Tag: Scott Booker

South Bend Tribune

Last looks: Tight ends


After a long line of starters with plenty of experience, Notre Dame’s tight ends all but start over in 2015. Scott Booker’s position group comes in with all sorts of intriguing traits. Unfortunately, none of those are experience.

The closest to filling that role is junior Durham Smythe. Serving as the No. 2 tight end in an offense that didn’t often use one, Smythe made just one catch last season while Ben Koyack led the offense in snaps played.

But a lack of experience isn’t to say the position group isn’t talented. Whether it’s freshman phenom Alizé Jones, Nic Weishar off his redshirt, bowling ball Tyler Luatua or fifth-year converted defensive lineman Chase Hounshell, the ability to mix and match is certainly there if nobody takes hold of the job.

Let’s take our last looks at an intriguing piece of the offense.


Position Coach: Scott Booker



TE1: Durham Smythe, Jr.*
TE2: Tyler Luatua, Soph.
TE3: Alizé Jones, Fr.
TE4: Nic Weishar, Soph.*
TE5: Chase Hounshell, Grad Student*

*Denotes additional year of eligibility



Alizé Jones. Yes, I realize I have him listed as third on the depth chart. But when you look at this position group, there are a lot of intriguing supporting pieces and only one guy who feels like a star in the making. So while Jones is going to have to learn how to block, get a better feel for the system and become a complete tight end before he can truly ascend to this spot, he’s the guy who will eventually be the next great Notre Dame tight end.



Durham Smythe Tyler Luatua. I list both of these guys because I think they both have a chance to do very important things for this offense. In Smythe, the Irish have probably the closest thing to a two-way tight end as there is on the roster. He’s the veteran of the group and should have the best knowledge of the system. But after thinking he was ready to make an impact in 2014, Smythe caught just one pass. After being banged up a bit during camp, Smythe didn’t get off to the quickest start, but hopefully he’ll be ready come Texas.

In Luatua, the Irish have a blocker who could be a physical force. He’s also capable of rumbling for some yardage if he’s out in the flat as Malik Zaire’s safety valve. At 255 pounds, he’s a physical presence who can attach to the offensive line or play—gasp!—fullback.



Can anybody establish a rhythm? Brian Kelly mentioned a mix-and-match approach to the position, a logical choice with this type of personnel. But often times the Irish offense gets predictable when they utilize certain players in certain formations, and that feels like almost an inevitability for the tight ends. (Not that I expect to see Jones next to the left tackle on 3rd and 1, but still.)

But beyond giving the defense a tell, it might also hinder someone from breaking out. If that’s Smythe, great. If it’s Jones, wonderful. It could also be Nic Weishar, who has had an excellent camp. When the offense tried to juggle four running backs, you couldn’t help but feel like they lost something. That’s the big worry at a position this deep, too.


Can this offense utilize two tight end sets? As a power running team, putting two tight ends on the field could be a formation that really helps power the offense. But as we worry about finding some experience in this group, is it too much to ask to find two guys who can play?

Grad student Chase Hounshell is miraculously still a part of the football program, and might be Notre Dame’s best attached blocker. After using two tight ends against LSU, can this position group develop two fast enough?


Who can Brian Kelly trust? There might be all the skill in the world in true freshman Alizé Jones, but if Kelly can’t trust him to do his job, it’ll be hard for him to play. Same with any of the young players in this position group. Last year, Koyack took all the snaps, even if he was limited in space and not the best blocker. But he knew what he was doing and Kelly relied on that experience in the offense. Developing that trust will be key for whoever steps forward.



Can Nic Weishar look as good on the field as he does in practice? When Jones and Smythe were out Weishar put on a show, a difficult receiver to cover, especially in the red zone. Will that translate to the playing field and can the Chicagoland native get into the mix and be a dangerous part of the passing attack?


Will Chase Hounshell really find his home at tight end? When you looked at fifth-year senior candidates, heading into spring Hounshell was at the bottom of the list. But give credit to the hard-luck Ohio native who willed his way back onto the team and reinvented himself as a block-first tight end. It’d be quite a miraculous finish to his Notre Dame career if he was able to contribute this season—and that’s without considering he’ll likely be eligible for a sixth year.


Are there enough footballs for the tight ends? Everybody expects the running game to play a bigger role this season. Notre Dame’s receiving corps is as deep and talented as it’s ever been. Assuming guys like Smythe, Weishar and Jones have the skills to get involved in the passing game, how exactly are they going to find footballs for them?


