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Football: Hinton ready to lead pack of backs

ALLAN JOSEPH | Thursday, January 21, 2010

“You know, he’s just a good ol’ ball coach.”
So said Irish head coach Brian Kelly when introducing his new running backs coach Tim Hinton, with whom Kelly has worked since 2007. Hinton is one of nine assistant coaches on the staff, one of five on the offensive side of the ball, and one of four who came to Notre Dame from Cincinnati alongside Kelly. He replaces Tony Alford as running backs coach, who has moved to wide receivers coach.
Hinton, a south-central Ohio native, hails from a family of coaching brothers. His brother Ron is one of the winningest active high school coaches in Ohio, long considered one of the most competitive states in the nation.
Hinton began his coaching career at Wilmington College, where he started off as a student assistant coach in 1981 before moving to tight ends and wide receivers coaches from 1982-84. He then moved to Ohio State for two years before beginning his head coaching career in the high school ranks. Shortly afterwards, he spent three years at Ohio University before spending more than a decade as head coach at Marion Harding High School in Marion, Ohio, where he enjoyed sustained success.
In 2004, Hinton moved to Cincinnati to coach under Mark Dantonio. When Dantonio moved to Michigan State in 2007, Hinton retained his spot on the coaching staff under Kelly, Dantonio’s successor.
Throughout his coaching career, he has served in such myriad roles as wide receivers, linebackers, defensive line and running backs coach, as well as recruiting coordinator for Cincinnati last year.
“The mindset from an offensive standpoint is that we want to be aggressive,” Kelly said. “It’s not about anything else but scoring points.”
To that end, Kelly and offensive coordinator Charley Molnar will install the same spread offense they implemented at Cincinnati. The spread does not rely much on a traditional power running back, but rather on a much more versatile back, according to Hinton, who says he will coach and develop three distinct areas of play.
“One, it’s what God gave you … and that’s running the ball,” Hinton said. “Every running back wants to carry the ball and will carry the ball, even in the spread offense. Two … their ability to run as a wide receiver and catch the ball. [Three], the area that no one likes to talk about — you better be a great pass protector.”
To that end, Hinton will recruit running backs based on three characteristics that relate to the three areas identified: explosiveness, catching ability and toughness. Although he says that body type does not necessarily matter, it seems that the running backs of the near future at Notre Dame will look more like Armando Allen than Robert Hughes.
In addition to focusing on the pass-catching abilities of the running backs, Hinton will also focus on another major aspect of the spread offense: the read option. An integral part of Molnar’s attack, the read option will be new to most of the running backs on the roster; teaching it will be one of Hinton’s foremost responsibilities.
Hinton has not studied the current running back corps (led by senior Allen, junior Hughes and sophomore Theo Riddick) beyond what he has seen on television due to the frenzy of the recruiting season.
“I’ve told them all, I’m going to give them a clean slate,” he said. “I’m not really listening to what people are telling me about every kid, and I’m not going to watch a ton of film.” He will, however, utilize now-wide receivers coach Alford, who coached this group previously, especially for motivational purposes.
Hinton will also be involved in recruiting, especially in Ohio and Florida, where he has a significant amount of experience.
Above all, he is excited to be at Notre Dame and work toward his stated goal of making Kelly the nation’s best coach.
“This is a great place,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”