When Brian Kelly hired Boise State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, Notre Dame added a young coach who was among the hottest rising stars in the country. A year after flirting with Lincoln Riley and eventually deciding on staying in-house as Mike Denbrock took over the offense, Kelly went outside his coaching circle, adding Sanford to the staff, an assistant who could “turn the room upside down.”
Sanford landed in South Bend on the run, taking over the quarterbacks during a spring practice among the most important of the past decade. And with little time to get to know Everett Golson, Malik Zaire or the other coaches and players he’d be working with, Sanford just buried himself in work.
While we’re still five months away from kickoff against Texas, Sanford is already prepared for the scrutiny and life as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator. And even if Kelly and Denbrock haven’t exactly figured out how the offensive staff will function, a profile of the young offensive coordinator by Dan Wolken of the USA Today gives you a unique look at the assistant who turned down other offers to take on the challenge of Notre Dame.
Here’s a snippet from Wolken’s profile:
He could have gone to Vanderbilt with full autonomy over the offense on Derek Mason’s staff, giving him the opportunity to look like a genius if he had engineered a turnaround. He could have gone to reigning national champion Ohio State, where he would have inherited a wealth of talent and worked under Urban Meyer, whose offensive coordinators have a strong track record of becoming head coaches. He certainly could have stayed at Boise State and continued to roll up big numbers andMountain West Conference titles.
Instead, Sanford chose perhaps the most intriguing fit of all. On Sept. 5, he will make his debut as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame.
“I’ve watched him — he’s ready,” said Sanford Sr., who is the head coach at Indiana State. “I don’t have any doubt he’s ready. He’s mature as a football coach way beyond his years, and his personality, his ability, his charisma and ability to communicate with people, I’m very proud of him. I think he’s going to continue to grow, and this is a great spot for him.”
The entire article is worth a read, as Sanford talks about Jim Harbaugh’s influence on his career, who he hunted down after Harbaugh landed the Stanford job.
Also, for some skeptics who thought Kelly’s inclusion in the offense was a hinderance to finding a top-flight coordinator, it’s worth looking at the surprising rationale for Sanford choosing Notre Dame (he likes the fact that the head coach is still going to be involved with the offense) over opportunities to run the offense at Vanderbilt or work with Urban Meyer.