Notre Dame Football: Urban Meyer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Mike Sanford is a 32-year-old rising star in the coaching business. In his lone year as offensive coordinator at Boise State, he helped the Broncos claim the No. 9 scoring offense and a Fiesta Bowl win.

At Stanford, Sanford coached quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, with each of his three Cardinal seasons ending in a BCS bowl. At Yale, he coached fullbacks and tight ends, while also serving as recruiting coordinator. His father, also Mike, is currently the head coach at Indiana State, and once served as Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach, back in 1997 and '98.

The younger Sanford's daughter is named Peyton, because of course she is.

Brian Kelly has, by any measure, landed Notre Dame a cookie-cutter image of an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Sanford. That alone should make this an intriguing enough hire for the Irish. Contrast Sanford's background with that of Kelly's previous offensive hirings, however, and the possibilities sure are tantalizing for a 2015 Irish squad that returns nine starters on that side of the ball.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsNotre Dame coach Brian Kelly has hired 32-year-old rising star Mike Sanford to be his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
From Mike Denbrock, Matt LaFleur, Chuck Martin and Charley Molnar at Notre Dame, to Jeff Quinn at Cincinnati, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State, all of Kelly's offensive aides have had one thing in common: Experience working for him. That has proven beneficial, as was the case with a 2009 Cincinnati squad that ranked fourth in scoring (38.6 ppg) or a 2012 Irish unit that knew how to manage a first-time starting QB (Everett Golson). It has also, directly or indirectly, hampered the Irish offense from truly taking off five years into the Kelly regime, as evidenced by the turnover-filled campaigns of talented 2011 and 2014 teams.

Now comes Sanford, a man entering relatively foreign territory for an offensive mind of his status, bringing validation to an operation with all of the tools necessary to break out this fall.

"I've been around some spread offenses. In fact, my dad coming off the coordinator job that he had at the University of Utah with Urban Meyer, that at the time was revolutionary football: triple-option offense from the shotgun hadn't been done a ton back in the early 2000s," Sanford said Monday, talking about his first job, at UNLV in 2005. "So I had a chance to GA in that offense, and then ended up going from there to Stanford. And the biggest thing that I found is obviously championship football, a lot of times it comes down to who runs the football the best, and then who makes the explosive plays down the field in the throwing game."

Sanford was reportedly courted by Meyer at Ohio State, among others. The fact Kelly was able to land an up-and-comer that the defending national champion could not is no small feat from a perception standpoint -- not to mention the fact that he did this after Meyer had already landed a third assistant from Notre Dame in the last four years, Tony Alford.

Sanford's reason Monday for picking the Irish was rather philosophical, one befitting a coach on the path to running his own program in the near future:

"One thing that was really unique about really my background as a coach in the last 10 years of doing this, and then this opportunity, is that I think every head coach that I've worked for was either in their first or second year as a head coach at that particular school or really at that level. So you're talking about some new head coaches. Between my dad who was a first-time head coach at UNLV, Jim Harbaugh had come from the University of San Diego but was really at the Pac-12 level certainly his first year, and then Willie Taggart, Tom Williams at Yale. So I've had a chance to be part of the beginnings of someone's figuring out (of) their philosophies, which was a great experience for me.

"But now I have a chance to work for a guy that's a 25-plus year head coach, and to learn from somebody who's been through all the highs and lows of being a head coach. One thing I respect tremendously about Coach Kelly is he's done it from Div. II level, and he's had success all the way, and I've always respected the heck out of that. A lot of people come into this profession and they've lived a very charmed life, and they're thrust right into an opportunity like this at a young age, but he was a guy that scratched and clawed and worked his way up as a longtime head coach, and I think that experience -- I'm always in the pursuit of learning more and growing more, both as a coach and as a man, as a person, and this provided a tremendous opportunity with Coach Kelly and his experience, for me to pick his brain and to really just sit back and observe the way he runs this football team."

