Skip to content

Martin’s evolution key to Irish success

Jan 4, 2013, 1:06 PM EDT

Chuck Martin, Everett Golson AP

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — In need of an offensive identity, Brian Kelly turned to his safeties coach.

Read that again. Nevermind the coach of the entire secondary, just the safeties. It was a move that should have raised more eyebrows. Could you imagine Mack Brown turning to his DB coach after his most recent offensive crisis? Would an SEC team — now throwing around seven-figure contracts to top coordinators — take a foot soldier from the defensive side of the ball and put him in charge of the entire offense?

Yet that’s what Kelly did. And the fact that the fans and the media didn’t raise more eyebrows says an awful lot about Chuck Martin, the man tasked with straightening an offense that graduated the school’s all-time leading receiver and was dead set on hitting the reset button on the offense and starting anew with redshirt freshman Everett Golson.

Entering his third season in South Bend, this was a move that could have backfired easily. With ten losses in two seasons, Kelly wasn’t on a trajectory that built statues, but rather one that found coaches selling homes. But in a season filled with gutsy moves, the choice to move Martin to offensive coordinator ended up being a key decision that helped crown Kelly the consensus national coach of the year.

For Martin, it was just another turn in a coaching career that’s seen him wear a lot of hats, and win a lot of football games. And like most things, it was a challenge Martin felt confident about.

“The confidence comes from doing it before earlier in my career when I spent 12 years on defense and moved to offense, when I didn’t know anything about it really,” Martin said.

Martin’s last transition was also courtesy of Brian Kelly. When the Grand Valley State head coaching job opened up when Kelly moved to Central Michigan, it was Martin who jumped from being a defensive coordinator to the head coach, where he — just like his predecessor — called the offensive plays and coached the quarterbacks. It was a job he found challenging. And one he learned as he went.

“When you’re the head coach you can pretend you know something about anything,” Martin quipped.

If he was learning on the fly, it was a pretty successful run. Under Martin’s watch, Grand Valley went 74-7 and won two national championships. After taking over Kelly’s offensive system, the Lakers offense continued to churn out prolific numbers, producing All-American quarterbacks and a thousand yard rusher in each of Martin’s six seasons.

With an offense in disarray and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar departing to take over the UMass football program, Kelly tapped Martin to take on his most important task, and implement a system both knew inside and out.

“Chuck is a very talented coach that will make our offense better in the future due to his knowledge of our offensive system as well as how defenses like to attack it,” Kelly said in January after announcing the change. “I wanted someone that knew the system I’m familiar with and our experience coaching together will make for an easy transition. Chuck did a great job directing the Grand Valley State offense after I left and led the program to unprecedented heights. I look forward to witnessing the impact he’ll have on our offense.”

Statistically, the switch hasn’t transformed the Irish’s production. This year’s offense ranks a modest 48th in the country, gaining around ten yards more per game that last season’s outfit. The biggest uptick has been in the running game, where Martin has juggled the champagne problem of trying to find enough touches for a talented trio of runners in Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson. And while the passing game has fallen to 74th in the country, Martin has done his best work finding a way to limit mistakes, taking the Irish from 11oth in the country in turnovers to an astounding 11th.

Working together to fix the offense, Martin and Kelly led a rookie quarterback to an offensive turnaround that continued to evolve all season. In the beginning, that meant Kelly leading the charge with Golson and the quarterbacks. But as the season progressed, the head coach let his offensive leader take the reins, allowing Kelly to focus on big picture issues.

“I just think it’s been an interesting process this year,” Martin said. “It’s kind of morphed from a time where in the spring he was very hands on to where now he kind of likes the way things look out there.

“I think he was bound and determined to get some things corrected on offense, i.e. turnovers, and was really bound and determined to do that.  I think once everybody settled in, I think he’s a little bit more back to just running the whole outfit, which he’s pretty good at.”

It’s also becoming pretty apparent that Martin is pretty good at running an offense as well. And while the lights might not have been as bright at the D-II level, the goals remain the same at Notre Dame.

“I know it’s a bigger stage. There’s more people in the press room. There’s more fans running around. But it’s the same deal,” Martin said. “It’s a football game and it’s a National Championship game, and fortunately for me it’s seven times in 12 years we’ve gotten to go try to win it all.”

 

 

Latest Posts
  1. Post-spring stock report: Quarterbacks

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT

    Everett Golson Everett Golson

    No position had a microscope on it like quarterback did this spring. In one of the country’s most-watched position battles, Everett Golson and Malik Zaire began their work with new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Mike Sanford… and—well, that was about it.

  2. Mailbag: Captains, intanglibles and KeiVarae’s return

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire, Chris Brown Malik Zaire, Chris Brown

    It’s a weekend edition of the mailbag. We talk about next year’s potential captains, the case for Malik Zaire’s intangibles, another date in SoCal and KeiVarae Russell’s return.

  3. Post-spring stock report: Running Backs

    Apr 23, 2015, 11:24 AM EDT

    Grge Bryant, Austin Larkin Grge Bryant, Austin Larkin

    In the first of a multi-part series, we take a look at the running back position post-spring. Here’s a look at the depth chart and stock report for an intriguing position.

