Todd Lyght

Meet Todd Lyght

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In hiring defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, Brian Kelly decided to bring back to the program one of the most talented players of the Lou Holtz era. While his resume may be short as a coach, one listen to Lyght reveals a man whose DNA is football, with coaching taking root after a world-class career.

Lyght is the embodiment of what Kelly and his staff are selling. And it was clear listening to Kelly that he thinks Lyght will be an immediate connector with recruits around the country.

“You look at Todd Lyght, you look at his resume,” Kelly said. “Look, he goes into a home, he’s recruiting somebody. First of all, when you get a chance to talk to him, he’s a great person.

“Take away the football.  He’s a great family man.  He’s a great person. If a mom and dad are looking at Todd Lyght and say, ‘If my son can be like him, forget about the football, we’ve already won.'”

 

Lyght was also a quick mover, having just taken a job on Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt staff before getting the call from Kelly. The decision to leave wasn’t an easy one, but Lyght is at Notre Dame and the Irish will have a better defense because of it.

 

Todd Lyght
2015 — Notre Dame, Defensive Backs
2015 — Vanderbilt, Cornerbacks
2013-14 — Philadelphia Eagles, Assistant Defensive Backs
2011-12 — Oregon, Defensive Secondary Intern
2009-10 — Bishop Gorman H.S., Defensive Backs

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On his inexperience as a recruiter: 

“I haven’t recruited a whole lot. I did a bit of recruiting at Oregon, but I could only do it on campus in my role. I think I’ll be an excellent recruiter. I look forward to going out and talking to the different players throughout the country that want to come to the University of Notre Dame and excel both on and off the field.”

On choosing to leave Vanderbilt and come to Notre Dame:

“Really, I was set on staying at Vanderbilt. Coach (Derek) Mason is a really close friend of mine. He’s going to do excellent things at Vanderbilt. When Chad (Klunder) called me about the opportunity — you’re always told to take a look at any opportunity that comes along — but I was thinking I was going to stay at Vanderbilt because I wanted to work with Coach Mason. But the more and more I thought about the opportunity of coming back home, coaching at the University of Notre Dame, being part of an elite staff that Coach (Brian) Kelly was trying to put together and trying to compete for national championships, it was really too big of an opportunity to pass up.

“They told me that they were going to come down to Nashville and interview. They flew down on the plane, Coach (Brian) VanGorder, Coach Kelly, Jack (Swarbrick), Chad. We had a really good interview and at that point I knew that, after we got to talking about the direction of the program and what they wanted to do, how they saw my role, I knew I wanted to come back to Notre Dame.”

 

Lyght’s Intro Video from UND.com: 

Meet Autry Denson

Autry Denson
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Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher is now in charge of coaching the position. Autry Denson‘s return to South Bend comes at the perfect time, with Brian Kelly looking to find the right coach and personality to replace Tony Alford on the coaching staff.

After interviewing a collection of candidates, Kelly picked Denson, a choice he wasn’t necessarily inclined to make.

“Autry came up immediately, because of his background here as the all‑time leading rusher, and quite frankly his background as a Notre Dame student‑athlete gave him a chance at an interview,” Kelly said on Monday. “I really didn’t think I was going to hire him, quite honestly, until he interviewed.  He blew me away in the interview.

“His attention to detail at the running back position, techniques, how he was teaching the running backs, the depth and knowledge at the position both in the run game and the pass game.  His philosophy matched mine in terms of development of the student‑athlete both on and off the field.”

Let’s take a closer look at Denson’s resume, some quotes from the enthusiastic Florida native now living his dream back at Notre Dame and his introductory video.

 

Autry Denson
2014 — University of South Florida, Running Backs
2011-13 – Bethune-Cookman, Running Backs
2010 – Pope John Paul II High School, Head Coach

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On the hectic time between USF and Notre Dame:

“It was very interesting. From the time I got into coaching, this was my dream job. So I heard it was open and here’s the funny thing about it … I heard about it at 1:30 or 2 p.m. and our furniture for the relocation to USF wasn’t even getting there until 3:30 p.m. so I had to take a deep breath and say a quick prayer before I approached my wife. I went in with caution, but of course she was excited as well.”

On his philosophy as a coach: 

“I just talked about my philosophy. The X’s and O’s are the same, it’s what you bring to the table. Who I am as a coach, this is my ministry. This is how I mentor young men. I was blessed that the game of football raised me, it taught me a lot of invaluable life lessons. I’ve had so many great coaches around me – Urban Meyer, Desmond Robinson, Lou Holtz and Tony Dungy, that for me it’s very natural for me to do what I’m doing because all those people have taken the time to work with me. So I’m basically returning and playing back what they’ve done for me.”

On returning to Notre Dame: 

“It’s so exciting. It’s amazing. I can’t stop smiling because you really don’t get this opportunity, it really doesn’t come (around very often). I realize how blessed I am. I’m ready to get in and work and do everything I can to help the University and help our team get to a national championship.”

