Notre Dame Football: Chuck Martin

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Nearly two years ago, three days before the biggest game of his life, the BCS National Championship against Alabama, Everett Golson let the nation in on a little secret.

"Obviously basketball is my love, that's what I love," Golson said down in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, "But my primary right now is football. I'd like to say I would like to have the chance of playing basketball someday [in South Bend]. But like I said, football is my primary, and what I'm focused on right now is the national championship."

"He's pretty good at his hobby, this being his hobby," then-Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin added. "Primary love basketball is just what he does on the side, he's actually pretty decent at."

Everett Golson
Courtesy of DeAndre' ScottEverett Golson (shooting) played point guard in high school, helping his squad at Myrtle Beach High win an AAA state title.
How decent? Golson was at the very least a Division I talent, according to those who coached him at the prep level. Notre Dame's redshirt junior quarterback is on the Heisman Trophy short list as he readies the No. 6 Irish for a date Saturday with North Carolina. A Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, native, Golson had initially pledged to the Tar Heels' basketball program in February 2010. He had spoken with legendary coach Roy Williams, and there was a strong possibility that he would have spent his winters in Chapel Hill on the hardwood, before the football team's NCAA investigation and a trip to Notre Dame eventually forced him to flip his commitment.

Hoops aspirations never materialized with the Irish, though things have worked out pretty well for the man who, with a 15-1 career record as a starter, boasts the highest win percentage of any quarterback in Irish history (.9375).

"If he was doing something else right now other than quarterbacking a top-[six] team, I probably would have been disappointed, just because the kid was so, so talented, such a good athlete at basketball. I knew he could've been a Division I kid," former Myrtle Beach High hoops coach DeAndre Scott said. "But to see him be able to do the things he's doing at football -- which at the time, I'll be honest with you, when he was a freshman or sophomore, he was a kid that really didn't like football nearly as much. But people who were around knew the things he could do on the football field were just unreal in comparison to where he was as a basketball player at that time."

Golson was, naturally, a point guard. He began with a suspect jump shot, Scott said, and the perfectionist in the player made for some early growing pains, as he would get too down on himself after misses. Still, as a freshman he rose to a starting role down the season's stretch, helping lift Myrtle Beach to a state title. He played one more season for Scott, then another for new coach Craig Martin, before his early enrollment at Notre Dame cost him his senior hoops season.

"He was a really talented kid, good athlete," Scott said. "I always thought he was more of a pass-first point guard, a guy who can really see the floor. He liked getting other guys involved, but he was such a good athlete. He could still score the basketball for you."

During the Beach Ball Classic during Golson's sophomore year, he scored 16 in an eight-point loss to a Martin Luther King (Calif.) team that was led by Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of this past June's NBA Finals. The summer before his senior year, Golson traveled around the country to various quarterback camps before returning to point guard on his AAU team, the South Carolina Ravens, all the way to the 17 and under national title game, before falling to the Arkansas Wings.

The Ravens' roster featured starters such as South Carolina tight end Jerell Adams and Clemson hoops guard Damarcus Harrison, and it had UNC forward Brice Johnson and Seton Hall forward Rashed Anthony coming off the bench.

"I probably had the best NFL team that was playing basketball," Ravens founder and coach Dion Bethea quipped.

While Golson was on a redshirt his first year at Notre Dame, the basketball bug bit, and coach Brian Kelly said that the staff had to rein that itch in.

"I think that he still has a love for the game," Kelly said Tuesday. "But I think that now has changed because of his focus on being the quarterback here. But no, in his first year here, he was a handful. He always wanted to go out and play a little basketball."

Golson has said that he would at times decompress by shooting around some with Martin, his position coach, who is now the head coach at Miami (Ohio).
His hoops exploits may be a thing of the past, but the stories still carry some weight around campus and in his locker room.

"I haven't played basketball with him yet but I've heard myths, legends," said Irish receiver Corey Robinson, the son of Basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson. "He's an incredible basketball player, from my understanding. But I've never played with him. I'm not good enough. He's on another level."

Irish lunch links

May, 22, 2014
May 22
Again: How can you not feel bad for Jeff Samardzija?

Irish lunch links

May, 21, 2014
May 21
There are wow stats, and there are wow stats.