How much control Sanford will have remains unclear, as play-calling duties have yet to be assigned. This is, after all, Kelly's program, and he has called the plays in four of five years so far at Notre Dame. Still, for a unit whose most impressive performance was the one freshest in everyone's minds -- a 51-run, 26-pass attack in a bowl win over LSU -- the addition of Sanford could signal a more diverse attack.

Which, in the short-term, could mean a simpler attack.

All five offensive line starters from the bowl win are back. Two of the Irish's top three running backs are, too. And, of course, there is the plethora of young receivers and perhaps two experienced quarterbacks.

This should give Notre Dame options, with neither the run nor pass game having to feel too much pressure. In his lone year at Boise State, Sanford oversaw a unit that was as consistently strong as any at balancing things offensively: The Broncos ranked 29th in rushing, 23rd in passing. They improved in both categories from a year before, despite a new coaching staff.

"We didn't want somebody to be equal," Kelly said of hiring Sanford. "We wanted somebody that was going to turn that room upside down, that was that good. We weren't going to settle for somebody that was on the same plane. We wanted somebody that was going to challenge us on a daytoday basis. Mike does that. "

The pieces Notre Dame has returning provide plenty of promise for a potential Playoff run this fall. Scooping up a coveted outsider could go a long way toward the Irish getting in.

Irish lunch links

July, 30, 2014
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Quite a Cubs game last night, huh?
The Sound Mind Sound Body camp was full of top prospects from all over the country. The recruits, ranging from the 2015 to 2017 classes, came in for a two-day camp with on-the-field instruction and off-the-field speakers.

College coaches from nearly every Big Ten team, Stanford, Notre Dame and MAC schools were on hand to take in the event, and some were given the opportunity to speak to the prospects.

The coaches took advantage of the face time by spending time with top targets, including defensive end Jashon Cornell, running back Jacques Patrick, wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and others.

Given the nature of the camp there was plenty of recruiting news and visit updates from those top recruits.

Patrick takes in Michigan
Michigan is still in pursuit of a top running back after losing Damien Harris to a decommitment earlier in the year. Mike Weber and Jacques Patrick have been two big targets, along with Harris, and Patrick made his annual trip up to Michigan to see the campus and take in the camp.

Early Offer: No doubting OSU's Meyer 

December, 17, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Ohio State moves up three spots in the RecruitingNation Class Rankings after the addition of five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan, but the Buckeyes aren’t done in the South yet; Notre Dame also moves into the top 10 after landing the nation’s No. 1 tight end; and the NJCAA All-America team features a number of well-known recruits.

Ohio State makes Southern push
Shortly after Ohio State landed five-star linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), I asked on Twitter if it’s time to stop doubting Buckeye coach Urban Meyer’s recruiting efforts. Of course, fans from other schools all over the country jumped in and said the jury is still out (and several other things that aren’t safe for print). But even then the biggest Meyer critics might have to change their minds if he is able to also land No. 4 receiver Johnnie Dixon (Palm Beach, Fla./Dwyer) in the next couple of days. The Buckeyes currently have the nation’s No. 8 class and have some major momentum heading into the final push.

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SI: Kelly among top coaches

July, 10, 2013
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SI.com's Stewart Mandel unveiled a list this week that will surely draw lots of praise and criticism: The 10 best and five worst coaches in college football.

Brian Kelly fell just outside of the top-10 list, checking in with four other coaches in the "just missed" section.

There are a pair of very familiar faces on the five worst list, however: USC's Lane Kiffin and Kansas' Charlie Weis.

Mandel stresses that the list is about the best and worst right now, meaning they are not career achievement lists. Hence, no Mack Brown, who won a national title at Texas in 2005 but has had mediocre squads the past three seasons.

Nick Saban and Urban Meyer are Nos. 1 and 2 on the list, respectively, as they have been on most other coaching lists. It's tough to argue against those two and their multiple national titles.

I do, however, think Kelly belongs somewhere in the top 10. While coaches like TCU's Gary Patterson (fourth on the list) and Baylor's Art Briles (10th) have had much less to work with, there's no denying Kelly's track record, especially in taking last year's team to the BCS title game, resurrecting a program that had been through too many disappointing campaigns in the 24 years preceding 2012.

