SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame football fans certainly were not satisfied with the Fighting Irish losing five of their 13 games this past season for the second consecutive season. Now those disenchanted followers can take solace in knowing that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly isn't pleased either. To remedy that, Kelly recently announced several coaching changes within the program to try and improve the product that the Irish Nation will see next fall.
“After every season, when you don't reach the goals that you set for yourself, it's important the appropriate measures are taken in terms of evaluating all facets of your program,” Kelly said. “Player development, player personnel, coaching staff…all of those things.”
Following the Irish losing 18-14 to Florida State in the Champs Sports Bowl in December, Kelly had three of his assistant coaches leave the program for other positions. Irish offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Charley Molnar resigned to accept the head coaching position at the University of Massachusetts, while offensive line and run game coordinator Ed Warinner and running backs coach Tim Hinton each took assistant coaching positions at Ohio State.
“We did not reach the goals that we had set offensively,” Kelly said. “So it was important that we put the pieces together and we started with the coaching staff. I think that we've made significant improvements there.”
A dramatic change was made on the offensive side of the ball when Kelly took safeties coach and recruiting Coordinator Chuck Martin and put him in charge of the entire offense as offensive coordinator.
“I'm excited about that move,” Kelly said. “Chuck and I have a shared vision when it comes to offense. Chuck is experienced and knows what I am looking for.”
To replace Martin in the defensive secondary, Kelly hired Iowa State assistant Bob Elliot.
“Bob is a veteran coach that has coordinated at the highest level,” Kelly said.
Elliott has over three decades of experience and Kelly is “excited” to tap into his “incredible knowledge base.”
Elliott will be a new face on the defensive side of the ball, but he won't be the only one with new responsibilities.
Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has had the title of assistant head coach added to his duties, while Kerry Cooks will serve as the co-defensive coordinator.
Mike Elston coached the Notre Dame defensive line a year ago, as well as handled the special teams. In 2012, Elston will not handle the special team duties.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tony Alford served as the wide receivers coach a year ago, and will still work with the slot receivers. However, he will also coach the running backs.
Scott Booker was an intern with the Irish last fall and has been promoted to tight ends coach, while last year's tight end coach, Mike Denbrock, will serve as the outside wide receivers coach, as well as the passing game coordinator.
To replace Warinner, Kelly has brought in veteran offensive line coach Harry Hiestand from Tennessee.
“Harry is a great teacher,” Kelly said. “He brings what we wanted to the offensive line and that is somebody that has really had all of his experience on the offensive line. He will fit very well with Coach Martin and myself in terms of our philosophy.”
Kelly spoke at length about the progress that the program has made in relation to player development and has been pleased with the strides made on the defensive side of the ball. Now that he is addressing the offensive side of the ball, he believes that his program is taking “significant” strides in the right direction.
“We think that these are significant changes that will improve our football program,” Kelly said. “I believe that they already have immediately in terms of the relationships, communication, and the vision that we have on the offensive side of the ball.”