Practice Report: Day Seven update


If there’s reason to believe the Irish offense will take a step forward next season even after losing Michael Floyd, it’s Tyler Eifert. The rising senior tight end, who before Brian Kelly arrived was expected by some to disappear into obscurity after a back injury, instead has turned into the best of a recent string of Irish TEs to go to the NFL, with his All-American junior season a record breaking one.

Inside Loftus Sports Center Saturday, the Irish scrimmaged for the first time this spring in full pads, giving us our first, however miniscule, look at what’s to come with the offense next season. As usual, I’ve gone into pain-staking details to help you make heads or tails of the footage.

  • 0:09 — Way to keep up the streak, Jack Nolan. Another video, another piece of ND apparel. Nice rain-winter hybrid adidas jacket to keep you warm and dry out there.
  • 0:28 — Going to attempt to breakdown every scrimmage play we see. I might miss a few details, but let’s see how we do.
  • 0:30 — Tommy Rees hands off to George Atkinson (#4) who cuts it up until he’s met by linebacker Ishaq Williams (#11). It’d be great for the Irish if we heard a lot from both soon-to-be sophomores.
  • 0:34 — Andrew Hendrix (#12) drops back to pass, getting his throw off just in time to John Goodman (#81). From there, Goodman encapsulates his career, weaving his way across the field before he’s hit from behind and stripped on a great play by linebacker Anthony Rabassa (#56).  From the sounds of it, the defense recovers. What a great effort play by Rabassa, who looked to be a part of the pass rush.
  • 0:51 — That’s Everett Golson (#5) standing in the pocket and throwing a strike on a quick out to Goodman. Bennett Jackson (#2) finishes the play, tackling Goodman out of bounds. If we’re truly over-analyzing things, Golson’s feet looked a little happy in the pocket. (Then again, so do Peyton Manning’s.)
  • 0:56 — Rees hands off to Theo Riddick (#6), who looks pretty electric in the backfield. Theo makes a few cuts before he’s met in the hole by Manti Te’o, who ends the play rather quickly. Interesting that it was a two-back set with Atkinson on the other side of Rees, leading the way.
  • 1:06 — Gunner Kiel (#1) takes a snap under center, handing it to Atkinson on a stretch play, who runs away from Louis Nix (#9) (That’s Matt Hegarty (#77) chasing Big Lou) and makes something impressive out of nothing. Carlo Calabrese (#44) and Matthias Farley (#41) on the tackle down field.
  • 1:15 — Good news, bad news Irish fans. That’s Rees completing a nice fade route down the sideline to All-American Tyler Eifert. Bad news? That’s Bennett Jackson getting absolutely dusted in one-on-one coverage, with late safety help by Austin Collinsworth (#28).
  • 1:30 — What a ridiculous catch by Eifert, who looks about as good as you can possibly look at tight end. You’ve got to think touted-TE recruit Mike Heuerman saw plenty to like watching the Irish move Eifert all around.
  • 2:20 — Here’s the recap of BK talking about the tight end position, which is basically Tyler Eifert… and everybody else.
  • 2:53 — That’s Scott Booker coaching up Eifert, in his first season working as a position coach for the Irish.
  • 3:33 — I’m not going to get too excited about Troy Niklas (#85) since it’s still March, but even Booker talks about his hands, and I’ve got a feeling he’s going to continue that string of high draft picks for the Irish at the position.
  • 3:40 — And Jake Golic.
  • 3:55 — Nicely pointed out, Jack Nolan. For those thinking this is Booker’s first coaching job, rest easy. He’s worked as a position coach for five years, choosing to come to ND and hoping to earn his way to a position job. Two seasons later, he did.
  • 5:15 — The man, the myth, the legend Harry Hiestand making an appearance on Booker’s “mic’d up” session, reaffirming Booker’s blocking tip to Eifert as the line and tight ends work together in run blocking drills.
  • 5:50 — Even though its just a positional drill, it’s nice to see the tight ends running wheel routes and going vertical. Booker catches Golic taking a false step to start his route, but all five guys look smooth catching the ball.
  • 6:36 — For a guy that’s played TE for six practices, that’s nice work by Niklas beating Zeke Motta (#17) one-on-one.