Notre Dame spring preview

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The keys to Notre Dame's future arrived Monday, when Everett Golson took the field for the first time in nearly a year as the Irish opened their fifth spring practice under Brian Kelly.

[+] EnlargeEverett Golson
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesThe Irish offense hopes to benefit from the return of quarterback Everett Golson.
This spring will probably not look all that different from last spring, when Golson, coming off a redshirt freshman season that ended in the BCS title game, was officially handed complete control of the vehicle that was Kelly's offense before being exiled the following fall for an academic mishap. Yet the Irish may be shorter on all-around playmakers this spring than they were last year.

But with Golson back -- 15 pounds heavier and seemingly much more mature after spending two months with well-known quarterback coach George Whitfield Jr. in San Diego -- it is finally all in for Notre Dame. Its fan base has been anxiously awaiting the offensive theatrics that a Kelly team last displayed five years ago at Cincinnati, and the most important component to that is Golson.

"Absolutely," Kelly said, speaking about the quarterback position, specifically. "Your offensive line has to play well; it has to protect the quarterback. We've got to run the ball effectively, take care of it. But I think we all know college football and where it is: The quarterback is really going to be the centerpiece of this offense and the way we run it. It's going to fall on him.

"We all live in the same world when it comes to the Notre Dame quarterback. We're going to heap a lot on this kid's shoulders. And he knows that. That's why he came back to Notre Dame, because he wants that. Clearly, he's going to be the one that drives this for us."

Replacing the top protectors of Golson (and every other QB of the Kelly era) is paramount, as stalwarts Zack Martin and Chris Watt are gone after manning the left side of the line so well together for more than three years.

Finding reliable weapons in a passing game down its top three pass-catchers from last season is important, too. (One of those targets, DaVaris Daniels, is expected back this summer after making a Golson-like academic gaffe.)

Defensively, potential first-round picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are gone, as are three of the four starting linebackers. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco -- along with offensive playcaller Chuck Martin -- are gone, and longtime college and NFL veteran Brian VanGorder brings aboard the potential for a more aggressive defense, which should complement a much more aggressive offense.

A running game that lacked punch at times last year will be greatly strengthened by the dimension presented by Golson's legs, which he says got quicker despite the added weight.

It is weight his body and mind are ready to carry as he looks to bring Notre Dame's offense to a place it has longed for.

"I think if leadership ability is in you, it'll show eventually when you're called on," Golson said. "I think only being a freshman, I was still leading to a certain extent. I think now it's more heightened, I would say, because our team is so young this year. But it's been great. That's the spot that I want to be at and I was kind of born to be at, I would say, in a sense. So when it happens, leadership steps to the front."
Our top player to watch this spring should come as no surprise.

1) Redshirt junior QB Everett Golson

[+] EnlargeGolson
AP Photo/Joe RaymondCan Everett Golson reclaim his starting quarterback job this spring?
What, were you expecting someone different? By the sounds of most Notre Dame fans after each Tommy Rees throw last season, the Irish had lost a combination of Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel and AJ McCarron when Golson got himself suspended for the fall because of an academic violation. The good news? The man Golson worked with during his exile, George Whitfield Jr., has worked with plenty of quarterbacks of that talent in his career.

Expecting a Heisman-caliber signal-caller this season might be asking a bit much, but Notre Dame should have a new and improved Golson this spring. He has reportedly put on plenty of weight, tightened his mechanics and even learned to throw the ball with the laces.

Considering he helped author a 12-0 regular season in his lone season of starting, and considering he was one of the few players who did not seem overwhelmed against Alabama in the 2012 title game, the potential is there for Golson to become a much better quarterback than the one we last saw.

His decision to not attend another school last season and to get re-admitted to Notre Dame likely won over anyone inside the locker room had initial doubts about his attitude. Now he will be throwing to a group of receivers who, for the most part, he has little experience with. And if he ever thought about waltzing right back into his old starting spot, well, Brian Kelly put that idea to rest by publicly declaring Malik Zaire as a factor in the quarterback race.

Golson was very close with Chuck Martin, so losing his position coach to Miami (Ohio) probably stung a bit at first. Now we get to see how he works with new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, and we get to see him pick up from where he left off last spring, when he had been all but handed the car keys to the offense and had taken charge in a way few could have expected just a short time earlier.

