The evolution of Brian Kelly‘s offense is coming into focus after the long-awaited introduction of offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and new quarterback coach Matt LaFleur. The Irish head coach, fresh from coast-to-coast recruiting travels, spent some time detailing how things will run in 2014, with Chuck Martin’s departure allowing Kelly to reboot the system.
That’s not to say we’ll see something new. But rather, after working with Tommy Rees and first-time starter Everett Golson, the Irish offense might go back to the vintage Kelly variety, something we haven’t yet seen in South Bend. That’s a big reason why the head coach tabbed himself as the playcaller.
“We’re transitioning back to an offense that I feel is best suited for the personnel that we have, and I think it’s important to really get that philosophy and influence back into the offense, and I know it the best,” Kelly said.
“I think it will give everybody a great visual look at what we want this offense to look like, and I think it starts with me. I think it’s important that if I want that offense to have the look, it’s important that I have the influence in some fashion and this is the best way to do it.”
That’s not to say that Denbrock’s promotion is one in name only. After working with Kelly as both his offensive and defensive coordinator back at Grand Valley, and after coaching tight ends, wide receivers, and temporarily helping out on the offensive line in between Ed Warinner and Harry Hiestand, Denbrock now ascends to the manager of the offense.
“He’s coached virtually all the positions for me, a great understanding of the offense that we want to run, and certainly has my trust in putting together the offense on a day-to-day basis for us,” Kelly said of Denbrock.
“He will oversee the entire offense and set the table in making sure that all of that is put together and laid out there so we can have a great Saturday in moving the ball effectively, offensively.”
On the subject of his new quarterback coach, Kelly talked about how the position group will function now that the coordinator isn’t also the position coach. That means LaFleur will run the day-to-day meetings, but Kelly won’t be too far away.
“On a day-to-day basis, Matt will be with the quarterbacks, he will be in the quarterback room,” Kelly said. “I’ll sit in the quarterback room as well, but Matt will have the autonomy of running those meetings. I will be there as a resource.”
With LaFleur tasked with quarterbacks and Denbrock organizationally in charge of game plans and installation, there’s a new look to an offense that’ll likely look and feel differently without Tommy Rees, TJ Jones and Troy Niklas.
Potentially playing a true spread for the first time, even without playcalling duties, Denbrock understands the demands of his job, and how the offense will flow with him in charge.
“I think moving into this role I move into that seat a little bit more where with the help of a very talented offensive staff it’s my responsibility to really make sure this thing looks the way Coach Kelly wants it to look, have the menu, if you feel, available to him that he feels like he needs on Saturday for us to be successful offensively,” Denbrock said.
With the hiring of Brian VanGorder as defensive coordinator, the Irish will have a coach that just two years ago was viewed (by paycheck) as the most valuable coordinator at the college level.
As Kelly talks of spending time in the quarterbacks meeting room and calling plays, you can’t help but feel that Kelly has turned his focus on upgrading the offense, a group that has stood between the Irish being a good team and an elite one the past few seasons.
With their most talented personnel package and Everett Golson back from exile, there’s reason to believe that both the head coach and his offensive staff are very optimistic for the future.
“With the athletes that we have we feel like we’re in a position offensively to push the tempo more and to put our playmakers in positions where they can make big plays and do the things that all of us hope our offense looks like,” Denbrock said. “One that’s dynamic and can score more points and move the football consistently.”