Vowing to fix offense, Kelly announces staff shake-up

Brian Kelly 9

After spending the days following Notre Dame’s bowl loss in a sprint to the recruiting finish line, Brian Kelly spent Friday morning announcing the staff changes that have taken shape since wrapping up the 2011 season. With offensive coordinator Charley Molnar taking over the football program at UMass, and Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton joining Urban Meyer’s Ohio State staff, the opportunity allowed Kelly to drastically reorganize the offensive coaching staff, something that likely would’ve been on the docket after a disappointing 8-5 finish.

“When you don’t reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself, it’s important that the appropriate measures are taken in terms of evaluating all facets of your program,” Kelly said.

The biggest move made was an internal one, with Chuck Martin making a rare shift from coaching a position group on defense to coordinating the offense. It’s a move that illustrates how strongly Kelly trusts Martin, who will be tasked with running an offense with a vision shared not only by the head coach, but by the personnel and position groups that’ll be tasked with orchestrating it.

“At the end of the day, he’s the leader of the group,” Kelly said of Martin. “I’m looking for someone that can communicate the message clearly across the board without any inconsistencies from group to group. Chuck is a great communicator and that is the strength that he brings to the staff.”

Other major changes on the offensive staff include the move of Mike Denbrock from tight ends to outside wide receivers. Denbrock will also coordinate the passing game, a nice title bump for one of Kelly’s oldest coaching connections. Denbrock once coordinated Kelly’s offense at Grand Valley, so while Denbrock’s long been seen as an offensive line guru, he’ll work with Martin in developing a passing attack that needs to make more big plays.

“We need to make more big plays,” Martin told the Chicago Tribune. “However it is, we need to make more big plays. In the pass game, we had two completions over 40 yards last year. You talk about inconsistency – it’s hard to consistently go on 15-play drive. Part of how you become consistent – you have a couple three-play scores and all of a sudden your consistency level is higher.”

Denbrock’s move pushes first-year assistant Scott Booker to tight ends coach, where he’ll work with arguably the most talented position grouping on the offensive side of the ball. Tasked with coaching All-American Tyler Eifert and developing elite prospects like rising sophomore Ben Koyack and rising junior Alex Welch (who saved a year of eligibility during his freshman season), Booker spent two years interning with the Irish coaching staff after spending five years as a position coach in the MAC conference.

Filling out the rest of the offensive staff is Harry Hiestand, who left Tennessee to coach the offensive line and coordinate the Irish running attack. With a blue-ribbon pedigree that includes a mentor in former Irish offensive line coach Joe Moore, Hiestand will make some subtle adjustments to the Irish line play that’ll help evolve the offense.

“Last year, we were a big gap and pull team,” Kelly explained about the Irish running attack. “You’ll see a little bit more of a zone influence with this offensive group. But more than anything else, it’s Harry’s great experience as an offensive line coach. Having done it and having succeeded, and really wanting somebody that was so focused on technique and development of the offensive line.”

Defensively, the Irish adding veteran coach Bobby Elliott to the staff, giving former Hawkeyes Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks a coach they’re familiar with both as a colleague and a mentor. On paper, bringing in Elliott seems like a no-brainer, as the former coordinator for Bill Snyder’s best Kansas State teams would be enough to fill the position. Adding his relationship with the leaders of the defense and a sterling reputation only make the fit that much better.

“I want people, first of all, that I enjoy being around,” Kelly said. “Any time you’re hiring you want guys that you enjoy being around, that are passionate for what they do, and have a commonality with everybody in the staff philosophically. That’s what Bobby brings. And certainly his prior relationship with Kerry and Bob Diaco make that an easy fit.”

Perhaps the biggest news of the day was the mention that Scott Booker would take over coordinating special teams for the Irish, replacing Mike Elston who had the job for Kelly’s first two seasons while also coaching the defensive line. Kelly was adamant to stress this wasn’t meant a reflection on Elston’s job running the Irish special teams, but after subpar results — especially in the punt return game — the move was made to Booker, who will receive help from the entire staff.

“His focus is on that defensive line,” Kelly said. “We pulled him in a lot of different directions last year with special teams and it takes a lot of time out of you. Now he can focus strictly on the defensive line. It’s going to make us a better football team… It’s going to be exciting from a defensive standpoint in that room that we can have Mike focused on the defensive line and game planning.”

Offense evolves with Alford assigned RBs and slot receivers


Lost in the shuffle of Signing Day (we’ll get back to it, I promise), it appears Brian Kelly had finalized his coaching staff’s assignments. Tony Alford, after shifting to wide receivers to accommodate Tim Hinton, will head back to running backs coach. Scott Booker, named a full-time coach after Hinton and offensive line coach Ed Warinner left for Ohio State but not given a positional duty, will coach wide receivers. One major wrinkle, according to the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen, is that Alford will also coach slot receivers.

