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VanGorder introduced as Irish defensive coordinator

Jan 14, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT


New Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was introduced today, the last step in a long process that finally puts VanGorder as the new man in charge of the Irish defense. The long-time defensive coach, whose connections to Brian Kelly go back over two decades, steps into the vacancy Bob Diaco left, shoes that seem to fit VanGorder quite nicely.

VanGorder spent a significant portion of time discussing just about every topic under the sun with the local media in attendance. His 5,000-plus words will likely serve as the largest look into the coach’s psyche until Kelly decides to change his media restrictions, as VanGorder gave a few insights into a coach that looks to be a departure from some core philosophies that Diaco held.

That being said, the similarities certainly outweigh the differences. VanGorder’s passion for teaching and excitement were quickly on display. They were also key factors as to why Kelly picked VanGorder as the next man to lead the Irish defense.

“The first thing I wanted in this position is a great teacher,” Kelly said. “I think first and foremost when you’re talking about the ability to bring together our defensive players, you need the ability to communicate and to teach, and Brian is one of the very best teachers, if not the best teacher, that I’ve ever been around.”

VanGorder will certainly have his opportunity to teach, needing to replace a significant portion of the front seven including key starters Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, Dan Fox and Carlo Calabrese. While VanGorder didn’t discuss any core philosophies and steered clear of commenting on personnel or schemes, he did provide one readymade quote.

“I’m built to stop the run, and if you look at my record you’ll find that,” VanGorder said. “Most of the time, our defenses have been solid against the run. The Jets were 28th against the run the year before and this year, rush average per carry, we led the NFL and we were way ahead at one point in time.”

That comment might not play too well to certain constituents when it comes time to play Navy, but it serves as one of the key revelations that show why this hiring made perfect sense for Kelly. VanGorder also likely came highly recommended from strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo, who was one of VanGorder’s closest friends at Wayne State, where they both played football.

With Bob Diaco’s foundation laid, the Irish will now look to infuse a schematic element to their preparation, something that always seemed secondary to playing with sound fundamentals under Diaco. VanGorder talked a bit about the strategies he learned during his stops in the NFL, working under great defensive coaches like Jack Del Rio, Mike Smith and Rex Ryan.

“They opened the door to so much more respective to the game and the intellectual part of the game,” VanGorder said of his time in the NFL. “Over the last seven, eight years the growth in that area I think was a good combination for my personality and probably the most important years for me professionally.” 

While VanGorder avoided any talk of decided advantages, he acknowledged the extra time the NFL allots to studying film and honing the craft. But he also talked about the universality that comes with being a defensive coordinator, and why the fit at Notre Dame seems so perfect.

“I’m a football coach,” VanGorder said. “What’s important to me now is the people that I work with, that the culture is one that is comfortable and shares some of those things that are the fabric of who I am. The culture is right, the standards and expectations are in line, and the mission is clear.”





  1. c4evr - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:14 PM

    How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?… Yeah… Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

    Welcome to the family, Uncle Rico.

    • mtflsmitty - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:55 PM

      Great call. From this moment onward I will only refer to him as Uncle Rico.

  2. idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:44 PM

    Let’s Play a game….

    Things BVG says to himself in the mirror…comment below

    • idratherbeinsouthbend - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:45 PM

      “Man, I am NEVER shaving this tuna tickler”

      • North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:50 PM

        “Where’s my ENTOURAGE?!”

      • dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:39 AM

        What is tuna? What is tickler? Me no spik engrish. Can you expand on that further please? I’m interested.

    • North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:52 PM

      “Right place, wrong decade”

    • North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:00 PM

      “If I do well, maybe the Pope will get one”

    • North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      “Instead of The Shirt, it will be The Stache”

    • mtflsmitty - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:03 AM

      “And the best part…Now I can do fat lines with Dick Assman and escorts galore. Giddy-up!”

      • dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:32 AM

        Fug Yeah!!! Lesssssssssss gooooooooooo


        :——————————– into =

    • dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:34 AM

      Cocaine, escorts, nd BCS bowl game, gotta nice ring to it.

      Les do this. I been dying to come outta retirement for a quick min yo!

      • mtflsmitty - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:56 AM

        You’re too late, Dick. BCS is over.

        Stay retired. Best to leave the lines and escorts to Uncle Rico.

    • irishpuma - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:07 AM

      “I hope nobody can see the giant blue oversized comb in my back pocket.”

    • schuey73 - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:45 AM

      Brown chicken, brown cow!

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:23 AM

      “hmmm, more than errol flynn and less than wilford brimley. just right.”

    • bernhtp - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      “Winning!” in full Charlie Sheen style.

  3. North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:49 PM

    I’ll modify my earlier statement: he’s an eerie combination of Kevin Dillon and Kevin Bacon. (Dropped Burgundy reference until the mullet comes back).

    Keith: when you talk about Diaco’s core philosophies, does the include tackling in the secondary?

    Either way, Welcome Brian. I’m excited to have you.

  4. North of Denver - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:08 PM

    “If we go to the BCS, I’ll make the entire defense feather their hair.”

    • dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:35 AM

      They could all grow winter bush for al I care. Let’s get their first, talk is cheap.

    • dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:36 AM

      Make that go to and WIN. I’ve seen that movie before n it ain’t no fun

  5. danirish - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:09 AM

    Hate to get all serious and ignore the stache but:

    I hope this guy can get ND’s defense more aggressive and have sound fundamentals.
    Maybe this guy can save players like Farley? I hope he can teach open field tackling!


    GO STACHE, I mean, IRISH!

  6. domerboyirish - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:56 AM

    Well, as expected, Brian Kelly isn’t going to hire an OC from outside the program. Denbrook will be named OC and Kelly will call the plays. All he is going to do is hire a quarterback coach.

    Get ready for more empty sets on third and two and never calling a RB screen pass. More predictable dull, dull, dull.

    • danirish - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:10 AM

      Actually it was the personal that made it dull, dull, dull. Tommy Rees by himself in the backfield as opposed to a mobile qb makes a big difference. Whether it be Golson, Zaire, or Kizer defenses have to key on them. Watch the Oklahoma game from 2012. Every 3rd and short was empty backfield with a wide spread. OU had to pay attention to the wideouts and only one guy could key on Golson. It was Golson’s job to beat that one guy which he did often.

      I had hoped for Jeff Quinn but oh well.

      GO IRISH!

      • nudeman - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:07 AM

        Completely agree.

        Rees just stifled this offense with his incessant audibling, taking every snap count down to 1 second and frequently calling bad time outs.

        But …

        … whose fault is it that they ran empty sets, a formation that is ideal for a mobile QB, in the red zone? Can’t blame Rees for that. This is on Kelly, I’m sorry to say. A lead-footed QB makes it significantly easier to defend an empty set, and if you disagree just look at their red zone performance.

      • danirish - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:35 AM

        Nudeman, remember the “conspiracies” that Kelly was throwing the season to train his youth? That was the first thing I thought when I saw domerboyirish’s post. Perhaps Kelly was running an offense with the wrong qb to “train” the others, you know, just wait til next year when we get a real qb?

        I jest of course.

        Yes, this last season was full of questionable setups with the personal we had. Maybe John Fox will run the wishbone with Peyton Manning?

        GO IRISH!

      • fish95 - Jan 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM

        My bet (and, admittedly, fervent hope) is that the empty set futility is mostly on Rees.

        That formation allows the offense to rush the ball by giving Rees the option to direct a running back from the slot into the backfield. It would not be unreasonable to use the empty set (with Rees) as a way to spread the defense and create a more favorable match-up in the running game against defenses that were inclined to stack the box on him … so if the defense gave him the look they wanted, he could check to a run.

