Notre Dame Football: Massachusetts Minutemen

Irish Lunch Links

October, 23, 2012
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Wouldn't be where I am without Malcolm Moran. Best of luck, bud.
Charley Molnar, as Notre Dame followers can attest, is used to quarterback controversies. He faces one now in Massachusetts' fall camp, having to sit starter Kellen Pagel indefinitely because of post-concussion symptoms.

In that regard, Molnar's duties as UMass' head coach are similar to the ones he had in two seasons as the Irish's offensive coordinator. But in moving from college football's third-winningest program to a school beginning its first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, Molnar has done more than leap from assistant to head coach, as he has taken on the task of building the foundation for a program looking to make its mark both in New England and at the next level.

"I think if there were two situations that were diametrically opposed it would be Notre Dame and UMass," Molnar said. "Because Notre Dame, everything is already in place: The infrastructure is there, the fan base is there, the ticket sales are there, the tradition is there.

"[Now] I'm taking over a program where virtually everything has started from scratch -- with the transition to I-A, we're moving into a new football building, we're playing our games at a new stadium," he added, referring to the Patriots' Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, two hours away from campus. "We virtually have to create almost a whole new fan base and a whole new group of season-ticket-holders. So that is really, really quite a gap that we have in front of us. But it's super-exciting to be involved in everything from the ground up."

[+] EnlargeCharley Molnar
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaNew coach Charley Molnar hopes his UMass program can grow in the mold of Boise State.
Busy days preparing for Notre Dame's bowl gave way to sleepless December nights selling the Minutemen as New England's future football power, as Molnar built a staff, recruited in the leadup to national signing day and met with campus and community constituencies.

"Quite frankly that's always something that intrigued me to do this part of the job," Molnar said of his new CEO-type duties. "So I feel I was absolutely ready for it and I've embraced it. I love that part. I'd rather do it than not do it. I just think it's a lot of fun, and I like getting engaged in the community with our fans and with the ticketholders and trying to create a new fan base. I love that challenge. It's like recruiting, going out there and tying to sell another group of tickets, get another fan that follows the program."

UMass is a football-only member of the Mid-American Conference this season. It will face Big East, SEC and Big Ten schools, including Michigan, and future nonconference opponents include Notre Dame, Wisconsin and Florida. Molnar said dates with name programs will help UMass gain recognition outside of the region, with the hope that, eventually, the Minutemen will be able to compete with and some day defeat some of the elite.

To help bridge that gap, he has welcomed a pair of fifth-year former Notre Dame players, nose guard Hafis Williams and receiver Deion Walker, along with former Michigan running back Michael Cox.

While classmates don't view them as blue-chip saviors -- a look commonly associated with big recruits at their former campuses -- the UMass transfers have expressed surprise at the interest building on campus.

"I had someone tell me, 'Yeah, I hear they got some new guys in from Michigan and Notre Dame,' and I was like, 'Oh yeah? I'm one of those guys,'" Walker, an ESPN 150 player in high school, recalled with a laugh. "So that's exciting, that shocked me for the most part."

On signing day, Molnar stood at a podium between blown-up pictures of UMass alumni Victor Cruz and James Ihedigbo, who squared off four days later in the Super Bowl. A Morristown, N.J., native, Molnar is hoping to compete with BCS-conference programs UConn and Boston College for area players while tapping into talent-rich New Jersey and Pennsylvania. UMass has already landed a pair of three-star 2013 commitments in Connecticut quarterback Todd Stafford and New Jersey linebacker Shane Huber.

Fundamentally, Molnar said, the job remains the same from his years as an assistant, the previous six of which were spent under Brian Kelly. Now, he just returns to a second stack of files in his office every day, with administrative duties adding to his coaching itinerary.

Though mounting paperwork and inevitable early struggles present a less-than-ideal situation, Molnar remains intrigued by the idea of planting the seeds for a rising program. After all, he said, bigger makeovers have been done.

Eight months and zero losses into his tenure, he dreams of one day becoming the biggest.

"I've looked at Boise State as being a model for our program, where they took a university that was relatively unknown," Molnar said. "They had rabid fans but not a large base of fans. And they've run that program with certain fundamentals on and off the field and they continue to do so regardless of who the head coach has been.

