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With VanGorder official, focus turns to offense

Jan 15, 2014, 7:22 PM EDT


Brian VanGorder starts his Notre Dame coaching career with a bang, jet-setting the country as the new defensive coordinator will spend the next few weeks getting introduced to recruits everywhere. That VanGorder has the ability to pitch his NFL experience, not to mention his two tenures in the SEC, should help cushion any blow that comes from losing Bob Diaco.

For some recruits, VanGorder might actually be a benefit. As the Irish try to identify and target defensive linemen, having a fresh voice and new system could give the Irish a different look. That seems to be the sales pitch to four-star defensive lineman Malik McDowell, a long time Michigan commitment that seems to be giving the Irish real consideration. At 6-foot-6, 290-pounds, McDowell shouldn’t have to do much projecting as to how he’ll look in a Notre Dame uniform, he’s essentially a Stephon Tuitt clone coming out of high school.

While VanGorder completes the defensive staff, the focus now turns to who Brian Kelly plans on adding to his offensive coaching staff. With the coordinator job still vacant after Chuck Martin’s departure to Miami, Kelly’s list of candidates has been often rumored, but far from confirmed. Earlier in the week, eyebrows were raised when reported that Kelly was interviewing recently fired Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges and current Buffalo head coach Jeff Quinn. That either coach would be an option (for a variety of reasons) is surprising, and didn’t seem to fit what you’d expect from a Kelly hire.

Multiple outlets are pointing to Mike Denbrock taking the interim tag off and becoming the offensive coordinator. The hire makes sense for all sorts of reasons, and Denbrock has a sound understanding of the offense. That doesn’t mean he’ll call the plays. Last week, one source told me that Kelly will call plays and over the past few days, more outlets are reporting the same thing. Kelly gave perhaps his most revealing look into his mindset when talking on SiriusXM radio, an interview that Eric Hansen clocked in the South Bend Tribune.

“I want to be back involved,” Kelly told King (per Hansen). “I think it’s been for me — I don’t want to say frustrating — but we haven’t had the ideal situation for the quarterback … I just feel like we have the right quarterback in place. I think that we’re at that point now where the offense is in a position where we’ve got the skill players that we can be much more aggressive offensively.”

If Denbrock is indeed the new offensive coordinator, and at this point I think the odds are heavily leaning towards that, finding a quarterback coach allows Kelly to infuse some new blood and thinking into the offensive meeting room and keep some continuity for a young receiving corps.

The newest list of candidates were first revealed by WSBT’s Rick Schutt, who pointed to the Oakland Raiders John DeFilippo, East Carolina’s Lincoln Riley and the Redskins’ Matt Lafleur. All three have experience working with mobile quarterbacks.

Kelly says that the decision has been made, with all that’s likely left is a lengthy human resources process that’s been in place since the George O’Leary fiasco. But each coach brings a unique skillset, with NFLers DeFillipo and LaFleur working with Terrell Pryor and Robert Griffin III respectively while Riley is a Mike Leach disciple who has done impressive things under Ruffin McNeill at ECU. LeFleur coached under Kelly at Central Michigan before catching on with the Shanahans, first with Kyle in Houston and then heading to Washington as the quarterback coach.

As the Irish look to reboot their offense will Everett Golson back at the helm, infusing the staff with some new ideas as the personnel continues to improve will be crucial. We’ll see what direction Kelly chooses to go soon.

  1. papadec - Jan 15, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    IMO, any of the three mentioned look like strong additions to the coaching staff.

  2. dickasman - Jan 15, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    I dunno if Kelly calling the plays is a good thing but whatever. If that is the case look for denbrock to be promoted.

    Total flaccid if you ask me but given the situation, I don’t have a better scenerio here. What da hell is taking so long?

  3. k54oconnor - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:53 PM

    Time to flip the script and add Ed Ogeron. Great recruiter and c@&$ blocks USC.