No one at Notre Dame will draw a bigger spotlight, or shoulder a bigger burden, than Golson, and that starts with his official return to Fighting Irish football this spring.

Irish's lunch links

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
Good effort by the hoops team last night at Cuse.

Irish to hire LaFleur as QB coach

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
Notre Dame will hire former Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur to the same position, a source told, completing its 2014 coaching staff. The Washington Post was the first to report the news.

LaFleur was with the Redskins for the past four seasons, the last two of which were spent mentoring 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. LaFleur will now be charged with helping the development of Everett Golson, who re-enrolled at Notre Dame this spring after serving a semester-long suspension last fall because of an academic violation.

Golson helped lead the Fighting Irish to the Discover BCS National Championship during the 2012 season as a redshirt freshman.

Like Notre Dame's other outside hire this offseason, defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, LaFleur has a tie to Irish head coach Brian Kelly. LaFleur served as an offensive assistant under Kelly at Central Michigan in 2004 and 2005. VanGorder, brought over from New York after one season as the Jets' linebackers coach, had served as Kelly's defensive coordinator at Grand Valley State in 1991. reported last week that Mike Denbrock, a four-year Irish offensive assistant who spent the last two seasons coaching outside receivers, will be named Notre Dame's next offensive coordinator. Denbrock held the title on an interim basis after former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chuck Martin left in December to take the head-coaching job at Miami (Ohio).

Shortly after Martin's departure, former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco took the UConn head-coaching job.

Wood to play at Miami (Ohio)

January, 16, 2014
Jan 16
Add one more familiar face to Chuck Martin's inaugural roster at Miami (Ohio). Former Notre Dame cornerback Lo Wood will play his fifth season with the RedHawks, his father, Lo Wood Sr., told on Thursday morning.

"Lo feels very comfortable with Coach Martin," Wood Sr. said. "He gave Lo his first chance to get on the field as a defensive back as a freshman at Notre Dame."

Wood joins former Irish quarterback Andrew Hendrix and tight end Alex Welch in moving to Oxford, Ohio, to join Martin, who accepted the RedHawks' head-coaching job on Dec. 3 after four years as a Fighting Irish assistant.

Martin coached Notre Dame's safeties for two seasons before becoming the program's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2012. The former position helped him connect with Wood, a cornerback who saw playing time immediately as a freshman in 2010.

The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Wood was on track to become one of the Irish's starting corners in 2012 before tearing his left Achilles during a preseason practice, costing him his junior season. Then-true freshman KeiVarae Russell took over and never looked back, starting every game the last two seasons as Wood saw mostly reserve action.

Wood, an Apopka, Fla., native, finishes his Irish career with 31 career tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one pick-six, which he recorded in the third quarter of a 45-21 win over Maryland on Nov. 12, 2011.

"Coach Martin said he would love the opportunity for Lo to get back into his man-to-man speciality," Wood Sr. said.

Diaco, Martin fill out staffs

January, 10, 2014
Jan 10
Notre Dame lost its two coordinators when Bob Diaco and Chuck Martin took head-coaching jobs. The Irish lost a handful of support staff members as well.

Both the UConn and Miami (Ohio) head coaches announced their staffs this week, with each featuring a number of Notre Dame ties.

Diaco brings along Ernest Jones and Josh Reardon, who will serve as the Huskies' running backs/player engagement coach and co-special teams coordinator/cornerbacks coach, respectively.

Jones was the director of player development and engagement with the Irish the past two seasons. Reardon was a Notre Dame graduate assistant the past two seasons.

Martin, meanwhile, brings along Corey Brown as his defensive line coach after Brown spent the past two seasons as a graduate assistant with the Irish defense. Bill Brechin also joins the RedHawks in a to-be-determined title after serving one year as Grand Valley State's receivers coach, which was preceded by three years on Notre Dame's offensive staff.

Notre Dame’s all-time leading rusher, Autry Denson, joins Martin at Miami as well to coach the running backs.

Martin had earlier announced that Irish graduate assistant Pat Welsh would join his staff as tight ends coach.