Bobby Petrino is at No. 9 as well, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for me.

Irish lunch links

July, 1, 2013
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MASCOTS.
Another list, another debate — though this one should again have Notre Dame fans pleased following the Irish's 2012 campaign.

The Sporting News' Matt Hayes released his list of college football coach rankings this week, one week after AthlonSports delivered a list of its own. Athlon had Brian Kelly ranked fourth. Hayes has Kelly fifth.

His reasoning:
5. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame: How impressive has Kelly been at ND? The weight of the program hasn’t crushed him like it did every other coach since Lou Holtz retired. The Alabama loss in last year’s BCS National Championship Game was brutal, but he somehow managed to get a team with significant flaws (freshman quarterback, tight-end-oriented passing game) all the way to the big game. He won championships at the NCAA lower divisions, won conference championships at the non-BCS and BCS levels, and will win a national title at Notre Dame.

The usual suspects top this list: Alabama's Nick Saban and Ohio State's Urban Meyer. After that? The debate really begins.

Boise State's Chris Petersen is No. 3, followed by Oklahoma's Bob Stoops.

Athlon's list, meanwhile, had Kansas State's Bill Snyder at No. 3.

There really are no right or wrong answers with any of these, depending on your view. Program-builder? Hard to argue with Snyder, Petersen or Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, who comes in at No. 8 on Hayes' list. Length of success? Few can doubt Stoops' mark in Norman, though consecutive BCS-bowl-less campaigns have not made him the most popular guy among the die-hards lately.

Then there are the real head-scratchers, guys like Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, who comes in at No. 34 on Hayes' list but is No. 9 on Athlon's. Les Miles is another one who seems to draw opposing reactions, as the LSU coach is ninth on Hayes' list but 24th on Athlon's.

Most can agree with Saban and Meyer at the top. After proving this past season that Notre Dame can succeed at the highest level, Kelly is making a case for himself to be right up there, too.

Former Notre Dame coaches Charlie Weis and Bob Davie check in at Nos. 57 and 87, respectively.
Much of college football debate is based on lists and rankings. Notre Dame fans know this as much as anyone after a 2012 regular season that did not see the Irish rise from fourth to first in all of the major polls until the three teams ahead of them dropped games.

Those same fans will have a hard time being upset with the list that AthlonSports released this week: College football head coaches, Nos. 1-125.

Brian Kelly's spot? No. 4.

Steven Lassan writes:
Not many coaches in college football can rival Kelly’s resume in four stops as a head coach. Kelly’s first head coaching gig came in 1991 at Grand Valley State, and he stayed in that capacity until 2003. During 13 years with Grand Valley State, Kelly went 118-35-2 and won two Division II titles. After his success with the Lakers, Kelly went 19-16 with Central Michigan, which included a MAC championship in 2006. Kelly moved on to Cincinnati at the end of the 2006 season and guided the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East titles in 2008 and 2009. After back to-back 8-5 seasons with Notre Dame, Kelly led the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the BCS National Championship game at the end of the 2012 season. Despite the blowout loss to Alabama in the title game, Kelly clearly has the program back on track to be an annual top 10-15 team.

The three men ahead of Kelly? Alabama's Nick Saban, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Kansas State's Bill Snyder. Few can make a legitimate argument right now against the first two, as each is the owner of multiple national championships at college football's highest level. The Snyder spot could be up for debate, but when you take into account his longevity -- and remember just how bad the Wildcats were before his arrival -- it is tough to top what he has done in his 21-year career, ring or no ring.

How about some of the names above whom Kelly is ranked? South Carolina's Steve Spurrier (No. 5), Oklahoma's Bob Stoops (No. 7), LSU's Les Miles (No. 24) and Texas' Mack Brown (No. 28) are title-winners who finished behind Kelly on the list, though Miles is the only of that quartet whose best years have been among his most recent ones.