    • danirish - Jan 16, 2014 at 8:32 AM

      Ogeron is going to ALabama with Lane Kifflin – this should be fun

    • matreyu13 - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:26 PM

      I’ve been saying this since Coach O departed USC as well. It’s a win-win for both parties. Stick it to USC!! In the end, I think he’s got too much love for USC to ultimately do that. But…money talks!! Call him Jack!!

      • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        Guy does not exactly have a clean background. Use the Google to do some research

        He’s not and never will be ND material

  4. jommy995 - Jan 15, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    Brian Kelly to Nudeman: I got your back, bro.

    “I think it’s been for me — I don’t want to say frustrating — but we haven’t had the ideal situation for the quarterback … I just feel like we have the right quarterback in place. I think that we’re at that point now where the offense is in a position where we’ve got the skill players that we can be much more aggressive offensively.”

    • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      I saw that. No interpreter needed there.
      BK to Tommy: “Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”

      BTW, who would want to be OC and not be able to call plays?
      That would be like being W’s VP and not be allowed to start a war.

      OK, sorry.

      • bernhtp - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        Or like winning the Nobel Peace Prize and then not being able to immediately escalate wars, dramatically expand drone strikes, start bombing campaigns in new countries, order assassinations, spy on the world, etc.

        Just pointing out why we don’t want to get political here.

      • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        Yes bern, I know that. Apologize.
        Just a poke in the collective eye of all the conservatives here to stir it up
        With Tommy gone, I’ve lost my foil

        You must admit … it was a pretty good line, right?

  5. yaketyyacc - Jan 16, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    simply put: Brian Kelly calling plays is a disaster. the play calling is limp and creates confusion for the players on the field. I admit it is hard to swallow one’s ego and admit that there just might be a better football genius then oneself. and then not to have mature emotional control. oh well, we got what we got.

  6. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    What could possibly go wrong with BK calling the plays? This team is going to fall flat on its face this coming season.

    I know you’ve missed me, I’ve been pretty sick with the flu.

    You will be happy to know that my bowl movements have solidified.
    I do think I burned my flapper. Thank Mother Mary and all the Saints that’s over with.

    • mcirish27 - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Oh man! You totally got my hopes up that you were about to bring a cogent football conversation to this board by starting out with the play calling topic. Then you totally dropped the ball by diverting to…well, God-knows-what.

      One day, i hope to read one of Keith’s articles, scroll down to the comments, and find that Paul Hargis has elevated his trolling rather than just raising his hand and saying, “Hey, hey guys. I’m here. Aren’t you pissed that i’m here?”

      Until then, your efforts are for nothing.

    • papadec - Jan 16, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      paul – glad to see that you’re feeling better – missed your posts, even the nasty ones. Have you considered that maybe your flu & “bowl” problems were a reward for your posts, here?

  7. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:02 AM


  8. blackirish23 - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:29 AM

    Keith or anyone else can correct me if I’m wrong but I strongly believe that Brian Kelly called all the plays during his first three seasons at ND, and for one of those years we made it to the NC game, so let’s give the man some credit, he does know what he’s doing. Last season was his first not calling plays as he wanted to be more involved with the entire team during the game.

    I’m sure he’ll do fine going back to being a play caller while the OC,DC, and Special Teams Coordinator perform their respective duties during games.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:50 AM

      Does anyone know if he was calling plays at his previous stops as HC? I’m not going to knock it until we see the result. I do know that this will be his first season in South Bend with a QB capable of running his offense to its full extent. Maybe we should hold off before we condemn the guy for wanting to call plays.

      Once again, and it’s like beating a dead horse, I think BK is there to win football games and is confident he will give them the best opportunity. Maybe he interviewed guys that he wanted and they declined and this is what he was left with.

      • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:17 AM

        He’s always called the plays, and I’m not convinced he wasn’t calling them last year.
        Furiously talking into his mic with the play sheet obscuring his face before each play.
        That’s usually what a play caller does, right?

      • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:58 AM

        I have absolutely zero reason for believing that Martin was not calling plays last season. I also have no reason to believe the comments BK made about being “frustrated” not being as involved with the offense. There’s no doubt that he had a say. He’s the HC.

