Friday, February 10, 2012
Kelly counts on shared vision from '12 staff
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- In discussing his reshuffled coaching staff and new additions Friday, Brian Kelly repeatedly used the phrase "shared vision." For a team that will feature a third different position coach in four years among certain spots, that philosophy is vital to a seamless transition.
"It's absolutely crucial," the third-year Notre Dame coach said. "And the specifics of that would be, they manifest themselves in the sense that when you get out on the field, that everybody is on the same page. Every coach is talking the same language. Every player is hearing the same thing. And that's absolutely crucial to a shared philosophy and vision as to how we do things on a day-to-day basis.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has his coaching staff in place for the 2012 season.
"So I believe it shows itself when you get into the practice area, it shows itself on game day. And when you have that, where everybody's on the same page, that's where it becomes, nobody sees it. 'Boy they look pretty good today.' Well, it's probably because we're all on the same page."
Among the most noticeable offseason shifts is former safeties coach Chuck Martin taking over as offensive coordinator, a position he held during his six-year head-coaching stint at Grand Valley State from 2004-09.
The only returning full-time offensive staff members from last season are Mike Denbrock and Tony Alford. Denbrock moves from tight ends coach to coaching outside wide receivers and coordinating the passing game.
Alford, who has coached running backs and later receivers while with the Irish, will return to running backs coach while also working with slot receivers and coordinating the team's recruiting, a position formerly held by Martin.
Martin will try to shore up a streaky offense that has failed to live up to the defense's standard for much of Kelly's first two seasons with the Irish. Notre Dame turned the ball over 29 times last season, tied for 10th-most in the nation.
"The biggest thing is just the execution," Martin said. "Coach talked about lacking consistency, which we did. But we've done a ton of great things on offense. We can put together an offensive highlight tape of the last two years that we look like world-beaters, but he hit a lot at his talk today about being inconsistent [and] trying to get us to play at the highest level all the time, and that's my job."
Cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks is now the co-defensive coordinator with Bob Diaco, who assumes assistant head-coaching duties in addition to his previous roles of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Diaco, who worked under Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, will become the face of the program when Kelly cannot handle outside assignments, joking he could man the "Batphone."
"Coach is incredible," Diaco said. "And if you guys looked at his mileage and air miles and time spent away from his family, it's sad, and it's pretty incredible what he's done. And he's pulled like that, and that's one choice he makes in a day and he's gotta say no to 10. So when time allows, if he could not be torn with going here or there, or go there and send me ... somewhere else, that's really pretty exciting."
"The beauty of it is through three institutions we can do that, because he's been such a fantastic boss," he later added. "He mentioned a shared vision, but also a shared heart. There's a shared heart. We're in lockstep with matters of all things professional and matters of the heart and with young people."
Former Iowa State secondary coach Bob Elliott was hired to replace Martin, and former Tennessee offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was hired for the same position with the Irish, in addition to becoming running game coordinator.
Scott Booker was promoted from offensive intern to tight ends coach, and he will coordinate the special teams as well. The latter duty previously belonged to defensive line coach Mike Elston, though Kelly said special teams are a shared approach by the staff. The Irish's punt return unit ranked 112th in the nation in 2011.
With three new faces and just four assistants coaching the same units they did last season, Kelly acknowledged the changes could make for a tricky balancing act. But he is counting on the shared vision he so often discussed Friday -- the same language, formations and structure among the staff -- to ease the turnover.
"We talk about this all the time: Our guys go to class and get probably the most dynamic professors in front of them on a day-to-day basis, teaching them," Kelly said. "So when they come here, you better meet or exceed that level, or you're gonna lose your players. So all I think it means is that we're gonna be more dynamic in the way we communicate to our players on a day-to-day basis, but it's gonna be the same pieces that they've already heard."