Other names of note to Notre Dame fans are UCF's George O'Leary (No. 68), New Mexico's Bob Davie (No. 89) and Kansas' Charlie Weis (No. 106).
Big industry names have flocked to Notre Dame every spring for its annual coaching clinic, from Urban Meyer to Rick Neuheisel. But next month's is shaping up to pack a little extra punch, likely capped off by today's Twitter announcement from coach Brian Kelly. New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the latest name to be added to the three-day event, which takes place April 11-13, a weekend before the Irish's Blue-Gold spring game.

Belichick, who will be spending a day there, joins an already stacked lineup that currently features current NFL head coaches Marvin Lewis and Marc Trestman, current assistant Andy Heck, former NFL head coach Sam Wyche and the recently retired Nevada coach Chris Ault, innovator of the pistol offense.

Perhaps Kelly and Belichick bonded at last month's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where they gave a joint TV interview between rounds.

More information on the coaches clinic can be found here.

Irish Lunch Links

August, 3, 2012
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Happy Lollapalooza to those who are going.
Today wraps up Coaches We Love to Hate week, a theme that brought the readers out in full force the past few days.

On Tuesday, we asked you who the most hated Notre Dame coach was, in addition to fielding your feelings toward opposing coaches.

Unsurprisingly given his performance in South Bend, Charlie Weis has run away in the most-hated poll, with Dan Devine coming a distant second. Why? One reader, Aaron Short, suggested that could have more to do with his portrayal in "Rudy" than anything else.

Ah, the power of Hollywood.

As for opposing coaches you guys hate, the usual suspects filled my mailbag: Lane Kiffin, Urban Meyer, Pete Carroll and Mark Dantonio.

Here's why ...

Joe from Danville, Pa.: Two words: Little Giants. Mark Dantonio by a margin so wide science has yet to determine a system of measure that can determine it.

Brian from Raleigh, N.C.: Currently, I dislike Kiffin the most. If you really listen to nearly any interview he gives, he's still the snotty little brat we always thought he was. I don't know how the media can listen to him and not get that impression. I actually respect Dantonio a lot. I hate MSU, and fortunately that particular school is unable to have more than one really good sports team in a season so committed to mediocrity they are. So as long as [basketball coach Tom] Izzo is there, we won't have to worry about them being too good too often. The ND coach I disliked the most? Gotta be Weis in my lifetime. They all have driven me nuts from time to time ( was born under Devine, grew up under [Gerry] Faust and [Lou] Holtz) but those ND teams simply were not what Notre Dame football is about.

[+] EnlargeCarroll/Weis
AP Photo/Tom StrattmanYears after their respective departures, coaches Pete Carroll, left, and Charlie Weis, seen here in 2005, still rub Irish fans the wrong way.
Rose from Los Alamitos, Calif.: No longer a college coach, but Pete Carroll was the worst. The hair at my nape stood on end when I would hear him speak. Just a bad feeling that the guy was not to be trusted.

Jim from Notre Dame, Ind.: Pete Carroll is far and away my least favorite (former) coach. The man never stopped badgering the officials about any call against his team (even blatant cheap shots ... which, with the players he recruited were frequent), was constantly on the playing field and outside of the coaches box (AT LEAST ISSUE HIM A WARNING!), and honestly, I've never hated an opposing coach more. That said, his replacement is making a run at Carroll's title. His comments about Notre Dame make me irate, and his general demeanor and pouting face are loathsome. I hate them, I hate USC (University of Spoiled Children/University of Sanctioned Cheating), I REALLY HATE USC, and I would love nothing more than for them to be undefeated when the Irish roll into town and beat them. P.S.: When USC was sanctioned (I thought they deserve the death penalty... REGGIE BUSH GOT A HOUSE!!!! A HOUSE!!!) and Pete Carroll got out of dodge, it showed just how slimy he really is.

Brett from Denver: Im younger so I couldnt tell you about coaches predating the mid to late 90's, but since then, to me it has to be Lane Kiffin. Its not even about the ND USC rivalry either, its what he did to Tennessee. Then pile on his arrogance and I despise no one more.