The move is an evolutionary change to Kelly’s offense that’s always been a part of the structure, but is likely now being implemented because of Chuck Martin’s familiarity to the system and the roster’s flexibility for change.

“It’s always something that we’ve had in the offensive structure,” Kelly told Hansen. “But my last couple of stops have been short ones, and it really hasn’t allowed me to develop that.

“At Grand Valley State, the running backs coach coached the slot (receivers) as well, and we’re moving toward that with Coach Alford. So both of those will fall under one coaching position, because they are so mirrored in terms of what we want to do.”

If that’s the change, it’s one that’ll actually be smoother thanks to Alford’s experience coaching wide receivers the past two seasons. Long a running backs coach, the hybrid nature of this should be a nice addition to the workload of one of the Irish’s most valuable coaches and recruiters.

More to that point, the Irish have a depth chart — specifically at running back and inside receiver — that has a lot of versatility. Keeping Cierre Wood out of this because he’s the clear No. 1 running back, heading into spring the Irish will have a nice collection of talent that can run and catch the ball, highlighted by players like Theo Riddick and George Atkinson, two guys that have been tagged both backs and receivers in their careers. Extending that, guys like KeiVarae Russell and Amir Carlisle, two players coming into Notre Dame as running backs (not to mention rising sophomore Cam McDaniel), can just as easily work out of the slot.

Heading into spring, the only player that seems a sure thing at the slot receiver is Robby Toma, who has never scared teams with his raw skills but has certainly been productive when given the chance. After sitting out last season, guys like Matthias Farley and Davaris Daniels might work inside at receiver or on the edge, where the Irish will need to replace Michael Floyd, most likely with the lightbulb finally going on for TJ Jones, as Deontay Greenberry left the Irish at the altar.

The wildcard in all of this is Martin. It’s been two seasons since he’s run an offense (which he did at Grand Valley, a D-II powerhouse), and while we’ve tried to hypothesize what his impact on the offense in terms of schematics will be, until we see it on the field, who knows. That said, with cross-training going on between running backs and receivers, you’ve got to think there’s a higher likelihood for jet-sweeps and other running plays that put the ball in wideouts’ hands. Building off that theory, who better to distribute the ball than a mobile quarterback?

Extrapolating a starting quarterback based on Tony Alford’s position switch is a mighty conclusion jump. But with an roster filled with diverse offensive talent, a new coordinator that’s shown a penchant for running the football, and personnel that doesn’t have a proven outside receiving weapon, there’s a very real chance that changes are coming to an offense that clearly broke down at the end of last season.

Just another item to track as the Irish enter into a tenure-defining offseason.

Friday (night) notes: Doctors, coaches, and awards

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A few weeks after head trainer Jim Russ announced his departure, there’s more major change in the medical department of Notre Dame athletics.

From the official release at UND.com:

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Dr. David Bankoff and Dr. Willard Yergler, who have combined for 66 years of service to the University of Notre Dame athletics department and most notably to the football program, are retiring as team physicians for the Irish athletics program. South Bend Orthopaedics made the announcement today.

Dr. Bankoff started working with Notre Dame athletics in 1981 and with the 2010 football season concluded his 30th year of service to the University’s sports programs. Since 1983, he has served as Associate Director of Sports Medicine and also as a football team physician. In 2003, he was awarded an honorary membership in the Notre Dame Monogram Club, which is comprised of individuals who have earned the University’s varsity athletic insignia for their athletic or team support endeavors…

In the fall of 2010, Dr. Yergler quietly announced his retirement after 36 years – working with seven different Irish head coaches – as a Notre Dame football team physician. In 1974, Dr. Yergler started with the football program and also has treated athletes from all the sports. Besides a legacy of treating injured athletes, Dr. Yergler also personally sponsors a senior student athletic trainer award each year. In 2001 he was inducted into the Notre Dame Monogram Club as an honorary member.

For those keeping track, that’s nearly a complete clear-out of the medical staff in South Bend just a year after Brian Kelly took over in South Bend, something that’s far from coincidental. Both Bankoff and Yergler have spent literal decades in South Bend treating Notre Dame athletes, so this is a true changing of the guard.

