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Meet Mike Sanford


With Notre Dame just one season into Mike Denbrock’s tenure as offensive coordinator, Brian Kelly didn’t look like he was in the market for a new offensive coordinator. But in Mike Sanford, Kelly (and Denbrock) found a coach worth making room for.

Just a season removed from coordinating Boise State’s offense to a Fiesta Bowl victory, Sanford now takes on a far more scrutinized job. He’ll coach both the Irish quarterbacks and coordinate the offense, working in lockstep with Denbrock to revitalize an offense that scored plenty of points but finished 101st in the country in turnovers.

So enter Sanford, who Kelly expects will have a significant impact on the offense.

“We were looking for was somebody that could turn the room upside down,” Kelly explained. “We didn’t want somebody to be equal. We wanted somebody that was going to turn that room upside down, that was that good.  We weren’t going to settle for somebody that was on the same plane.  We wanted somebody that was going to challenge us on a day‑to‑day basis.  Mike does that.”


Mike Sanford
2015 — Notre Dame, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks
2014 — Boise State, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks
2011-13 — Stanford, Recruiting Coordinator (’12-13), QBs/WRs (’13) RBs (’11-12)
2010 — Western Kentucky, Passing Game Coordinator, Quarterbacks
2009 — Yale, Recruiting Coordinator, Tight Ends and Fullbacks
2007-08 — Stanford, Offensive Assistant, Quarterbacks
2005-06 — UNLV, Offensive Graduate Assistant


On developing his offensive philosophy: 

“The biggest thing that I’ve found is that championship football a lot of time comes down to who runs the football the best and then who makes the explosive plays down the field in the throwing game. I think the Stanford background combined with being in the spread offense and the ability to run the quarterback and what that does in terms of man-to-man coverage defense teams, a lot of them don’t account for the quarterback.

“That’s had a big imprint on me and then this past year at Boise State, having a chance to be a part of a championship football team that ran the football well, had good balance. I think the hallmark of Boise State offenses has been running the football and having explosive, creative offensive schemes. That’s what I think we were able to get done this year.”

On returning to South Bend: 

“I think, first off, there was a comfort level with this area, this community and with this program. I had a chance to live here and some of my fondest memories of my insane childhood that consisted of about 11 moves, some of my best memories were here in the Michiana region. I really enjoyed every aspect of living here.

“I enjoyed the heck out of Notre Dame football and there’s just something that’s different about this program, about Notre Dame, than any other place that I’ve been a part of. I absolutely loved it as a high school student. I also had a chance to see it first-hand five times in the Notre Dame-Stanford rivalry and each time we played against Notre Dame when the band would come down and you hear the Victory March, I get goose bumps even as an opposing coach.

“I love this place. I love the types of scholar-athletes you have a chance to recruit. When you’re sitting in a living room, you can offer a young man a chance to be a part of the best tradition and best football program in college football, but also a top 15 education and you’re going to leave with a great degree. I think that’s a powerful thing when you’re sitting in a living room in the recruiting process.”


Here’s Sanford’s Intro Video from

Meet Todd Lyght

Todd Lyght

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




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 

Meet Autry Denson

Autry Denson

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




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



(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

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 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



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’s introductory video: 

Notre Dame formalizes coaching staff shakeup

Purdue v Notre Dame

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

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.