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Dead period means coaching staff a priority

Dec 21, 2009, 1:15 PM EST

Brian Kelly’s first week recruiting at Notre Dame netted him the signature of Austin Collinsworth. With recruiting now quiet with an NCAA mandated dead period, expect Kelly to put his focus on solidifying his coaching staff.

There were whispers last week that Kelly was potentially bringing a coach with ties to Notre Dame back to South Bend, and Irish Illustrated is reporting that the mystery coach is Mike Denbrock, who coached tackles and tight ends for the Irish under Ty Willingham.

Denbrock cut his teeth at Grand Valley State, graduating from there in 1986 and then coaching there from 1992-1998, as both an offensive and defensive coordinator. It’s pretty logical for Kelly to bring a guy like Denbrock in, he’s one of “his guys,” has experienced the pressure cooker that is Notre Dame football, and also fills a need position on the staff, cross-training as a coach on both sides of the ball, but spending a lot of time tutoring offensive linemen and tight ends, two positions that need coaches.

Denbrock has been coaching under former Notre Dame wide receivers coach Trent Miles at Indiana State as associate head coach, special teams coordinator, and linebackers coach, which speaks to the versatility that Denbrock possesses on the sidelines. It also means he could help with special teams, an area of need for the Irish as well.

Denbrock certainly doesn’t raise the Q rating of this coaching staff, but I’m sure Kelly isn’t too concerned about hiring big name assistants. He worked with Denbrock side-by-side for seven years, had him coaching on both sides of the football, and has spent a long time in the college football ranks.

Most people won’t get too excited about a coach from the Willingham regime, but I’m more than willing to give this move the benefit of the doubt, and I think having a guy with previous experience at Notre Dame (besides Alford’s one season) is a huge plus. In an interview in October of 2008, Denbrock talked about his time at Notre Dame, and while he wasn’t really willing to look back and reflect on his time in South Bend, he was able to talk about some of the recruits he brought to the Irish:

“David Bruton was one of my recruits out of Ohio. David Grimes was one
of my recruits out of Detroit. They’re both team captains and playing
quite a bit. Maurice Crum played a lot of football for us while we
there. He’s a great kid from Miami. His dad obviously was a very good
football player, too.”

If Denbrock can reel in three more high-character, above-average players like Bruton, Grimes, and Crum, I think all Irish fans will be happy. Kelly has already said he doesn’t plan on announcing coaches one-by-one, so we’ll likely find out how Denbrock fits on the staff after the Sugar Bowl.

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