"And that's how I see UMass growing in the future, with a great foundation that I get to help lay, and then being able to one day look back at UMass and see the program grow and prosper and feel like this was part of my legacy."

Irish lunch links

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
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Fed!

Walker officially joins UMass

June, 15, 2012
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Massachusetts officially added receiver Deion Walker to its roster this week, as the former Notre Dame receiver will re-unite with Charley Molnar for his fifth year of eligibilty.

Walker also joins former Irish nose tackle Hafis Williams and former Michigan runing back Michael Cox in going to UMass for their final college seasons.

"We are very excited about having Deion join us for the upcoming season," Minutemen head coach Charley Molnar, Walker's offensive coordinator the past two seasons in South Bend, Ind., said in a release. "Having worked with Deion at Notre Dame, he is a terrific person and will make the most of this opportunity. Along with Hafis Williams and Michael Cox, Deion will also be able to make an immediate impact on the program -- both on and off the field."

All three players wil be immediately eligible to play.
Add Deion Walker and Hafis Williams to the list of former Notre Dame players extending their college playing careers.

The duo will re-unite with former Irish offensive coordinator Charley Molnar at Massachusetts, BlueandGold.com's Wes Morgan reports.

Walker entered Notre Dame from Christchurch (Va.) High School in 2008 as ESPN's No. 18 wide receiver and the 103rd overall player from his recruiting class. The 6-foot-3, 206-pounder appeared in just seven career games for the Irish, making one catch for 15 yards in 2009.
"It's really exciting just getting the opportunity to make something of myself," Walker said. "I had such high hopes coming out of high school, and not being able to execute on those plans was kind of a setback.

"It goes like that sometimes. You can't win them all. But big picture, I graduated, I had a blast over the last four years and hopefully I can go on to make something of myself in the realm of football. Looking back, it was definitely tough, but I can’t be that mad about it."

Williams landed in South Bend, Ind., from Elizabeth (N.J.) High School as ESPN's No. 19 defensive tackle in the Class of 2008. The 6-foot-1, 295-pound nose guard notched 19 total tackles and two tackles for loss in 24 career games at Notre Dame.

Here is a list of Notre Dame's fifth-year players who will be playing elsewhere in 2012: Nose guard Sean Cwynar and offensive lineman Lane Clelland have told the Chicago Tribune and South Bend Tribune, respectively, that they will not pursue fifth years of football. I do not know of David Posluszny's plans. The other six fifth-years — Braxston Cave, Mike Golic Jr., John Goodman, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Dan McCarthy and Jamoris Slaughter — are back at Notre Dame for their final seasons.
The ambitious duo of Steve Greenberg and Matt Hayes over at the Sporting News made a list for everyone to debate about: the ranking of every single FBS coach, No. 1-124.

Alabama's Nick Saban is the unsurprising leader of the rankings, coming in at No. 1. As for No. 124? UMass' Charley Molnar, though it's hardly an indictment of the former Notre Dame offensive coordinator, as he is a first-time head coach taking over a program jumping to the FBS this season.

The one readers of this blog care most about, Brian Kelly, checks in pretty favorably, coming in at No. 18. Why? From the story:
There’s too much good in Kelly’s history to give up on him now—or think some kind of Irish jinx is in play. The reality is Notre Dame underachieved last season, and probably overachieved in Kelly’s first season. So where does that leave 2012 for the program still trying to find itself again? It’s essentially Kelly’s roster now; there’s no more blame for the previous staff. He’ll win—or lose—because of roster and personnel decisions he has made.

A BCS coach says: “This slow transition must be killing Brian right now. He’s a results guy, and I think he thought he had something last season—and all those turnovers cost them at least two, maybe three, games. You’re going to see that team play with a different sense of urgency this season. Once his teams buy in, he’s usually very successful.”

Kelly comes in at No. 2 among coaches of independent schools, behind BYU's Bronco Mendenhall (No. 15 overall). As for rankings that may also be of interest to readers of this space: Kansas' Charlie Weis is No. 40 and New Mexico's Bob Davie is No. 96.
Brian Kelly is on a hometown tour this weekend, as the Notre Dame coach will speak Saturday at his alma mater, Assumption College.

Kelly kicked things off Thursday night by speaking at an alumni event for his high school, St. John's Prep.