        In THEORY that seems perfectly legitimate – perhaps even more so in the red zone where rushing becomes more critical. Obviously, there’s no disputing the fact that the results out of that formation were not good … however, it seems unclear that a play call into that formation at the outset is per se a poor call … clearly though the execution was either ineffective or too predictable or both.

        Kelly’s offenses seem to thrive by placing pressure on the opposition via giving quarterbacks the option to attack with their arm or their feet once the ball has been snapped and the defense has shown its hand. In that regard there is a lower premium on the creativity of play calling. The same play and even the same formation can be effective over and over again because the QB may do multiple things once the ball is snapped. No mobile quarterback completely changes that dynamic.

        It seemed to me that Kelly allowed Rees much more flexibility pre-snap to change plays as Rees had some aptitude there and it was really Kelly’s only way to pressure the other side since not only was TR slow afoot, but his decision making post-snap was not so hot either … Ideally, once a defense showed a certain formation, Rees could counter with an audible so the defense would be out of position … Obviously, we all saw the limitations with this approach … just not sure what would have been better given the alternatives.

        As many have said, 2014 will tell the tale. Golson can run and will have a bunch of weapons … and BK will be calling the plays. There are no more excuses.

      • newmexicoirish - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

        The post NCG comments made by some of Alabama’s guys on defense are very telling. They were surprised (and grateful) how predictable ND’s offense was. And that was with Everett in at QB. THAT has to be on Kelly.

        There should be absolutely no reason why he (BK) can’t open up the entire play book for the upcoming year. By his own admission he now has ALL of the pieces in place to run the kind of offense he wants. I’ m going to be very interested to see the results – especially in the Red Zone.

      • mediocrebob - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:52 PM

        Gotta remember that EG was still a RS Frosh. They pounded into our heads all season that the entire offense wasn’t implemented due to Golson’s comprehension at the time. The predictability had to be in some ways due to that. Plus, that Tide defense wasn’t too shabby. Took away a lot of what that offense could do with their combination of speed and physicality.

        I have a different feel for what this offense could be and the differences that we’ll see with Golson a few years older and him having been in the spotlight. I also would have to think he has a much better understanding of the offense.

        As for the defense, I hope that the fundementals are greatly improved. Aggression that is controlled, unlike under Tenuta, and adjustments when things are and aren’t working. One of my gripes concerning Diaco was getting away from what worked at times (fsu bowl game to name one example). Interested to see what this defense will look like, as are the rest of you I’m sure.

        And if they all had mustaches, all the better. Go Irish.

      • nudeman - Jan 15, 2014 at 1:57 PM

        fish … agree completely.
        Rees looked at the game as a chess match, not football.
        “If they are in this formation, I’ll check into this play; and if they then compensate, I’ll check into THAT play; if they shift again, I’ll …”.
        Some of that is OK, but for God sake, SNAP THE BALL AND RUN THE DAMN PLAY.
        So glad he’s gone.

        I predict that more than once we’ll hear the “he doesn’t know the full playbook” excuse in 2014, even though this will be Golson’s 4th year in the program (counting 2013). That never gets old for BK.

      • ndgoldandblue - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        Completely agree, nude. I’m not a republican, but I’m a big fan of Dennis Miller (who is a well-known conservative), and he summed up his decision to vote for Bush over Kerry in the ’04 election very neatly. He said that when it comes to terrorism, Kerry was a chess player, examining every piece and incredibly calculating with every move, and Bush was a checkers player, less calculating and more attack-minded. Sometimes, in football, we need more checkers players and fewer chess players.

        I also agree that we’ll hear a lot of people defending a potentially bad offense on Golson’s rust and year away from the game. It’s true. You can’t ignore the fact that the guy spent a year away from the team, and his work with Whitfield most likely included zero time going over Notre Dame’s plays. But the fanbase can’t make excuses forever because I’m pretty sure the team won’t.