        That look on his face was disgust in watching the execution. Because regardless of who was calling the plays, the execution didn’t get it done.

      • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:02 AM

        No reason NOT to believe the BKs comments**

      • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        There WAS no look on his face. His face was obscured by the laminated play sheet
        I realize he said Martin was calling them, and Martin and BK were very tight.
        But if wasn’t calling the plays, what was he doing?
        If he’s just conversing with Martin up in the booth, he wouldn’t need to hide his face.

      • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        He hides his face to not give anything away just like any other coach. I agree that he wasn’t completely out of the loop, but I don’t think you can say that since Bk covers his mouth that it’s all bs that he was/wasn’t calling plays. In what way does it help Kelly in saying that one or the other was calling plays? Why would he lie in saying that Martin has play calling duties? I see no benefit.

        I just don’t see a reason to assume bk has lied about it. Just to make Martin happy with the title of play caller when in reality he isn’t calling plays at all?

        Agree to disagree, once again buddy

  9. coachmerritt - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    He called the plays during the bowl game and I thought personally it was a big improvement, a noticeable improvement over the play calling this season. Obviously, there were still problems with execution but that could improve with a different quarterback this coming fall. Only time will tell.

    Now that he has his type of quarterback behind center I think you will see a side of his play calling that will surprise and excite many of you. His Cincinnati teams were really fun to watch. You can play aggressively on offense if you have the right personnel. I think for the first time in his tenure he has that.

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:02 AM

      i’m with you coachmerritt.

      the pieces look to be falling into place, or more so than they have in BK’s previous years. as much as i am a cam mcdaniel fan, i think we know what his ceiling is. this isn’t a slam on him. it’s one of his virtues, that he is reliable and consistent and you don’t need to wonder if he’s going to show up make the right read/cut on a given play.

      what’s exciting is that folston and bryant could have ceilings that we haven’t even imagined. the same goes for the _______(insert any member of the receiver corps here), and even EG to an extent. for a minute, let’s just suppose EG has gotten the jitters out and is able to grasp the playbook and master/manage the mental side better than ’13. being able to hammer the ball inside and also chuck it all over the field, and even work some uptempo, not just for hurry-up, but also to make EG’s recognition easier…oh boy, that could be really fun to watch.

  10. fnc111 - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:56 AM

    Kelly, again, is putting all his eggs in one basket with Golson and EG has proven he is untrustworthy.

    You have to build depth at the QB position to really feel confident in this system moving forward. Why wouldn’t he play Zaire last year? It makes no sense to not give him any game experience. The redshirt excuse is weak.

    Thank god there is going to be a QB coach now. I’ve been saying it all along and now Kelly sees the light. He can’t develop quarterbacks.

    • fish95 - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      Great point, we all remember how much it hurt Jameis Winston, Jonny Manziel and EG to have redshirted their first year … not to mention if MZ turns out to be great, why in the world would we want to allow him the possibility of having 2 or 3 full years as a starter when, by playing him as a true freshman, we could limit him to 1 and/or probably guarantee that he transfers? … yes, the red shirt excuse is very weak, indeed.

    • nudeman - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      Yes fnc, you’ve been saying a lot of things “all along”
      BK to Lions
      6-6 record
      And lots of other things that had no merit

  11. fnc111 - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    That’s a shame @paulhargis …. I sent a prayer your way not too long ago. I was praying you’d $H!T yourself to death.

  12. fnc111 - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:02 AM

    We get it nude. You’re a liberal.

  13. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    fnc: It was a coin toss there for awhile.
    Fortunately for all of us, I did pull through.

    Wishing death on an anonymous poster?
    You might want to take a few steps back and reorganize your priorities in life.

    I mean, I detest Mediocreboob, but I don’t want him to die.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      The fact you say that means you care. I, on the other hand, do not. Good to hear from you again ole pal.

      • 1historian - Jan 16, 2014 at 8:03 PM

        bob&paul – please – just get a room and spare us your back and forthing

      • irish4006 - Jan 17, 2014 at 4:37 PM

        For a moment – I thought you said, “back end frothing”… glad that you didn’t. Phew!