UConn has videos and quotes from Diaco and his new staff members on its athletic website.
"We've worked together at multiple universities for the better part of 10 years now," Diaco said of Jones. "He's been a great asset to me, he's helped me grow as a person in a lot of different areas. Coach Jones will be the Director of Player Engagement, which is going to work on a few of our pillars of development. He's a person that's passionate about taking the baton from someone's parents, and taking that baton that person and passing it on to the next phase of his life better than he found it. He's got a great passion and energy for that and he's fantastic in that role."

"Coach Josh Reardon is here, he's been impressive for me as a player, he then became a student assistant, then a graduate assistant," Diaco said. "He furthered his career and has a great expertise in this area, this greater New England and northern footprint as he recruited and coached positions in this area. He intimately helped me as a coordinator to build the defenses we had [at Notre Dame]. He's going to be an incredible asset and resource in not only helping Anthony and Vincent create the very best defense that limits points and big plays, but also special teams."

New Era Pinstripe Bowl preview

December, 28, 2013
Rutgers and Notre Dame take the Yankee Stadium field at noon ET today (ESPN) with the George M. Steinbrenner Trophy on the line. Here is a preview of the action today from the Bronx, N.Y.:

Who to watch: TJ Jones is playing in his final college game. Notre Dame's team MVP from this season has caught 65 balls for 1,042 yards with nine touchdowns, becoming Tommy Rees' most reliable target. And he is facing a Rutgers defense that has been susceptible to the big play, as the Scarlet Knights have allowed an FBS-high 153 pass plays of 10 or more yards, an average of 13 per game. Look for Rees and Jones to connect early and often.

What to watch: This could also be Stephon Tuitt's final game. The 6-foot-6, 312-pound end is a nightmare for offensive linemen, tallying 18 sacks over the past two seasons. Seeing how much he -- along with a now-healthy Sheldon Day opposite him and what is likely to be a revolving door in the middle at nose guard -- can pressure Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd into mistakes will probably dictate the flow of this game. The Scarlet Knights are tied for 98th nationally in sacks allowed, surrendering 2.58 per game, and Saturday could provide a nice opportunity for Tuitt to leave a final impression on NFL scouts, as the draft advisory board gave the junior a second-round grade, according to Brian Kelly.

Why to watch: This is the finale for a group of Notre Dame seniors who have, in large part, turned the program around. Many committed to the Charlie Weis regime -- or, in some cases, to no coach at all before Kelly was hired. They have gotten the Irish to a point where Pinstripe Bowl berths and eight- or nine-win seasons are disappointments, and they are a big reason why Kelly, the fourth-year coach, gave them such a strong say in where they would go bowling once a BCS bid was off the table. This could, in theory, be an audition for the Irish's two interim coordinators as well, as Mike Denbrock (offense) and Kerry Cooks (defense) will run their units after Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco left for head-coaching jobs at Miami (Ohio) and UConn, respectively.

Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Rutgers 14. The Irish offense will have its way with an uncharacteristically bad Scarlet Knight defense (one that is also with an interim coordinator, in Joe Rossi).

Q&A: Miami (Ohio) coach Martin, Part II

December, 18, 2013
Here is Part II of our conversation with Chuck Martin.

You had said that you were out of a job before Brian Kelly hired you at Grand Valley. What kind of influence has he been on your career?

Everyone knows I'm a lifelong Notre Dame fan, and that's the only place I ever really wanted to coach, so obviously it's a very difficult decision to not stay there. But for me, for my family, for my career, this was the best move to put me in a position to get to where I want to go at the end of the day.

New Miami (Ohio) coach Chuck Martin
CHUCK MARTIN: Once again, we got to work with some pretty good players. That's the starting point. We're different in a lot of, lot of ways. People that know us know we're pretty different people. But we're similar in a lot of ways when it comes to football, as far as competitiveness and confidence, and then obviously he's been running a program for, not the longest tenure in college, but he's been in charge for a long, long time and just being around him on a daily basis, it's just organizationally, and I always tell people he's the best off-the-field head coach in America. There's so many things that he gets done for the players in this program to make their lives more efficient, to make their lives more enjoyable, that you're always learning those things. That kind of stuff is obviously what I'll move forward with.

Did you learn even more these last two years, just being on the offensive side of the ball with him and calling the plays and whatnot?