Our friends over at ESPNBoston.com were in attendance.
On dealing with outside forces (like booster involvement and players using social media) while coaching at a high-profile college like Notre Dame: “My job is to eliminate confusion on a day-to-day basis, and that’s not easy. You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, all the things that are out there, I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s made being a head football coach today so much more difficult. If there’s one thing that has changed dramatically in the last five years, it’s not recruiting, it’s social media and what we have to do to educate our players. Listen, it’s not going away. So for me to say we’re going to take it away, and we’re not going to let them use social media, it’s not going away. So you better be figuring out how to educate your players, and that’s what we do on a day-to-day basis."

Kelly also talks about recruiting in his home state, along with his early impressions of former offensive coordinator and new Massachusetts head coach Charley Molnar. You can check out the recap from Andy Smith here.

Notre Dame to host UMass in 2015

April, 24, 2012
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Charley Molnar will return to Notre Dame in three years, just wearing different colors.

The Irish will host their former offensive coordinator, Massachusetts' new head coach, in 2015, UMass announced this past weekend. The game is one of many the Minutemen, who begin their first season as a Football Bowl Subdivision program this fall, will play against name programs.

Notre Dame will host the Minutemen on Sept. 26, 2015. The Irish had been scheduled to host Temple on that date, but a Temple official said that the game has been pushed back to Sept. 2, 2017.

The Irish's tentative schedule for 2015 -- with extra emphasis on the word tentative -- includes games against Texas, at Michigan, at Purdue, against Navy, against USC, against Wake Forest, at Pitt, against Syracuse, at Stanford and at Boston College.

UMass, meanwhile, has been ambitious in its jump to college football's highest level, scheduling games against schools from every BCS conference except the Big East, plus Notre Dame. Already slated to face Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan and Vanderbilt this fall, the program has added games over the following eight seasons against Wisconsin, Kansas State, Boston College, Colorado, Penn State and Florida, with games in place through 2019.

Irish Lunch Links

April, 18, 2012
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Jamie Moyer. Wow.

Irish Lunch Links

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
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Pro Day. Will we see two first-rounders today?
Apologies for missing this last week, but former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charley Molnar has finalized his first coaching staff at Massachusetts, and it has a distinct Irish flavor.
  • Former Notre Dame All-American safety and captain (1993) Jeff Burris will coach the Minutemen's cornerbacks and serve as the program's community outreach liaison.
  • Phil Elmassian, who played defensive back for Lou Holtz at William & Mary, will be the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
  • Shane Waldron, an offensive graduate assistant with the Irish from 2005-07, will coach the tight ends and serve as recruiting coordinator.

Molnar's son, Charley III, will also join the staff as a recruiting and operations graduate assistant.

UMass will be making the move to the Football Bowl Subdivision this coming season, and Molnar has not been shy about trying to make an impact in the region upon the program's jump to the next level.

Looking at returning starters

January, 24, 2012
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Phil Steele recently broke down the returning starters for each FBS team in 2012, with Notre Dame coming in a 20-way tie at No. 44, with 15 total starters back among offense (8), defense (6) and special teams.

Boston College has the most among Irish opponents with 19 returning starters, good for fourth in the nation.

BYU, Oklahoma and USC each have 17 returning starters, good for 20th.

Purdue and Michigan tied at 29th with 16 apiece. Pitt tied with Notre Dame at 44th, while Michigan State and Stanford come in at No. 64, with 14 starters returning.

Navy, which has 13 returning starters, is 81st. Miami and Wake Forest are 96th with just 12 returning.

A couple other schools of note: Champs Sports Bowl opponent Florida State is one of the teams tied with the Irish at No. 44 with 15 starters coming back. Charley Molnar's new school, Massachusetts, is also tied for 44th.

Elliott named Irish safeties coach

January, 21, 2012
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Bob Elliott is Notre Dame's new safeties coach, the school announced Saturday.

Elliott, a 33-year coaching veteran, comes from Iowa State, where he served as the Cyclones' secondary coach the past two seasons.

“My family and I are excited to be part of this great university,” Elliott said in a statement. “I grew up in the Midwest and have spent much of my life in this region and always wondered what it would be like to coach at Notre Dame. This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up and am happy to be associated with this great place.”

Elliott also has a combined 11 seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator, at San Diego State, Kansas State, Iowa and Ball State.

