Coordinators Notre Dame Should Pursue

Bryan Driskell

Over the last three years Notre Dame had its best three-year stretch of offense during the Brian Kelly era, and the recruiting on that side of the ball matched the production.

Whoever replaces Chip Long will have the resources to put an outstanding offense on the field. Sources have been telling me for weeks that Kelly is leaning towards naming current quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees as the offensive coordinator. Rees will get an audition for the bowl game, but the reality is Rees lacks the overall coaching experience and maturity to be an offensive coordinator for a program that is competing for championships.


That means if Kelly is serious about competing for championships he needs to open up the process and bring in someone with the experience, not the potential, to build this offense into one of the nation’s elite groups.

There are a list of candidates that I believe Notre Dame should make a strong run at to replace Long.

Bill Bedenbaugh, Oklahoma — Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line — Prying Bedenbaugh away from Oklahoma is likely a pipe dream, but not calling him and making a legitimate run at him would be a mistake. Bedenbaugh has proven himself as arguably the premier offensive line coach in the country, and his lines have fueled an offense that has finished in the Top 5 in scoring in each of the last five seasons.

The Oklahoma pass attack gets much of the attention, but Oklahoma has averaged between 217.8 and 261.2 rushing yards in each of Bedenbaugh’s seven seasons in Norman. Notre Dame already has coaches in place (Rees, Lance Taylor, Del Alexander) with extensive pass game experience, which would combine with Bedenbaugh’s line coaching and run game prowess to give the Irish an outstanding offense.

Bedenbaugh’s experience is in the Air Raid, having worked with Lincoln Riley the last five seasons and former West Virginia coach Dana Holgoren (2011-12). Unlike most Air Raid’s, Riley and Bedenbaugh have built an offense that looks to establish the run week after week. Oklahoma racked up at least 201 yards in 10 games this season.

Mike Yurcich, Ohio State — Pass Game Coordinator/QB Coach — Yurcich is in his first season with Ohio State, and the Buckeyes had a truly elite offense this season. First-year starting quarterback Justin Fields - a true sophomore - finishing the season with 2,953 passing yards, 40 passing touchdowns and just one interception.

Prior to his time at Ohio State, Yurcich was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State (2013-18). Oklahoma State averaged between 38.4 and 45.0 points per game from 2015-18, and had between 480.0 to 568.9 yards per game. Oklahoma State averaged between 170.9 to 190.3 rushing yards in the final three games, and averaged at least 309.8 passing yards per season.

In 2017, Oklahoma State had a 4,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers.

My personal preference is to have an offense that is more potent running the ball, but Kelly has made it clear throughout his career that it’s not a necessity for him. Kelly has always wanted a versatile and explosive pass attack, which would make Yurcich a great fit for Notre Dame. He has an extensive background in developing explosive passing games, spreading the ball around and using the run game effectively enough to do damage.

Kalen DeBoer, Indiana — Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks — DeBoer first got on my radar during his two seasons at Fresno State, and he impressed me quite a bit during his first season at Indiana. DeBoer came up through the small school ranks, and was a head coach at Sioux Falls from 2005-09, compiling a 67-3 record and winning three NAIA national championships. That background has helped him turn into an outstanding teacher, and you can see that with how his teams play.

Indiana used two quarterbacks this season, including redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. The young quarterback was picked off twice in his first start, but over his next five games, Penix passed for nine touchdowns and threw just two picks before suffering a season-ending injury. His passer rating of 157.57 is quite impressive. His other quarterback was Peyton Ramsey, who saw his rating go from 128.24 in 2018 to 152.61 in 2019.

Indiana made a big jump in scoring average, yards per game and yards per play in DeBoer’s first season. At the same time, Fresno State saw a big dip in production in its first season without him. Indiana went from 5-7 in 2018 to 8-4 in 2019, and DeBoer’s offense was a big part of that. Fresno State went from 12-2 in his final season to 4-8 in 2019.

