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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 12:06 pm

Irish offensive coordinator gets Western Kentucky job

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

Add offensive coordinator to Brian Kelly’s shopping list.

After two seasons as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Mike Sanford Jr. was announced Wednesday as the next head coach at Western Kentucky.

Kelly’s staff has openings at two other spots, defensive coordinator and, reportedly, special-teams coordinator, so the Irish coach will stay busy.

Sanford, 34, was part of a three-man collaboration with Notre Dame’s offense. Kelly and associate head coach Mike Denbrock handled most play-calling duties, while Sanford focused more on quarterbacks.

Although the Irish went 4-8 this year, Western Kentucky still thought enough of Sanford to make him the replacement for Jeff Brohm, who last week took the head job at Purdue.

Even after just his first year in South Bend, Sanford’s name popped up in regard to several job openings, such as Virginia and Syracuse, and it was only a matter of time, people would say, until he led his own team.

Sanford’s reputation is as one of the country’s brightest young offensive minds and as a developer of signal-callers.

In 2015, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer combined for 3,312 passing yards as Notre Dame went to the Fiesta Bowl.

And in 2016, Kizer threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for eight more, which did enough for his NFL draft stock that he announced Monday his intent to leave school for the NFL.

Sanford came to the Irish from Boise State, which went 12-2 during his only year as offensive coordinator. The Broncos were among the most explosive offenses in the FBS in 2014, finishing No. 9 in scoring and 14th in total yards.

Sanford also coached under David Shaw at Stanford as a running backs coach (2011-12) and as quarterbacks and receivers coach (2013). In 2010, he was the passing game coordinator at Western Kentucky, and now he’ll return to run the entire operation for the Hilltoppers.

“Congrats,” Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey wrote to Sanford on Twitter. “Been a great two years. Can’t thank you enough for what you’ve done for me and ND!”