Aaron Short from Bloomington, Ill.: Do you think Devine is coming in second on the Notre Dame coach list because of how he was portrayed in "Rudy"? And in response to the opposing coaches. Lane Kiffin has to take this one. The guy jumps to the NFL, fails ... miserably, which I'm not putting the guy down for taking a chance but then Tennessee gives him a great opportunity. So he takes it and talks it up, saying and I quote "We'll be singing Rocky Top all night long after we beat Florida"... Urban Meyer's Florida, that is. Once again FAILS, miserably ... Pete Carroll darts out of LA before his crap hits the fan leaving Lane Kiffin a back door out of Knoxville. And even though he wants to try to beat Florida again because he reaallllyy wants to sing rocky top all night long, he leaves the Vols in the gutter and jumps back into the loving arms of USC, knowing that a 2 year post season ban would still be better than getting wiped up and down in the SEC. Him and Todd Graham need to set a lunch date together, if the two could commit to a place.

Mullin from Hamilton, N.J.: Without a doubt it's Urban Meyer. Now we know why he wouldn't come to his dream job at Notre Dame. He already has secondary violations at OSU and complaints about his recruiting tactics ... and how come nobody ever brings up the 30 guys that got arrested in his tenure at FLA? That doesn't work at ND. Throw in the fact that he's stolen several top recruits from ND at those 2 schools puts him as public enemy #1.

And we have a voice from the other side, too, as reader Tom Jeffries from Gas City, Ind., defends Charlie Weis' work ...

Tom: Matt I love reading your stuff every week. You do a great job. That being said, this poll was way off. Charlie got the most votes, but it was totally undeserved. First and foremost lets not forget that the last 2 BCS bowls ND was in, was under Charlie. Also I think we can all agree that he was a great person off the field. He did tons of charity work and donated more money than I will ever make in my lifetime. [He] is a good mind, who had trouble adjusting to the college game and getting the right staff together. [He] belonged in the press box, calling the plays. That why he went to Kansas City and dominated, had a good run at Florida, and is now back coaching at the BCS level at Kansas. Lets at least state the facts and give credit where credit is due.

As always, thanks a bunch for sharing your feelings. And for keeping things civil in a post like this. I can't say I'm too surprised by the amount of hatred toward USC's former and current coaches, and the expectations surrounding the Trojans this season should only add to the intrigue and animosity.

Ex-ND assistant Sheridan to OSU

January, 30, 2012
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Add one more former Notre Dame assistant to Urban Meyer's Ohio State staff.

Bill Sheridan, who coached the Irish defensive backs in 2001, has rounded out the Buckeyes' staff and will be their new secondary coach, according to multiple reports.

The 53-year-old Sheridan has also coached at Michigan, Michigan State, the New York Giants (2005-09) and the Miami Dolphins (2010-11).

Former Irish assistants Tim Hinton (running backs) and Ed Warinner (offensive line/running game coordinator) were hired away from Notre Dame by Meyer this offseason. They will coach the tight ends/fullbacks and the offensive line, respectively.

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.

Decker de-commits from ND for OSU

January, 15, 2012
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Urban Meyer probably doesn't have too many fans in South Bend, Ind.

Three-star offensive tackle Taylor Decker (Vandalia, Ohio/Butler) de-committed from Notre Dame on Sunday and pledged to Meyer and Ohio State, joining former Irish assistants Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner in leaving for the scarlet and gray.

Warinner, who will coordinate the running game as Ohio State's co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, will be Decker's position coach. Warinner had previously served as the Irish's offensive line coach and running game coordinator.

Decker's de-commitment drops the Irish's recruiting class to 16 members. The 6-foot-8, 310-pounder originally committed to Notre Dame in March.

Ohio State now has 20 commitments for the class of 2012, and four since Meyer took over the Buckeyes.

Notre Dame suffered a de-commitment just a week ago when four-star athlete Ronald Darby (Oxon Hill, Md./Potomac) re-opened his recruitment.
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."

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