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:58 AM

      “…take a few steps back and reorganize your priorities in life.”

      mr. pot, i’d like to introduce you to mr. kettle.

  14. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Evidently, they aren’t for nothing, because you responded.

    Also, it seems I may have spoken too soon. I just dropped an absolute hornets nest in the restroom at work.

    • mcirish27 - Jan 16, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      Paul, you’re not listening. I responded to address the fact that your posts are boring and lack insight or purpose, and are just taking up space. However, I’m rooting for you to come to the table with something – anything. I’m a pretty darn good hater when it comes to talking smack to my friends who went to/are fans of Ohio State, Michigan, etc. We have epic debates because we are knowledgeable about each others’ strengths and weaknesses and know how to poke the bear. That’s what i thought you were coming here to do. We’re all still waiting. Do you have it in you?

  15. ndnapa - Jan 16, 2014 at 1:18 PM

    I get the feeling LaFleur will be the guy. Kelly likes hiring guys he know, if possible. All football coaches do.

    Orgeron is the anti-Notre Dame coach. No ND administration would ever hire him. He’s mentally irregular, which made him a perfect USC/Miami-under-Johnson representative.

    • domerboyirish - Jan 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM

      ND doesn’t want a coach that sounds like Honey Boo Boo…

  16. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    And another ones gone and another ones gone, another one bites the dust.

    Lo Wood( sounds like Bobs erectile dysfunction) is transferring out.

    Rats off a sinking ship.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 4:21 PM

      I’m only letting you know this bc I understand you don’t follow the Irish. Don’t take this as a personal attack. But Lo Wood is absolutely buried in the depth chart and hasn’t seen much action since tearing his Achilles’ tendon a few summers back. It’s a good move for him to head to the MAC and take advantage of his 5th year.

  17. mtflsmitty - Jan 16, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    Outstanding article:

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      more mustache talk. nice.

      can’t get enough.

  18. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    Boob. I do care. I feel bad for your “life partner” and yourself. A lump noodle is no good for anyone.

    Why is it none of these guys leaving, for other school or the pros, do not matter? Your depth is taking a huge hit…it does matter.

    papa: If thst was my reward, i would have the s***s 24/7/365.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 6:04 PM

      Pretty set at CB and bringing in another from TX and possibly a second. Irish will have 85 players on scholarship next season. They’ll survive.

      By the way…”lump noodle”? Please explain.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      And there are guys that have left that hurt. Dickerson hurts bc the DL is lacking proven depth but people were acting like the Irish lost Vanderdoes again ( Eddie Vanderdoes was a 5 star DL that signed with ND and stayed in Cali. Ended up being Frosh All American. Figured you had no idea who that is). My comment was simply that it wasn’t that big of a loss.

      Departures that have hurt in recent memory-

      Greenbury (Houston)
      Vanderdoes (UCLA)
      Lynch (USF) although thought to be a cancer, rare talent.
      Blake Lueders (Stanford)
      Shaquille Evans (UCLA)

      Just to name some obvious in recent memory. Go ahead and google them, as I’m sure you’re completely lost.

  19. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    Off course I’m lost, I could give a rat a$$ about who is on the roster of ND.

    It doesn’t matter who plays for them, its going to be more of the same.

    8-4 at best……forever.

    Was supposed to be limp….I need a proofreader.

    • mediocrebob - Jan 16, 2014 at 9:55 PM

      I’m just trying to make you better. Trolls that know a little about who/what their trolling are much more effective. Facts can’t be disputed. Just something to think about little buddy!

  20. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 8:38 PM

    1historian: Here’s an F’n idea, if you see my name, don’t read my comment. Pretty simple, huh?

  21. paulhargis53 - Jan 16, 2014 at 10:18 PM

    I don’t need any tips from you(just the tip?) I’m doing just fine trolling, you and others are still responding to my negative posts. You were doing so well….skipper.

    RIP Professor ( and Rueben Kincaid)

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