NEW YORK – Notre Dame players miss having the offensive and defensive coordinators that guided them through this season.
But they also feel they are in good hands going into Saturday’s Pinstripe Bowl when the No. 25 Irish (8-4) play Rutgers (6-6) in Yankee Stadium.
The Irish lost offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco after the season as Martin left to take over at Miami (Ohio) and Diaco became head coach at Connecticut.
Outside receivers coach and passing game coordinator Mike Denbrock is the offensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Kerry Cooks stepped into the coordinator roles for the bowl game.
“The way things come across are a little different, but he message has been really consistent,” quarterback Tommy Rees said of having Denbrock as a coordinator instead of Martin.
“He’s been great to play for and learn under. We haven’t missed a beat throughout practice. Coach Martin was great, but between coach (Brian) Kelly and Coach D, it has been a very smooth transition.”
The defense feels the same way about Cooks.
“When you lose a guy like Coach Diaco, it’s obviously a big change, but they’ve done a great job,” linebacker Dan Fox said. “I think from the first meeting I knew that Coach Cooks was going to do a great job.”
For the players that worked with Denbrock and Cooks as their position coaches, what the two assistants are doing as coordinators comes as no surprise.
“I feel like they see his personality a little more,” cornerback Bennett Jackson said of Cooks. “They see how much he loves the game and how much loves Notre Dame. And really the thing they see most is how much he wants to win. He’s pushed everybody just to be ready for every single practice and come out with energy. We’ve had our most energetic practices and best practices the last few practices.”
Receiver TJ Jones says Denbrock yells less than Martin and the offensive players are seeing the kind of leader Denbrock is.
“He has the ability to be a players’ coach,” Jones said. “He knows players’ bodies. He knows when to speed up the tempo, when to slow it down.
“He takes charge. He knows with the position he is in he is responsible for our play and how we perform on the field.”