 

 

 

Here’s Denson’s introductory video from UND.com:

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(When Denson breaks off the long run against Michigan in 1998, if you listen carefully, you might hear a much younger version of this writer “experiencing” his first game inside Notre Dame Stadium.)

 

 

Meet Keith Gilmore

Keith Gilmore
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Notre Dame’s new defensive line coach Keith Gilmore was introduced yesterday, a reunion for Gilmore with former boss Brian Kelly and former college teammates Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo.

Here’s a look at Gilmore’s resume, some quotes from yesterday, and a video from UND.com to give you a closer look at the coach’s personality.

 

Keith Gilmore

2013 – North Carolina Defensive Line Coach
2009-12 – Illinois Defensive Line Coach
2007-08 – Cincinnati Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Line
2006 – Central Michigan Defensive Line Coach
2002-05 – Howard Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator
1998-2001 – Norfolk State Defensive Line/Running Backs/Special Teams
1995-97 – Eastern Michigan Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1994 – Wayne State Running Backs Coach/Special Teams Coordinator
1991-93 – Grand Valley State Linebackers/Running Backs/Recruiting Coordinator
1989-90 – Northern Michigan Running Backs
1988 – Michigan State Graduate Assistant
1985-87 – Wayne State Linebackers/Running Backs

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On reuniting with Brian Kelly, Brian VanGorder and Paul Longo:

“It was a big part of it. Just the comfort level of knowing the people you’re around was important to me. The biggest thing was that every time I’ve won a championship, I’ve been with Coach Kelly and I like winning. So that opportunity to get back with him and know people that are here and share their philosophies was important to me.”

On his success getting defensive linemen to the NFL: 

“One, good players. Just the fundamentals and the technique and learning how to execute and practice on a daily basis. A lot of people can be good sporadically, but to be good day in and day out and to understand that part of it is the message that I’ve tried to get across to those guys. Just making sure that they are sound fundamentally. Nothing beats getting off the football and using your hands and turning and running … just the things that it takes on a day-to-day basis and paying attention to those details every day.”

 

Here’s Gilmore from UND.com’s introductory video: 

Notre Dame formalizes coaching staff shakeup

Purdue v Notre Dame
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After weeks of speculation, Brian Kelly has announced his coaching staff for the 2015 season. The result is four new assistants, a few new assignments and the homecoming of a handful of former Irish stars.

Kelly will speak with the media shortly, but his coaching staff has been made official:

2015 Notre Dame Football Coaching Staff
Brian Kelly – Head Coach
Mike Denbrock – Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Brian VanGorder – Defensive Coordinator
Mike Sanford – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Mike Elston – Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers
Scott Booker – Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
Autry Denson – Running Backs
Keith Gilmore – Defensive Line
Harry Hiestand – Offensive Line
Todd Lyght – Defensive Backs
Maurice Crum Jr., Mike Hiestand – Graduate Assistants for Defense
Ryan Mahaffey, Donovan Raiola – Graduate Assistants for Offense

Moving off the field will be veteran assistant Bob Elliott, who is now the Special Assistant to the Head Coach. Also of interest is the reassignment of Denbrock, who received a “promotion” to Associate Head Coach, even if most see this as a step backwards for Kelly’s long-time lieutenant.

(Denbrock is listed second on the staff roster, basically an org chart released by UND.com.)

Mike Elston is moving up the ladder to the recruiting coordinator. He’ll shift to coach linebackers this spring, now in charge of a defensive position group that’s likely the Irish’s deepest and most dynamic after this recruiting class.

Coming home to Notre Dame are former stars Lyght and Denson. Also joining them is former Irish captain Crum, who will be a graduate assistant for the Irish, along with Ron Powlus, who will become Notre Dame’s director of Player Development.

Mailbag: Sanford, running game, the option and getting to 85

Tarean Folston, Daniel Gonzales, Obi Uzoma
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Before Brian Kelly introduces us to his new coaching staff tomorrow, let’s finish the mailbag.

I appreciate the people who actually asked questions… even if they were hard to dig out.

 

NotreDan: 

1) Do you see Sanford being able to “get through” to EG better than BK (apparently) did? I say apparently only because of the week-in week-out display by EG on the sidelines that seemed to convey an un-willingness to be coached, but alas, I’m not down there so don’t know…

1b) Assuming he CAN get through (if it was even an issue) do you think he will be able to foster an environment where BOTH EG and MZ feel utilized/satisfied with playing time and intangibles (playing hard for the good of the team no matter what)?

2) Has Sanford worked in a multiple QB situation successfully?

I’m letting NotreDan cheat with this question, if only because I think at the heart of this is a really important issue.

The fact that Brian Kelly hired Mike Sanford is huge. It’s also a fairly large development and a huge turn from the past five seasons. In the past Kelly has had Charley Molnar, Chuck Martin and Mike Denbrock coordinate his offense.