      • nudeman - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:19 PM


        GWBush & Iraq = 9 year old kid playing with matches

      • mediocrebob - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:28 PM

        I’m not in any way using the excuse that Golson doesn’t know the playbook as an excuse for next season. That’s absurd. I’m commenting on the statement about the Bama defense calling Irish offense predictable. Nobody will be making excuses for EG next season. If he’s not ready to go, play Malik ( if he gives a better chance to win).

        Not sure where we got crossed up there🐸…

      • mediocrebob - Jan 15, 2014 at 5:28 PM

        I’m not in any way using the excuse that Golson doesn’t know the playbook as an excuse for next season. That’s absurd. I’m commenting on the statement about the Bama defense calling Irish offense predictable. Nobody will be making excuses for EG next season. If he’s not ready to go, play Malik ( if he gives a better chance to win).

        Not sure where we got crossed up there…

    • ndgoldandblue - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM

      In the bowl game, BK did all the playcalling, and I have to admit that it seemed far less predictable and far more efficient than it was the rest of the season. Perhaps, some of that had to do with the fact that Rutgers’ defense just wasn’t all that good. But I was never sold on Martin as a playcaller, and this offense is Kelly’s baby, so it would make sense, at least slightly, that it would improve with him calling the plays. The point–I don’t think it was all about Rutgers in the bowl game; BK’s playcalling had something to do with the increased total yards. The problem remains in the redzone. All four years under BK, the redzone efficiency (with a mobile quarterback and without one) has been way below average. That is something that definitely needs to be improved upon.

    • krups06 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      Have you seen Tommy try to throw a RB screen pass?

    • ndfaithful - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:03 PM

      I don’t expect that at all. I’m looking forward to BK calling plays. I didn’t notice many empty sets on 3rd & 2 in the bowl game when BK called plays.

  7. schuey73 - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Keith. Can you find out if Troy Niklas (if he’s still on campus) met BVG and did his “I mustache you a question,” bit?

  8. 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    with the combination of mustache and feathered hair, it won’t be long before the lads start calling VG “Coach Sundance”

  9. fish95 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    “Doesn’t know the full playbook” in 2012 as a red-shirt freshman with (now documented) academic shortcomings is plausible … Definitely NOT plausible for a guy that will have been in the system for 3 regular seasons and 4 springs … that excuse (if used during the regular season – and not simply as a warning to EG during spring or fall camp) would have no credibility – particularly if the alternative is MZ, who Kelly has publicly praised for his ability to absorb the playbook.

    • fish95 - Jan 15, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      Sorry … this was meant as a response to Nudeman’s post, above.

  10. fnc111 - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:48 PM

    Why do people keep saying BCS? Notre Dame, Bama, etc. will never win BCS bowl games ever or ever again. It’s over. It’s playoff time now.

  11. Rbmat - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    “Stay Classy South Bend”

  12. upthera44 - Jan 19, 2014 at 2:48 PM

    One thing I haven’t heard anyone comment much on is BVG’s track record as a defensive coordinator/coach. From what little I know, he coached recently at Auburn and for the Jets. How did he do there? Didn’t he get fired quickly at Auburn?

  13. davidosborne89 - Feb 9, 2014 at 3:47 PM

    I hope BVG gets away from that bend don’t break defense! We have good enough athletes on the defensive side of the ball to be more aggressive. That bend don’t break defense kept our D on the field a long time!

  14. davidosborne89 - Feb 9, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    I really don’t care whose calling the plays! At the end of the day we have to be able to run the ball. If it’s a spread offense or a pro style offense you have to run the ball. I really feel like we got away from that late in the season. Look at the great spread offenses Chip Kelly had at Oregon. They ran the ball down your throat and then they spread you out! Whoever calls the plays in South Bend this season it better start with the run or it’s going to be the same type of year 9-4 at best! GO IRISH!!!

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