Alford talks about the decision to head to Ohio State


With the news of Tony Alford‘s departure just sinking in, Brian Kelly is now tasked with replacing an assistant coach whose impact off the field overshadows his contributions on Saturday.

In his six years in South Bend, Alford has built a reputation as a sterling recruiting and an even better man, beloved by the players he recruited to Notre Dame, as well as the ones he didn’t end up landing. And while the loss of Alford inside Notre Dame’s program is a difficult one, it’s also a move that’s been celebrated by current and former players, happy for the assistant who is taking a career risk with hopes of it helping him to achieve goals down the road.

On Saturday, Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson was able to track down Alford, getting the only on the record comments from Alford, who spoke candidly about the decision to leave. And as you might expect, Alford came off as a man who leaves with nothing but good memories of his time in South Bend.

“I’ve watched these kids grow up. This has been an emotional day,” Alford told Sampson.

After turning down previous overtures from Meyer, Alford told Sampson this move was about advancing his career — putting him in a better position to land a head coaching position in the future.

After interviewing for the Colorado State job and losing out, Alford was told his resume needed a boost. The assistant head coach tag does that for Alford, though those responsibilities still haven’t been carved out. So does working for Urban Meyer, who has known Alford since he was a college running back at Colorado State where Meyer joined the coaching staff.

“This isn’t a move for today, this is a move where I’ve tried to calculate five years out,” Alford said. “There’s forward thinking here, where it could potentially propel me to.”

After building such close bonds with his players — including a recruiting class he just assembled, only to leave it 72 hours later — Alford talked about how his sales pitch to his players is ultimately what’s leading him to Columbus.

“When you recruit these players you’re telling them it’s not a four-year decision, it’s a 40-year decision, but what you’re really talking about is the concept in life that you have to get out of your comfort zone to grow,” Alford said. “This is a leap of faith, one I feel I need to make for my professional development.”

Kelly will now look to replace Alford, not just at running back coach but as a recruiter in the state of Florida. All eyes are on record-setting former Notre Dame running back Autry Denson, who recently left Chuck Martin’s Miami (Ohio) staff for a job with Willie Taggert at USF. Denson is a Florida native and said to be a rising star in the coaching world.

Wherever Kelly decides to go, Alford feels like Notre Dame will be fine.

“I always said this in recruiting these kids that this isn’t about me, it’s about you. This place is in good hands. I know it is.”


*For more from Alford, head to Irish Illustrated, who won the scoop. 






Tony Alford joins Urban Meyer at Ohio State


The Notre Dame coaching carousel isn’t over. And the most recent move takes the Irish’s longest tenured assistant and puts him on the staff of another Midwestern power.

Tony Alford is moving to Ohio State, where he’ll coach running backs and assistant head coach. Alford has been in South Bend for six seasons, hired by Charlie Weis and retained by Brian Kelly.

There has been no official confirmation of the move, though a source early this morning told me it was a “done deal.” Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated also Tweeted this out, pretty much ending the speculation.

The loss of Alford stings the most on the recruiting trail. Long respected as one of the best in the business, Alford had great success selling Notre Dame, particularly in the state of Florida. That including reeling in recent pledge Dexter Williams just 72 hours ago, who had this to say this morning after hearing the news about the move:

The move is a victory for Urban Meyer, who had to replace running backs coach Stan Drayton, who took the same job with the Chicago Bears. That led Meyer to Alford — the third Brian Kelly assistant (joining Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton) taken from South Bend to Columbus.

There are now vacancies at quarterback coach and running back coach on the offensive side of the football for Kelly. Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated reports that Kelly will bring Jeff Quinn into the fold, reuniting with his former offensive coordinator after Quinn was fired as Buffalo’s head coach.


UPDATE: Alford has confirmed the move, talking to Sampson and Irish Illustrated. He’s also apparently already on the recruiting trail for the Buckeyes, changing his Twitter profile.


Reports: VanGorder staying, LaFleur going

Brian Van Gorder

Brian Kelly didn’t want to talk about any coaching changes on Wednesday. But he’ll have plenty of things to talk about next time he addresses the media.

Multiple reports have finalized Todd Lyght‘s return to South Bend, where he’ll join Kelly’s coaching staff as Kerry Cooks‘ replacement. The South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen caught up with Lou Holtz to get his take on the move. Holtz was understandably excited.

Tim Prister at Irish Illustrated reached out to some of Lyght’s college teammates at Notre Dame. All said great things as well.

On Friday, more coaching rumors continued to swirl. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder‘s name reemerged in Oakland, where Jack Del Rio was deciding upon a defensive coordinator for his new staff. VanGorder worked with Del Rio in Carolina, one of his first professional jobs, and a report out of Oakland had him one of two candidates.

A source inside the program denied that VanGorder was going anywhere. Similar reports surfaced with the Chicago Tribune as well.  Hours later, word broke that Ken Norton would be taking the job, leaving VanGorder to coordinate his second season in South Bend.

While VanGorder is staying, quarterback coach Matt LaFleur is going. He’ll be heading back to the NFL to join Kyle Shanahan’s offensive staff under Dan Quinn. LaFleur worked with Shanahan in both Houston and Washington and will be joined by his brother in Atlanta.

Irish 247 caught up with Brandon Wimbush’s mother, as LaFleur was instrumental in recruiting the quarterback to South Bend. In a story that seems to be taking place all over the country right now as coaches move from program to program with Signing Day complete, Heather Wimbush took a philosophical approach.

“I was a little disappointed about Coach LaFleur, but then I had to remind myself why we picked the school,” Wimbush told Tom Loy of Irish 247. “Coaches come and go. It was just weird getting the news on Signing Day. I know for a fact that Brandon was disappointed, but Coach Kelly was very reassuring and I appreciated that.”

How Kelly replaces LaFleur will be interesting. It’s fairly obvious to say that Kelly didn’t expect to hire LaFleur as a quarterback coach — a decision he put plenty of time into — with the expectations of losing him just a season later to the NFL.

Kelly also assigned LaFleur a premium state for recruiting, getting lukewarm results from the young assistant. In his first stint covering California, LaFleur and the Irish landed just Equanimeous St. Brown, missing on a handful of other targets.

Expect Mike Denbrock, hopefully much healthier after a bout with cancer, to return to the West Coast. Or expect the hiring opportunity to be a chance to find a recruiter with ties to either California or Texas, where Kerry Cooks led the efforts.

For now, that’s all that seems to be out there that’s official. But it’s rumor season and there are still job vacancies to be filled — like Ohio State’s running backs spot and the head coaching position at Central Michigan, where former Chippewas assistant Mike Elston could surface as a candidate.