Welcome to our first non-game / pre-bowl weekend. While conference championship games play on and bowl assignments will be coming soon, let’s throw some headlines out to get you to the weekend.
* Members of the Irish coaching staff stayed on the West Coast to recruit after the Stanford game. We’ll see if it has a positive influence on a recruiting class that still needs to add a few pieces, but one name that’s been on the Irish’s radar since the beginning of this cycle is tight end Tyler Luatua.
Things have been fairly quiet with Luatua’s recruitment since he took an official visit to Alabama, where his brother Isaac plays. But after watching the Irish’s success at tight end, and with the news that Alex Welch is likely moving on to explore other opportunities, the longer the Under-Armour All-American waits to make a choice the better.
It sounds like Luatua is expected to make a college decision mid-December. Most in the know expect that decision to make Irish fans very happy.
Speaking of additions, expect official word to come from Notre Dame very soon on stadium renovations. Over at NDNation, Mike Coffey speculated that the renovation/remodel plans could cost as much as $375 million, a staggering number for a building that was expanded and redone before the 1997 season.
But as we’ve detailed more than a few times here, the purpose of this stadium renovation is more than just adding seats, a videoboard, or luxury boxes. It’s filling a larger purpose,with the university hoping to take its most valuable landmark and use it more than six or seven times a year.
Having heard Jack Swarbrick talk about the purpose of the stadium expansion multiple times, one of the more interesting thoughts he’s expressed is that with the expansion of campus over to Eddy Street, the new center point of the university is Notre Dame Stadium. By building classrooms, meeting space and other all-seasons facilities into the stadium, it turns the landmark into more than just a football field, it’s a building the entire community can use.
Thinking back to an old Father Sorin adage, the only mistake Notre Dame made in their last expansion of the stadium was not building it big enough.
Swarbrick hasn’t revealed whether or not the stadium’s surface will be natural grass or artificial yet. But connecting the dots, it’s hard to expect anything other than FieldTurf being installed if the stadium will be under significant change over the next few years.
Moving on to the bowl game situation, expect to hear something very soon about an Irish bowl game. As I’ve hinted and heard over the past week or two, I still think the Irish will end up in San Diego, with a good game against a Chris Petersen-less Boise State team in the Poinsettia Bowl.
One source told me that former Irish All-American and current San Diego Charger Manti Te’o has already been talking with the program about potential events in the area. It sounds like the Irish and the Hawaii Bowl wouldn’t be a bad fit either, with Te’o obviously having some experience there as well, with Charlie Weis using the Irish’s appearance in the 2008 bowl game to help solidify their spot with the once heralded recruit.
UPDATE — Just when it looked as if San Diego was a lock, I’m hearing that the Pinstripe Bowl is a serious consideration again. The payout to play in New York is much better, and the draw of heading to Yankee Stadium and the Big Apple isn’t too bad of a consolation prize.
Moving on to coaches, there’s been lots of talk about finding Chuck Martin’s replacement as offensive coordinator. Right now, I peg Mike Denbrock as the guy most likely to move up the ladder and take the job. But if we’re looking at outside candidates, Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com put together this early list:
Among the names that could have interest or emerge are UConn interim head coach TJ Weist, Illinois offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coachBill Cubit, Cincinnati quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, former San Diego State head coach Chuck Long, Indiana quarterbacks / wide receivers coach Kevin Johns, Wake Forest offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke, and former Penn State quarterbacks coach Charlie Fisher.
Kelly revealed to CSN Chicago that Denbrock would take the reins of the offense for the bowl game, a nice trial period for the duo that’s already very comfortable working together. But I expect Ernest Jones to slide in at running backs coach, Tony Alford to continue as recruiting coordinator, but to take over wide receivers, and Denbrock to coordinate the unit.
Lastly, while Louis Nix has made nothing official about his decision to return for a fifth year, the Irish defensive lineman posted a photo on Instagram that might be worth 1,000 words.
If that’s goodbye, it’s certainly a really good one.