Literally. It was his.

With Sanford, I’m assuming there’s going to be an influx of ideas and schemes, and there’s little chance Sanford is in South Bend without a feeling of ownership (at least partial) in how this offense will run and work.

We’ll all likely get caught up in who is calling plays and what this all means for Mike Denbrock, but there’s zero chance this move happens without significant discussion, and that’s a big step forward. So the reality of the move is a big one, and one that shows Kelly is far from having the hardline stance that many attribute to the coach.

Now on to the business of, “getting through,” to Everett Golson. I’d argue Kelly and Denbrock got through to Golson just fine, but the quarterback went through the same phase that got Jimmy Clausen, Tommy Rees and even Jameis Winston in their second full season of playing football.

A little unbridled confidence can go a long way towards turning the football over.

I tend to dismiss immediately any notion that Golson checked out or was unwilling to listen to Kelly. It’s just so far from the reality of what we saw and what I know from talking to people inside the program.

But if Sanford has one duty this spring, it’s to make sure both Golson and Malik Zaire feel an ownership of this offense and that they both believe they’ll be key pieces to helping the Irish win next season. Because I tend to think that’s what sets this football team up to succeed.

 

goirishgo: Can BK truly commit to the run?

This is an awesome question. It feels a little bit like the dress that took over the internet. What color is it?!?

Someone is going to have to explain to me what “truly committing to the run” really means. Because after seeing Pete Carroll get tarred and feathered for throwing the ball at the 1-yard-line and having lived through the Davie era at Notre Dame and listening to people bellyache about not having a modern offense that could successfully throw the football, I feel a little bit like we’re talking about the different looks of Derek Zoolander.

Kelly and the Irish offense committed to the run against LSU. That was with Malik Zaire at quarterback. With Golson under center, the Irish did the same thing at times, though mostly in 2012, when the Irish rode Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood to the BCS title game.

(Remember that undefeated regular season, guys? I know we all have short memories, but it was literally two years ago.)

That being said, I get what you’re getting at. But nobody would accuse Bill Belichick of committing to the run, yet he has had a Top 5 “Run Success Rate” in each of the last nine seasons, according to this interesting read by Pete Sampson.

Maybe Kelly hasn’t been a huge run the ball guy because he hasn’t had a team that’s been that efficient doing so?

And maybe that’s why Mike Sanford is now in South Bend, especially after he turned down overtures from Vandy and Ohio State.

The power of this team will likely be the offensive line. The receiving corps are going to be close to elite and Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant aren’t too shabby either.

But it’s no longer the era of three yards and a cloud of dust.

 

southeastirish: Are there any other defensive strategies that ND could employ that might limit the injuries we seem to sustain each year in the Navy game?

I dug this question out of quite a declaration… which included a few suggestions for stopping Notre Dame’s annual thorn in the side. But I don’t know if there is an easy answer, nor do I think that Navy has been that responsible for injuries.

But as long as the Midshipmen (and next year, add Georgia Tech to the slate) are cut blocking, the defensive line needs to keep the opponent off their legs and their bodies off the ground.

ND tried that with  four-point stances up front. They also tried it with two-point stances as well. Ultimately, I think stacking the box and keeping guys moving in and out is the answer, while also forcing an option attack to beat you outside in.

(Easier said than done.)

It’s a violent game. Especially when doing battle within close quarters.

But I expect VanGorder to do better next year against the option, just as every Notre Dame defensive coordinator has done in their second shot at the Midshipmen. But in Keenan Reynolds and Justin Thomas, the Irish have to stop two of the most dangerous playmakers in college football, so that’ll be a handful to say the least.

 

ndlv: Keith, now that recruiting is over and ND got a graduate transfer, what is the team’s current status in terms of scholarship numbers? That is, how many freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors? There is still time for attrition (e.g., transfers, medical, etc.), but how many 5th years will likely be back? Who might not make the cut?

Expect Brian Kelly to field a few questions about this tomorrow, though he’ll want to keep the focus on the new coaches. He also said he’s going to need as much time as possible to get down to 85, so I’m not sure when we’ll be hearing a true update from him.

Right now, Notre Dame is in the low-90s with scholarships. The fifth-year candidates will come into focus sooner than later, though it could actually go through spring football to straighten itself out.

We know Conor Hanratty is walking away from football after concussion problems. Eilar Hardy will be playing elsewhere. Josh Atkinson and Jalen Brown are gone. And I also think some very frank conversations will be had with guys who either haven’t figured it out yet, or don’t fully buy into the Kelly program.

(After the comments on Signing Day, Ishaq Williams’ return sure doesn’t feel as certain as it did before hand.)

Still, we seem to be really worried about this every year around this time only to have all sorts of things happen that solve this problem before a freak out is warranted. But I will say, this year does feel different… so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.