DeBoer’s offense is creative, aggressive and performed well against several top defenses. It finished the 2019 season ranked 21st in offensive efficiency, which is six spots higher than Notre Dame despite the Hoosiers having far less talent across the board.

Mike Denbrock, Cincinnati — Offensive Coordinator/Tight Ends — if Kelly is dead set on staying within his “coaching tree” then he needs to have a reunion with Denbrock instead of going with Rees. When Denbrock had full control of the offense (2015) the Irish were dynamic. When he had less control (2016) the offense suffered. Denbrock gets Notre Dame, he’s a high character person and he’s a strong recruiter.

This has nothing to do with Denbrock, for whom I have a great deal of respect, but I’d rather see fresh blood and a new voice. But if Kelly wants someone he knows, Denbrock would be a great choice.

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Comments (68)
No. 1-27
GoIrish02
GoIrish02

Love the thoughts. Do you like Kendal Briles at all? Also, is all this just for entertainment? Is Rees the guy moving forward?

Pjtdomer
Pjtdomer

Great story.

I think deboer and denbrock and the best bets if Kelly looks outside, and I hope he will.

Deboer also strikes me as a decent “coach in waiting candidate”. If I were swarbrick, I would be asking Kelly to find an assistant that could take over for him potentially like a Clark lea.

Reed could be that guy one day but not for a long time. This deboer guy has already been a head coach.

Will he run the ball?

SullyIrish83
SullyIrish83

Two of the coaches you mentioned are QB coaches. If Rees doesn't get the coordinator job, do you think Kelly would consider replacing him with one of these guys?

chamgel
chamgel

Bedenbaugh Would be an Absolute home run for the OC job as it would upgrade the offensive line immensely. That move happened and ND is an immediate playoff contender in 2020.

CcND1zEr01tWo
CcND1zEr01tWo

Why the hell do you want a new voice with damn near the whole offense returning?? Wouldn’t you assume the more things stay the same the better? Worked out pretty well on the other side of the ball. The way football is played today nobody has experience. The elite offenses are ran by young dudes with fresh ideas. Not mike Denbrock for gods sake.

Jacob15
Jacob15

Chances that Rees indeed gets promoted?

jameskroner3
jameskroner3

Would take any of them over Rees. But we know how this ends....

Bus7
Bus7

I like Rees staying at QB coach not necessarily because I think he can’t be an effective coordinator, but it seems like he’s been a good sounding board/outlet for Book. Feel like at this point in time, he’s most valuable as the QB consigliere.

NDno1KW
NDno1KW

Would love your pipe dream pick. High powered offense that starts with a running game. Any coordinator who would get our wr’s the ball while on the run would be great. Indiana’s offense intrigued me as well this yr.

Ohop
Ohop

Ed Orgeron went out and got Joe Brady. We can't mess around here. Who do we get to match or one up that?

Jpirish58
Jpirish58

Coach I think the OU and OSU guys are pipe dreams. Id start with the Deboer and Then Denbrock. The UM game was the last straw with Long. He does a great job with sub par opponents but cant step up in the Big Games. Clemson, and UGA were Terrible gameplas and UM was a rain soaked Run the ball game. I wouldnt be opposed to going with Rees if these 2 fall through. I get that you have to try and upgrade, but giving the young man a chance isnt going to Hurt

Irish1966
Irish1966

If there is not a legitimate search then Kelly is doing the Team and University a disservice. Reese is fine for the bowl game but if there is a real desire to be a top tier program a search will occur.

lewboy3
lewboy3

Bedenbaugh has me dreaming of what this team could be. Hell of a list you’ve compiled here. I’d be thrilled with any of the names here.