CM: Yeah, I would say more big-picture stuff, too. That's always where I was looking to him, as far as how is he handing certain situations, how is he improving the whole organization, how is he getting things done for the football program, how is he getting things done for our players that gives us a better chance for success. There's only so many ways to run routes and throw, sometimes that can be a little bit overblown. This, that and the other thing. But definitely the big-picture stuff is where you get the most value.

When news of your departure from Notre Dame broke, there were a lot of positive comments from the players -- congrats and whatnot -- on the new gig. What are you going to miss most about that group that you worked with these past couple of years?

CM: These were incredible kids. Obviously they are so much more than football players at Notre Dame. And that's why Notre Dame has so much pride in its student-athletes, because they're truly student-athletes. We watched what they'd go through on a daily grind. It's so impressive. They're awesome kids from awesome families. Whenever you leave a job, you'll miss the school, you miss the people, in particular you miss the players. And they move on and graduate, too. But those are the things that you miss the most — the interaction with the people you work with, and the interaction with the kids you coach. Everyone knows I'm a lifelong Notre Dame fan, and that's the only place I ever really wanted to coach, so obviously it's a very difficult decision to not stay there. But for me, for my family, for my career, this was the best move to put me in a position to get to where I want to go at the end of the day.

The day you took the Miami job, news broke that Everett Golson was going to be re-admitted to Notre Dame. I'm just curious about what your relationship with him has been like and what kind of impression he left on you with the way he was able to recover these last couple of months and do what he needed to do to get back on track?

CM: Just very proud of him. He's my guy, and I enjoyed all my time with him when he was there. I even enjoyed my time with him when he was a little bit afar. I'm just proud of how he's grown over the last few years, and he's an awesome kid with an awesome heart, and just figuring his way. He's already done so many special things at Notre Dame, and I know he's going to do a bunch more special things in his last couple of years. But very proud of how he handled it, and how he really started to take a situation that certainly could be a negative and turned it into a positive. And that's what you're always looking for kids to do. Kids don't hit a home run with every decision they make, and when they make bad decisions and they improve from these decisions that's when you know they're really turning into the type of person that they're capable of being.

There are reports of some guys from there possibly playing their fifth years with you. Can you speak to that yet?

CM: I don't know that any of them are really spending a ton of time with that now. I think they've got finals right now and then they've got a bowl game to play. And if down the road they decide that that's something they want to do, obviously if they choose to move on from Notre Dame, I would obviously be interested. But on the other hand, they're just kind of handling their business and finishing their semester and finishing their season. We'll kind of see where that takes us in the future.

Irish lunch links

December, 18, 2013
Survived ice skating last night. An early Christmas miracle.

Q&A: Miami (Ohio) coach Martin, Part I

December, 18, 2013
Chuck Martin was hired as head coach at Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 3, and he has jumped right into his new duties as he tries to turn around a team that went 0-12. The former Notre Dame offensive coordinator has a family to move, a staff to fill out and recruits to connect with as he assumes his second head-coaching job. caught up with Martin on Monday night. Here is Part I of that conversation.

What have these last two weeks been like for you? I imagine little sleep, a lot of traveling and a lot of meeting with new faces.

Chuck Martin: Yeah, it's been crazy, and obviously there's a lot of things to get up and running, and hiring a staff, and trying to get going in recruiting, and trying to figure out the lay of the land of the place you just got hired. So yeah, it's been good, but like anytime you change jobs it's a little bit of a whirlwind. But you get going and you work as many hours as you can every day, try to get as much stuff you can get done, knowing that you'd like to get more done but it's not going to happen. So you just keep plugging away and keep grinding.

Did you find a house out there yet? How's the living situation going on with the family and everything?

[+] EnlargeChuck Martin
AP Photo/Joe RaymondChuck Martin has coached offensive and defensive units as part of his training to be a head coach.
CM: We haven't gotten that far yet (laughs). I'm down here by myself, and as soon as (his wife) Dulcie can get down here we'll look for a place. We'll try to get settled as soon as possible. We'll figure that out. But we're trying to get through the last week of recruiting and then try to get a plan for over break because a lot of people can take a little time off here but we're way behind so we've got to have a plan for how we can get some work done even though we're in the dead period.

When you first got there and got to meet the players and the personnel, what was your initial impression of what you had to work with?