Expect this to be an opportunity that’s fully embraced by the athletic department and some significant changes in the medical team that’s in charge of operating on Irish athletes in the future, as very few of the top athletes on campus had major surgeries performed by Bankoff or Yergler and instead looked to specialists.


The buzz surrounding offensive line coach Ed Warinner and the Nebraska offensive coordinator position seems to have subsided, as Warner reportedly told Nebraska he wasn’t interested in the job.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

One name that surfaced as a potential offensive assistant last week — Ed Warinner — said Tuesday that he’s staying at Notre Dame. Warinner would not confirm or deny that he had been contacted by Nebraska.

Warinner worked with Husker running backs coach Tim Beck at Kansas in 2007, when the Jayhawks went 12-1, averaged 42.8 points and finished No. 7 in the AP poll. Beck is the leading candidate to call plays for Pelini.

Warinner said Beck would excel in any role.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s good with the kids in terms of motivation and preparation,” Warinner said. “He’s able to handle pressure on Saturdays well. He’d a solid, solid football coach. Solid guy.”

If Pelini hands the offense to Beck, Nebraska is likely to embrace the no-huddle, spread principles that swept through the Big 12 the past five years.

“It’s high-speed football,” Warinner said.

I would’ve been surprised if Warinner exited South Bend just a year after openly lobbying for the offensive line position at Notre Dame, and after spending some time with Warinner last summer, he was incredibly happy with all things Irish. As for the job Pelini is filing, CFT’s John Taylor passes along the news that Pelini looked to Rich Fisher to fill the void, who walked away from a prep school football coaching gig and running a golf academy to join the staff.

Scott Frost, the former Cornhuskers quarterback, reportedly turned down the same position that Warinner did and decided to stay at Oregon as wide receivers coach, leading to the assumption that the opening was less of a coordinator position and more of a position coach.


One of the unsung coaches on the Irish staff, football intern Scott Booker was selected for the NCAA Football Coaches Academy, where he’ll be one of 30 coaches invited to the workshop Booker works along with coaching intern Bill Brechin, and graduate assistants Jon Carpenter and Michael Painter, supporting the coaching staff.

The mission of the NCAA Football Coaches Academy is to assist ethnic minority football coaches with career advancement through skills enhancement, networking and exposure opportunities while raising awareness regarding the substantial pool of talented ethnic minority coaches.

The objectives of the program are to: increase the understanding and application of skills necessary to secure head coaching positions, increase the understanding and awareness of competencies necessary for success in head coaching at the intercollegiate level, motivate assistant coaches and coordinators to pursue careers as head coaches at the Football Bowl Subdivision level, introduce ethnic minority coaches to senior-level coaches and administrators, raise public awareness of the existing talent pool of ethnic minority coaches and promote the coaching profession to student-athletes, graduate assistants and others.

The Football Coaches Academy is designed to improve and reinforce various aspects of securing, managing and excelling in head football coaching positions at the intercollegiate level. Recognized football coaches, leaders in athletics and higher education will serve as faculty for the three-day workshop.

Coaches must apply to attend the workshop and are required to have at least three years college football coaching experience. The NCAA also offers a Future Football Coaches Academy for recent graduates interested in the coaching profession as well as an Expert Coaches Academy that requires at least eight years of college football coaching experience.

Booker had been a position coach at the D-I level for five seasons, at his alma mater Kent State as well as Western Kentucky. He was a four-year letter winner as a safety at Kent State and is an impressive guy, getting some diversity on his coaching resume as he works with the offense after spending five years on the other side of the ball.


Former Irish safety Chinedum Ndukwe was honored Thursday by Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory who announced that it was Chinedum Ndukwe Day in the city, in celebration of his public work and service in the community.

“It’s an honor, a humbling experience for them to think enough for the work that my foundations done in the city of Cincinnati. To give me a day that will forever be here, long after all of us are gone,” said Ndukwe.

For a nice video of the honor, click this link.


Speaking of awards, WNDU’s Jeff Jeffers, who has spent over three decades covering the Irish for the local NBC affiliate was honored at the “You Can Lend a Hand” fundraiser at St. Mary’s College, which has raised over $8 million for Michiana’s Catholic Schools since 1982.

“To say I’m humbled is a great understatement,” said Jeffers. “I’m shocked, I’m surprised, I’m feeling great. This only adds to my mental recovery, which is of course questionable at best.”

That Jeffers is back at events after suffering a stroke in 2010 is great news. Here’s one guy wishing him continued success on his road to recovery.