  4. Mailbag Open: After the Blue-Gold Game edition

    Apr 22, 2015, 6:43 PM EDT

    New Mailbox

    Want to recap spring football or the Blue-Gold game? Drop your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold.

  5. The good, the bad and the ugly: The 86th annual Blue-Gold game

    Apr 21, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And spring games are always a double-edged sword. Let’s take a look at the good (bad and ugly) from the 86th annual Blue-Gold game.

  6. After chaotic spring, offensive roles can come into focus

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:49 PM EDT

    Everett Golson, Mike McGlinchey, Isaac Rochell Everett Golson, Mike McGlinchey, Isaac Rochell

    Spring practice is in the books. The Blue-Gold game is history. (Not here, we’ll talk about that thing all week…) So after a frantic few months in the Gug, the focus of Notre Dame’s rebuilt offensive staff can change from planning practices to… planning—well, just about everything.

  7. Irish land commitment from blue-chip OL Liam Eichenberg

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    While the Blue-Gold game captured most of the headlines this weekend, the biggest victory for Brian Kelly was over Urban Meyer on the recruiting trail. On Sunday, touted Ohio offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg committed to the Irish, just hours after leaving an unofficial visit to Columbus.

  8. Five things we learned: Gold 36, Blue 34

    Apr 18, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    Malik Zaire, John Turner, Jarrett Grace Malik Zaire, John Turner, Jarrett Grace

    On a perfect day in South Bend, Notre Dame capped off spring practice with a perfect Blue-Gold game. Let’s go over the five things we learned in the defense’s 36-34 victory.

  9. Stream the Blue-Gold game live

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Everett Golson

    You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to stream the 86th annual Blue-Gold game.

  10. Pregame Six Pack: Finishing spring practice strong

    Apr 18, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge William Fuller, Julian Whigham, Durell Eskridge

    It’s a spring game everybody can get behind, as Notre Dame’s guaranteed to end this Saturday a winner. With the Blue-Gold game taking place on the LaBar Practice Fields, let’s get ready with the Pregame Six Pack.

  11. Blue-Gold game: Stream it here live

    Apr 18, 2015, 12:38 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire

    With Notre Dame’s annual spring game kicked out of the stadium with massive renovations underway, the Irish are taking to the LaBar practice fields to play on Saturday. But NBCSN will be there to broadcast, and the livestream of the game is also available for you.

  12. Talking through the Blue-Gold game

    Apr 17, 2015, 12:55 AM EDT

    Malik Zaire Malik Zaire

    With the Blue-Gold game set for Saturday afternoon on NBCSN, spring practice comes to an end with a rare opportunity to see Notre Dame faceoff against itself in a live scrimmage. Keith & JJ talk about some of the spring game’s storylines.

  13. With roster still in flux, Kelly plans on being at 85 by Texas

    Apr 16, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT

    Rice v Notre Dame Getty Images

    For the first time in over a decade, Notre Dame has a roster crunch. As Notre Dame’s fifth-year candidates submit their applications to the university, Brian Kelly plans on moving forward and using every minute he has to figure out his roster.

  14. Blue-Gold Game: Rules and Format for 86th annual spring game

    Apr 15, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT

    Louis Nix, Steve Elmer

    Notre Dame released the official rules and format for the 86th annual Blue-Gold game. As the LaBar Practice Fields transform to house an intimate live viewing audience, an elite group of recruits and a NBCSN television production, let’s get the basics down as we begin to dig deeper into the spring finale.

  15. Quarterbacks will be live during Blue-Gold game

    Apr 15, 2015, 12:13 PM EDT

    Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Getty Images

    With Notre Dame Stadium under construction, this was already going to be a different kind of Blue-Gold game. But when Brian Kelly announced that quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire were going to be live for the first half, he confirmed it.

  16. Shamrock Series tickets could cost Boston College fans $25,000

    Apr 15, 2015, 10:31 AM EDT

    Steve Addazio Steve Addazio

    When Notre Dame plays Boston College this November in Fenway Park, tickets will be hard to come by. But for BC fans looking for a ticket through the Eagles’ athletic department, they better bring their savings accounts.

  17. Julian Okwara commits to Notre Dame

    Apr 14, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    Rivals Rivals

    2016 defensive end Julian Okwara committed to Notre Dame on Tuesday evening, following in the footsteps of his brother Romeo.

  18. Prosise emerging as playmaker at two positions

    Apr 14, 2015, 12:05 PM EDT

    C. J. Prosise C. J. Prosise

    Most thought C.J. Prosise spending spring practice working with the running backs was a contingency plan—finding a capable body to split carries with Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant. But Prosise has emerged as a true wildcard in the Irish offense, with Brian Kelly looking for new ways to get the football in the 220-pounder’s hands.

  19. Even without guarantee, Kelly expects Golson to return next season

    Apr 13, 2015, 11:49 AM EDT

    Michigan v Notre Dame Getty Images

    Brian Kelly can’t be sure that Everett Golson will be here in 2015. But after 25 years of coaching college football, Notre Dame’s head coach feels like Golson’s actions are speaking for themselves.

  20. Notre Dame mailbag: Consistency, the D and a fair QB competition

    Apr 12, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT

    Brian Van Gorder Brian Van Gorder

    With a big scrimmage on Saturday to get to and a Sunday at Augusta around the corner, let’s get to some mailbag questions.