CM: Well in that case, you never know -- when you don't have as much success as you'd like, there's a lot of different reasons for that. The one thing that I was very, very pleased with was that we have good kids and they like each other. We don't have like a fractured team. … There (wasn't) some big issue within the framework of your team, so that's obviously a good starting point. If you have good kids that like each other and they have some resemblance of a team going in, then it's something you can build on and start. And again, for me, we didn't get into a whole lot of what's good, what's bad, what's been done great, what's been done not-so-great. It was just kind of, we're going to put in our own systems, from offseason strength and conditioning to how we handle academic stuff, to obviously new systems on offense and defense, and then we're going to start recruiting kids to our system for the future. But in the short term we're going to try to develop the kids we have and just go full-steam ahead. So we don't spend a lot of time trying to figure out good, bad or indifferent or what we have. We just say, hey, this is our team right now and let's start developing the players and let's get better for next fall.

During your introductory press conference you mentioned Ara Parseghian. Have you two touched base since you took the job?

CM: I have not. I was actually, it's funny, I was at Armando's (barber shop) the day I was taking off and Ara was in there the day before and had told Armando that, 'Hey, we've got to get a good coach at Miami of Ohio.' So just the fact that Ara Parseghian was talking about a job that I was getting ready to take was pretty special for me. It kind of makes you pinch yourself and makes you pretty excited. If this place is important to Ara Parseghian and I'm the one in charge of getting it turned back around, that's pretty awesome.

How have you or will you go about filling out your staff?

CM: We got some guys on board. I think they're releasing them (Tuesday) or (Monday night) at some time. We've got about four or five guys hired and we're in the process of filling our last three or four spots, so we're plugging away. It's something you want to get it working but also, it's like a giant puzzle -- got to get the pieces to fit right. You want to make sure that everybody can complement one another. And some guys hopefully bring some attributes to the table that other guys don't have. So as you start to fill in and then you get to those last couple spots, you might be looking for some key things you don't have yet on the staff to try to fill those keys. But it's a fun process, you'd like it go very quickly, but also you're here for the long term and you want to get the right people to build it the right way.

Your coaching career has been anything but conventional, especially at Notre Dame, moving from safeties coach to offensive coordinator. How do you think having your feet in all of these different spots at all of these different programs is going to help you in running your own program?

CM: Yeah. It started back when I took over for Coach (Brian) Kelly at Grand Valley. Spent 12 years on defense and only coached on defense and I moved to offense then with these days in mind. I'm only 45; I'm hoping I coach a lot longer. My plan back then, it wasn't by accident that I moved to offense. I had a plan that I was going to be a head coach, hopefully for a long time, and that to know both sides of the ball and have true experience on both sides of the ball and not just be a one-dimensional head coach would not only benefit me in running an organization, but also benefit me when I get a job where I can probably add just as much to one side as you can to the other. So obviously going to Notre Dame and having the experience of going as a defense guy and then flipping to offense halfway through, that's why I was excited about the opportunity. You keep growing and learning in college football; you never stop learning. You've got to stay up with all the new wrinkles every day. When you have the experience of bouncing back and forth like I had, you kind of take turns with what everybody's doing, and now I feel obviously that will super benefit me when I get here.
Kyle Flood was answering a question about his depleted staff on Tuesday when Brian Kelly chipped in a few minutes later with his unsolicited take.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsDespite losing both coordinators, the Irish are in good hands with Brian Kelly.
"And just to add on to Kyle's situations with his staff," the Notre Dame coach said at Yankee Stadium. "I just want to let him know he's got too many staff members. When I was at Cincinnati, we had three staff members and we coached in the bowl game against Western Michigan, so you've got way too many. And we won that game, so I think he's fine. I don't think you have to worry about him having not enough coaches."

At this rate, it would be easy to say that the concerns now fall on Kelly, who lost his second coordinator to a head-coaching job in an eight-day span Wednesday when Bob Diaco accepted the UConn post. That came in the wake of Chuck Martin packing his bags for Miami (Ohio). The moves hamstring the Irish staff as it readies for Rutgers on Dec. 28's New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and as it gears up for the mad dash to national signing day in the 39 days following the 2013 finale.

