If there was any question how Brian Kelly and the Notre Dame program would address the departures of coordinators Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin, the opening statements from master of ceremonies Jack Nolan at the team banquet answered that question.
Within the first two minutes of the show, Nolan delivered a statement to players, families and recruits in attendance at the team’s annual Echoes Awards Show.
“This program is once again respected to the point that in recent weeks, a couple of other programs… have decided that members of this coaching staff, this program, are the men who can resurrect their programs, and return them to prominence,” Nolan said. “That is the ultimate compliment, and the ultimate indication that the Notre Dame program, which is back, continues to move in the right direction, which is up, under head coach Brian Kelly.”
Another key datapoint is the commitment of Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston to the program. While Elston’s name was discussed as a potential defensive coordinator for Diaco at UConn, the Irish assistant used his very first tweet to end any concern that another defensive staffer was leaving.
With that, the Irish keep a key position coach on staff and an important recruiter on the road, with Elston pledging his commitment to Kelly and the Irish.
Whether or not that means a promotion (perhaps a co-coordinator title to join Kerry Cooks) remains to be seen. But Elston is an important part of the Irish staff’s puzzle, having coached linebackers, special teams and the defensive line for Kelly between Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame.
If you’ve got a spare two hours and feel like watching a playback of the Irish ECHOES, here’s your opportunity. It was a great presentation with some nice honors.
Here is a recap of the awards won this year:
Scout Team Offensive Player of the Year: Torii Hunter Jr.
Scout Team Defensive Player of the Year: Joe Romano
Irish Around the Bend – Community Service: Tyler Stockton
Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Tarean Folston
Defensive Newcomer of the Year: Jaylon Smith
Special Teams Player of the Year: Kyle Brindza
Father Lange Iron Cross Award: Carlo Calabrese
Rockne Student-Athlete Award: Jarrett Grace
Next Man In Award: Kona Schwenke
Nick Pietrosante Award: Chris Watt and Dan Fox
Lineman of the Year Award: Stephon Tuitt
Offensive Lineman of the Year: Zack Martin (Fourth straight, most in ND history)
Offensive Player of the Year: Tommy Rees
Defensive Player of the Year: Prince Shembo
Most Valuable Player: TJ Jones