SOUTH BEND – Chuck Martin worked wonders with Notre Dame’s secondary in his first two seasons with the Irish.
The 21-year coaching veteran helped safety Harrison Smith become a first-round selection in the NFL draft, and current starting safeties Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta credit Martin with their improvement.
Martin is now bringing his magic touch to the offense as coach Brian Kelly’s offensive coordinator, replacing Charley Molnar, who left to become the head coach at the University of Massachusetts.
It’s a change that brings a clear message to an offense that is trying to improve on last year’s production of 253 passing and 160 rushing yards per game.
Him being in that position is just I know what to expect, Kelly said. It’s not going to be a surprise. I come out on the field, our guys are executing the things that I want done. He’s just really good at following through on whatever decisions were made relative to our offensive structure. I know it’s getting coached.
Martin’s ability to execute Kelly’s vision stems from their history.
Martin was Kelly’s defensive backs coach at Grand Valley State from 2000 to 2002 and was the defensive coordinator in 2003. Grand Valley won the Division II national title in 2002 and ’03.
When Kelly left for Central Michigan in 2004, Martin stepped in as Grand Valley’s head coach. He continued to use the offense Kelly installed and led the Lakers to national titles in 2005 and ’06.
Martin reunited with Kelly at Notre Dame in 2010, and after two years directing the secondary, Martin is back by Kelly’s side trying to get the Irish offense working at maximum efficiency.
Brian has been excellent, Martin said. I think he has trust in his offensive staff. He is letting us coach the kids.
Kelly is still involved in the offense. He and Martin are almost always around the quarterbacks as they try to get either Everett Golson or Andrew Hendrix ready to make their first start against Navy on Sept. 1 in Dublin, Ireland.
But Martin said his the rest of the offensive staff’s job is also to allow Kelly time to look at the team as a whole and not put all of his concentration into the offense.
He’s as involved as any head coach, as we all know, Martin said. The more we say the right things at the right moment, the more he’s allowed to see the big picture and be a head coach. I think it allows him to relax and not feel all the pressure is on him to run the ship.
Martin said there are times he misses being the head coach, and there are other times he is more than happy that Kelly has to go to a meeting or event while he studies game film.
Kelly said Martin made a smooth transition from running a team to being a member of a staff, and he expects good results with Martin taking on more of a leadership role this year.
You can make that transition to a program as a head coach, and it could be, Hey, I’ll tell you when I want you to talk.’ It’s never been that way, Kelly said. I want people to be who they are. I want ideas. If you disagree, let’s talk about it.
So I don’t know that there’s ever been an environment here that he’s felt stifled or that that’s been a tough jump for him. Certainly now, it’s even more gratifying because he’s in more of a leadership position on the offensive side of the ball, and he’s clearly got a voice.