If Rees is the guy, I pray he proves me wrong. But until then that seems like a potential waste of a few years with a window of very good talent.

coachb31bh
coachb31bh

Coach D. Rees lacks maturity? Can you clarify further?

frase
frase

Coach D as a long time subscriber to BGI I always enjoyed your insight.I found you by chance at Irish Maven and am excited to follow you again.In regards to the OC position I agree that the Coach Rees needs more time.I personally feel that Coach Denbrock is the best choice.One big question that you may be able to answer:When he left ND and went to UC was the parting amicable?

maloy49
maloy49

It's a little telling that the top two guys (who we are kind of drooling over) are both on playoff teams and neither are the OC!!! When you look at it like that the idea of Rees sounds absolutely terrible!

Bob Rodes
Bob Rodes

I don't see Rees as the guy that gets the OC position. While I have great respect for him, I don't think he's got enough experience to make such a jump yet. I think if there's an internal promotion, Lance Taylor is more likely to get it. He appears to have the makings of a great OC, and has a level of experience that is similar to Clark Lea's. Of course, I don't have much more than that, so I can't begin to say whether either Rees or Taylor have the stuff to fill the role, but I still think that looking at the experience and personality of each of them, Taylor is the more likely of the two to get promoted.

SDS123
SDS123

Include me in the group that thinks a real search should occur for OC. Rees may be the guy some day, but it seems to me that He would be a comfortable but not the best choice. It’s time for ND to act like the top tier programs we aspire to. Get the BEST guy, darn it!

PigPen2.0
PigPen2.0

Trying to be fair here. I absolutely loathed Rees as a QB Audibling incessantly and slowing the offense down to a crawl, then weak arming throws into triple coverage.

BUT … that doesn't mean he's not a good coach

Having said that, please, NO, do NOT promote Tommy

Like you, I believe a fresh voice and face is needed; someone who can stand up to Kelly. Not someone who he once referred to as the "paper boy".

And I'd also put Denbrock WAY down the list as well.

MadIrish75
MadIrish75

@CoachD178 Is it really unrealistic to think ND will not reach out to these highly qualified candidates? I've seen comments stating that things are not what they seem in regards to the stability of the program, staff, and administration. Care to comment?

JED 12
JED 12

Like some other posters, I like the Denbrock idea. I think it would be a smooth transition back to ND, he’s an outstanding recruiter and he would be highly motivated. I actually think Wimbush would have been a much better QB at ND and may have never lost his job if Denbrock were the OC in 2017 and 2018.

thomasna33
thomasna33

I would love to land Kalen DeBoer from IU. He's a upcoming stud coach imo. His QBs have vastly improved like you mentioned and really moved the ball well against Penn St.

irish.jabroni
irish.jabroni

What are the chances that if Kelly wants to hire Rees as the permanent OC, Swarbrick tells him "no. find someone with more experience from the outside"

frase
frase

Coach I will spread the word about your move to SI.That was very petty of Coman publishing not to allow you to let’s us know about your new position.In regards to why I think Mike Denbrock is the best choice for OC it looked to me as an outsider that the had a good working relationship and most importantly from living in Central Ohio herring Coach Fickell talk about how much input that he had with the UC offense this season plus what ai was able to see watching many Bearcat gamed this season.Finally,I have always heard that he is a good recruiter.

phgreek
phgreek

Denbrock would be fine, but my choice would be Kalen DeBoer. Hes had more than success, he has been impactful...evidenced by his presence at IU pops out simultaneously with his absence from Fresno. He is currently an OC...not asking him to grow into it (acknowledging IU and ND are different worlds). If I'm Kelly setting up for a final push for a Natty, I'd put my money on DeBoer. Grow Taylor's role so he can be ready...

Jacob15
Jacob15

Kalen DeBoer was just hired as Fresno State’s head coach.

Jcincinnatiredd
Jcincinnatiredd

No way does Denbrock leave the Bearcats to reunite with kelly. He is a prideful man who had his play calling duties stripped. Rumor has it that Brian Kelly ridiculed him in front of his offense of players. Mike, is a high character,intellectual football Individual. He will never retirement to Notre Dame football you can take that to the bank.


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