Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Monday, January 30, 2017 5:16 pm

Notes and quotes from Irish staff intro

Chris Goff | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame's new coordinators and staff members completed their introductory media session today, and coach Brian Kelly's hires handled themselves quite well.

They hit on the key topics for Notre Dame fans and used the right words to appeal to the fan base. They showed genuine emotion when talking about the players they are about to coach. They promised to produce teams that display great toughness and effort.

Here are some notes, quotes and observations after speaking with the seven newcomers today:

* Offensive coordinator Chip Long and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees didn't talk much about Brandon Wimbush alone, but they did discuss Wimbush and Ian Book together. Long sounds like he'll adjust his system to fit Wimbush, the heir apparent to DeShone Kizer, as Kelly had wanted the new coordinator to be able to adapt. "Two good quarterbacks here in Brandon and Ian," Long said. "See what they can do." Rees, who played quarterback at Notre Dame, already met with Wimbush and Book. "It's a very eager group because there hasn't been a lot of playing time," Rees said. "I told them there needs to be a mutual respect. They're funny guys. I mesh with them pretty well."

* Linebackers coach Clark Lea mentioned there being a "rover" spot in coordinator Mike Elko's defense. "A hybrid," Lea said. "A guy who is big and strong enough to play in the box like a linebacker but athletic enough to cover in space. We love length out there. We're going to allow that player to put on weight as his body allows."

* Lea, who served under Elko at Wake Forest, said Elko is a player's coach. "His scheme is incredibly effective defending the modern-age offense," Lea said. "With all the scheme talk, the thing that's been the most fun for me working with Mike is the kids play with tremendous spirit. They're having fun on the field. It's not a business environment."

* Wide receivers coach Del Alexander on accepting a job at Notre Dame: "You want to coach from the mountaintop."

* Alexander on Equanimeous St. Brown: "I think there's some things he can gain from the weight room. With EQ, Myles (Boykin) and Chase (Claypool), we have height. They also can bend well. They're explosive." Alexander pointed out St. Brown finished with 961 yards in 2016 and wants to make him a 1,000-yard performer.

* Special-teams coordinator Brian Polian on returning to Notre Dame: "Even at 42 years of age, I still feel a little bit young. This university holds a very special place in my heart. I got my dream job at the age of 29. This is the place I wanted to work at."

* Matt Balis, taking over the strength and conditioning program, also said it was a "dream come true" to work for the Irish. He grew up in Chicago rooting for the Golden Domers. "The most important part is not what you do but how you do it," Balis said, referencing plans to borrow from Olympic training regimens. "It's all the buy-in from the players. Everything works when they trust in what you're doing."

* Long bristled intially at Notre Dame's interest simply because of not wanting to ruffle feathers among Kelly's existing lieutenants. "When we first started talking, there was a bunch of guys who'd been with (Kelly) for a long time," Long said. "I didn't know how they'd take a 33-year-old coach coming in and running the show. I left a good staff (at Memphis) so I wanted to make sure it was a perfect deal or I wasn't going to be able to make the trip. When guys took other jobs, it was enticing. You don't turn Notre Dame down." Clearly Long was referring to Mike Denbrock, Notre Dame's associate head coach who left to become offensive coordinator at Cincinnati.

* One interesting note from Elko on what he asked Kelly when Kelly approached him about leaving Wake Forest for Notre Dame. "Do you have the talent to rebound, and what do you think went wrong?" Elko said. "Yes, and just kind of one of those years where things went in the wrong direction (were the answers)."

cgoff@jg.net