The initial reaction across players and fans, per routine, was overreaction. Tweets decrying Diaco for looking out for himself were soon deleted, eventually giving way to more and more congratulatory remarks for a man whose next career step was only a matter of time.

Make no mistake, this is far from the situation that is taking place in Piscataway, N.J., where Flood, the second-year head coach, let go of three assistants after an underwhelming 6-6 campaign. The Scarlet Knights step into the Big Ten next season. And this is far from the case that Kelly was referencing in that bowl press conference, as he had just taken the Cincinnati job and had only three of his Central Michigan assistants with him by the time the Bearcats faced, and defeated, Western Michigan in the International Bowl nearly seven years ago.

"It certainly creates a little bit of a challenge," Flood said of Rutgers' situation, "but I'm confident that people are put in positions where they can be successful, and that's really my job as the head football coach, to make sure we got a coach assigned at every position and in all three phases and the coordinator role."

Kelly's challenge is considerably smaller. This is Notre Dame, after all. Initial reaction among recruits speaks to that, with most youngsters recognizing that much of what they were promised remains in place so long as Kelly is at the forefront. If Diaco does not bring along other Irish assistants with him to Storrs, Conn., Kelly will have a much easier time filling the holes on his staff. Kerry Cooks, let's not forget, has also been the co-defensive coordinator these past two years, and he will probably take on Diaco's responsibilities for (at least) the rest of the month.

The fact this Notre Dame team went 8-4 and had its top two assistants get hired to run their own shows speaks volumes about where the program is now. Jimbo Fisher lost seven assistants in a season that ended with Florida State winning the Orange Bowl, and the Seminoles have turned out oh-so fine in the year since. This is a good problem to have, and as IrishIllustrated's Pete Sampson said, one coordinator leaving right after the other could trigger an eventful race back to South Bend to occupy Kelly's office whenever he should depart.

That's down the road. For now, the calendar has 19 days remaining in a year that began with a letdown against Alabama in the national title game and will likely end with a win against Rutgers -- with plenty of embarrassment (Manti Te'o, Everett Golson) and departures (Gunner Kiel, two receivers) sandwiched in-between.

As they did in this past year, the Irish will enter 2014 hoping to close whatever gap remains toward a national title. And while Jameis Winston isn't walking through that door, the two most important elements of that chase, Kelly and Golson, still are.

Nix won't travel to Pinstripe Bowl

December, 9, 2013
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Brian Kelly likely spoke for a lot of people when he said that Louis Nix in New York would be "cool." But the gregarious redshirt junior will not be in the Bronx to face Rutgers with his Notre Dame teammates after signing with an agent.

Kelly made it clear Sunday that he was not involved in the agent conversations with Nix, whose decision to go to the NFL was expected, but just maybe not this soon.

"There's a lot of factors that are involved there," Kelly said. "I think the most important choice he made was coming to Notre Dame and getting his degree. The rest of those, you know what I mean, they're splitting hairs. We'll find out, right? You're taking a gamble no matter what. But the most important decisions he had to make, I thought he got them right. That was coming to Notre Dame, getting his degree. I think he hit a home run on those."

Nix would have missed the New Era Pinstripe Bowl anyway because of surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee, which kept him out of the Irish's last two games.

The 6-foot-3, 342-pound nose guard is expected to graduate this month with a degree in film, television and theatre. He reportedly signed with Todd France and Brian Ayrault.

"He had an injury and wouldn't be able to play. He did what was best for him," left tackle Zack Martin said. "Wish him all the best of luck. He's a great player and know he's going to do great things."


Stephon Tuitt remains undecided about his Notre Dame future, Kelly said. … Left guard Chris Watt's MCL sprain will keep him out of his final Notre Dame game. … Kelly will visit Everett Golson on Monday in the quarterback's Myrtle Beach, S.C., home. Golson may visit his girlfriend in New York around Christmas and could meet the team there, provided he pays his own way. … Mike Denbrock is the offensive coordinator and Kelly will coach the quarterbacks with Chuck Martin off to become head coach at Miami (Ohio), but Kelly remains undecided on how he will handle Martin's vacant position moving forward, saying any new hire would come after the bowl game.


'College Football Live' Extra: Biggest Plays
Ed Cunningham and Brock Huard offer up their choices for the most important and season-changing plays of the 2014 college football regular season.


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