FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly wants the coach who replaces defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who left the Irish to become head coach at Connecticut, to be flexible.
As long as we have the ability to play both three and four down (linemen), and we have the ability to adjust to playing option, playing spreads, our defensive coaches and the schedule that we have have got to have a great deal of flexibility, Kelly told reporters Saturday. The defensive coordinator has got to have that ability to handle a variety of different offenses. It can’t be, Well, I just do this.’ We’ve got to have some flexibility, and to do that you’ve got to be able to run both three down and four down.
The only other time Kelly had to replace a coordinator at Notre Dame, he turned to a member of the staff.
Kelly promoted Chuck Martin from safeties coach to offensive coordinator after the 2011 season after Charlie Molnar left to take the head coaching job at Massachusetts. Martin will also have to be replaced this offseason after he took the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio).
Kelly could turn to a member of his current defensive staff to fill Diaco’s position, even though two of the three remaining defensive coaches lack coordinator experience.
Kerry Cooks, who has coached cornerbacks for the past three seasons after spending his first season with Notre Dame as outside linebackers coach, was named the defensive coordinator for the Pinstripe Bowl when the No. 25 Irish (8-4) play Rutgers (6-6) on Dec. 28 in Yankee Stadium. While Cooks has been the co-defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, he has never been the sole defensive coordinator in his career.
Defensive line coach Mike Elston, who came to Notre Dame in 2010, also shared coordinator duties on Kelly’s staff at Central Michigan in 2005 but has never been the sole defensive coordinator in his career. Elston also put an end to rumors he could leave for the coordinator position on Diaco’s staff with a post on his Twitter account Saturday that said, Staying at ND. Love thee Notre Dame. Go Irish.
Safeties coach Bob Elliott is the only Irish defensive coach with coordinator experience, having filled that role at Ball State, Iowa, Kansas State and San Diego State. But the veteran coach has battled well-documented health issues.
While Kelly said experience, as well the ability to be flexible, will be needed, he also will not shy away from hiring a first-time coordinator to take over the Irish defense.
I would tell you that the coordinator’s job at Notre Dame, now having been here for four years, requires a lot of experience in defending so many different looks, Kelly said. One of the most important things is you don’t have a lot of knowledge of your opponents unfortunately with so many different teams that come on and off our schedule, so you have to have a great bank of experience. I think you have to have a great deal of experience coming into the position, but I don’t want to paint myself into a corner and say you can’t be it. I really think it helps. Now, you can gain a lot of that by maintaining continuity on your staff.
Note: The Irish added Tyler Luatua, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound tight end from La Mirada (Calif.) to their 2014 recruiting class, according to reports. Luatua is rated a four-star prospect and is the 22nd commitment for Notre Dame.