The position was open because former Irish safeties coach Chuck Martin moved to offensive coordinator this offseason, where he replaces Charley Molnar, who took over as head coach at Massachusetts.

Elliott is familiar with members of the current Irish staff, as he coached current co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks at Iowa in 1997, when Elliott was the Hawkeyes' defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach. Current Irish assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was a graduate assistant under Elliott from 1996-97.

“I couldn’t be more excited about bringing Bob Elliott to Notre Dame,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “At his core, Bob is an outstanding teacher and tactician. He has had great success developing top-tier defensive backs and his experience as a defensive coordinator will complement our coaching staff. Bobby has a long-standing relationship with Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks so the transition to our staff should be extremely smooth. I know our safeties will love playing for him.”

The Irish staff has shuffled this offseason, with Tim Hinton (running backs) and Ed Warinner (offensive line/running game coordinator) leaving for jobs under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Former offensive intern Scott Booker was promoted to a full-time staff member at a position yet to be determined.
Former Notre Dame assistant coaches Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton officially joined head coach Urban Meyer's staff at Ohio State on Thursday, the Buckeyes announced.

Warinner will coordinate the running game as the team's co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. Hinton will be the tight ends and fullbacks coach.

"I was very pleased with the coaches already in place on this staff," Meyer said in a statement, "and now we’ve gotten even better with the additions of Ed Warinner and Tim Hinton. Both are excellent coaches who bring a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge to our staff."

Warinner had served as the Irish's offensive line coach and running game coordinator. Hinton was the team's running backs coach.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had promoted former safeties coach Chuck Martin, not Warinner, to offensive coordinator when Charley Molnar left the post to become head coach at Massachusetts. Warinner had served as Kansas' offensive coordinator for three seasons before joining the Irish.

"I really wanted to hire a coach with coordinator experience," Meyer said. "That was very important to me. Ed has that experience. His offenses at Kansas were not only impressive, but they were some of the top offenses in the country."

Hinton had served as a graduate assistant with Meyer under former Buckeyes coach Earl Bruce in 1986, and his named had been linked to Meyer's staff the minute Meyer was hired by the Buckeyes, though he had previously denied any interest.

"Tim is an awesome coach," Meyer said. "He and I worked together on the Ohio State staff in 1986, but what I am most impressed with is his time spent as a high school coach in Ohio. He had some outstanding teams at Harding, and his extensive experiences coaching in the state were crucial in my desire to want him on our staff."

"I have always felt it would be an honor to have an opportunity to coach for and to represent Ohio State," Hinton said in a statement. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to work with great people and great coaches at such a wonderful place."

Both assistants are Ohio natives -- Warinner from Strasburg; Hinton from Amanda.

"I’ve always strived to coach in positions where I have a lot of responsibility," Warinner said in a statement. "Serving as a coordinator goes beyond just coaching what my guys are doing. It is a thought process of attacking and moving the ball, and strategies and reading plays. There is a big picture as a coordinator that I am into and really enjoy, and it’s a position from where I think I can make a significant contribution to the success of a team."
Notre Dame's 2011 season has been over for nearly two full weeks, but things haven't exactly been quiet in South Bend, Ind. Here's what has gone down in the young offseason.

1. Tyler Eifert is back. This is the best news for Notre Dame in the wake of its 18-14 Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State. Eifert was the Irish's second-leading receiver in 2011, will be the key to the passing attack next season and joins linebacker Manti Te'o in passing on a potentially high NFL draft selection to return to Notre Dame for his senior season.

2. There are still staff uncertainties. Tim Hinton (running backs) and Ed Warinner (offensive line/running gamer coordinator) are gone, not long after Charley Molnar took over head-coaching duties at Massachusetts. Offensive intern Scott Booker is now a full-time staff member, though his position has yet to be announced. Chuck Martin has moved from safeties coach to offensive coordinator. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco is now an assistant head coach. Cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks is now a co-defensive coordinator. Everyone has received a contract extension as well, as Brian Kelly received a two-year bump through 2016 on Tuesday. There are still two open positions on staff, however.

3. New face in the backfield. Former USC running back Amir Carlisle is transferring to Notre Dame. The freshman will have to sit out the 2012 season under NCAA rules after a first year with the Trojans that saw him tally 118 rushing yards on 19 carries and 41 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

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