recovered it for a touchdown. Notre Dame lost possession on two more punt returns when the ball bounced off members of the Irish punt return team. The Irish also allowed two punts and two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns in 12 games.

In his previous stint at Notre Dame, Polian was nominated for the American Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2008. That season, Notre Dame led the nation in kickoff return coverage. The Irish allowed only 16.47 yards per return on 63 kickoffs with 59 returns and only one touchback. It marked the first time since 1988 that Notre Dame led the country in a statistical category.

Notre Dame also finished No. 27 in the country in punt return coverage that season. The Irish allowed only 6.03 yards per return on 29 returns. Only one punt was returned for more than 20 yards that season — a 38-yard return by Stanford's Doug Baldwin.

Polian developed a reputation as a top-notch recruiter. He specialized in recruiting on the West Coast. He helped the Irish sign five-star quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the 2007 class and five-star quarterback Dayne Crist in the 2008 class, both California products.

Notre Dame's 2008 recruiting class was pegged No. 2 in the country by Rivals, the highest finish for the Irish since Rivals started ranking teams in 2003.

Polian also led Notre Dame's pursuit of five-star linebacker Manti Te'o in the 2009 class. Polian famously made 14 trips to Hawaii in a successful effort to sway the eventual Heisman Trophy finalist.

When head coach Brian Kelly took over the Notre Dame program in 2010, Polian was not retained as a member of the coaching staff. He then spent two seasons at Stanford and one season at Texas A&M, serving as special teams coordinator at both schools, before taking the Nevada job.

Polian is the son of Bill Polian, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and President and Vice Chairman of the Indianapolis Colts from 1997-2011.

Graham picks Oregon

Willie Taggart won his first big-time recruiting battle at Oregon on Friday. Four-star cornerback Thomas Graham was his prize.

The 5-foot-11, 177-pound senior at Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High chose Oregon over Notre Dame, UCLA, Nebraska, Arizona and Arizona State. He plans to enroll early with the Ducks.

Rivals ranks Graham as the No. 11 cornerback in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him at No. 12.

At one point, Graham, who visited South Bend in March and September, appeared to be Notre Dame's best chance at adding a third cornerback commitment to its 2017 class in addition to Elijah Hicks and Paulson Adebo. If the Irish want to make a third cornerback a priority, it will likely need to extend more offers at the position.

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

Brian Polian is expected to be hired as Notre Dame's special teams coordiantor. He served as Nevada's head coach for the past four seasons. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)