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Football: Molnar: ‘We love to throw’ the ball

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Next season Notre Dame will be without quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate, as both recently declared for the NFL Draft, but the Irish are still going to throw the ball.

A lot, said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Charley Molnar.

“We love to throw the football,” Molnar said during his first interviews with the media at Notre Dame on Jan. 15. “We all know that going into this thing.”

Molnar was introduced to the media by head coach Brian Kelly on Jan. 15 at Club Naimoli at Purcell Pavilion. Molnar has 26 years of collegiate coaching experience, all on the offensive side of the ball. He has been an assistant under Kelly for the past four years, three at the University of Cincinnati and one at Central Michigan University.

“[Molnar] has a great understanding of the offense, coached our wide receivers, has been a coordinator at the Division I level, and will now coach our quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “He’s done a great job mentoring quarterbacks in his career.”

It is not a coincidence that Kelly selected as his offensive coordinator a coach familiar with quarterbacks and wide receivers.

“I think we all know we’re going to play exciting offense,” Kelly said. “We like to throw the ball.”

For the past three seasons Molnar was the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach at Cincinnati. In 2009, the Bearcats went undefeated in the regular season, largely due to an electric passing attack. The team ranked eighth in the nation in passing yards per game, and scored the fifth-most points in the country, at 38.6 points per game. Oddly enough, the Bearcats were also last in the country, 120th out of 120, in time of possession at only 25:46 per game.

When asked if the low time of possession concerns him, Molnar has a quick response.

“Not at all,” he said, before pausing and continuing. “If we could be first in scoring next year and last in time of possession, I’d be a very, very happy man … We don’t sit on the ball. We are always looking to score points.”

Still, Molnar is not about to abandon the running game, nor has he in the past. Last season the Bearcats averaged 4.99 yards per carry and scored on the ground 23 times, compared to 3.84 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns for Notre Dame last season.

“We understand the value of a strong run game,” said Molnar, a 1984 graduate of Lock Haven University. “I would be disappointed if we went through this season without a 1,000-yard rusher at the running back position.”

Come game day, the one making the decision whether to run or throw will not be Molnar. Kelly is planning on calling plays, while Molnar will be responsible for all other offensive coordinator duties. How will this affect what Molnar does?

“Coach Kelly is a coach that is involved in many, many aspects of the program,” Molnar said. “What I do is organize the coaches and the practice plan, implement the offense. I teach the other offensive coaches what we do … My job is to do what he can’t do because he’s doing so many other things, but he is certainly heavily involved in the offense.”

From there, Molnar will sit in the press box on game days, alerting Kelly to any tendencies or advantages he sees to aid Kelly’s playcalling.

“I may tell him I see something up in the press box and we’ll both really come to the answer that is in our game plan,” Molnar said, citing their years together as the reason for a common thought process.

Whether it in day-to-day practices under his own tutelage, or through Kelly’s playcalling on gamedays, Molnar is insistent that his offense will bear one characteristic usually associated with a defense: aggressiveness.

“We are very aggressive in our offensive approach,” Molnar said of his offensive philosophy. “We are looking to score virtually every time we have the ball. Even at the end of the half, we are looking to score a touchdown if we can.”

This attitude is a great sales pitch in recruits’ living rooms, and it also dictates which recruits Molnar will prefer to offer scholarships.

“Aggressive also means the type of kids that play for us,” he said. “We have turned down many good athletes that were offered [scholarships] by other schools because we did not think they were aggressive enough physically on the field to play in our system.”

In all of reality, the presumed skill level of the team he is inheriting is a minor factor to Molnar right now.

“I want to see it with my own eyes,” he said. “I don’t really care to see too much of what they did in the past. I want to see what they can do once we put our hands on them, with winter workouts and spring ball.”

Molnar continued to talk of the lessons he learned in the past two seasons at Cincinnati, lessons he said will be valuable in the first few years here.

“In 2008 and 2009 we were Big East Champions. The thing I learned from [those seasons] is that you don’t always have to have the very best players on the field in order to win football games,” he said. “It’s about playing harder than your opponent, and believing in what you do, and really that’s about it. If guys would just [play harder than their opponent], you have a chance to win each and every week.”

This blue collar ethos should bond well with the Notre Dame traditions that Molnar already cites. He said growing up in New Jersey led to a distinct Notre Dame football knowledge and favoritism.

“I have followed [Notre Dame football] since I was a very young kid,” he said. “I watched Notre Dame highlights on Sunday afternoons, just like so many other people where I grew up. It was such a source of pride for families who had a son or a daughter go to Notre Dame.”

His Irish preference nearly caught up to him this past season when Molnar’s 6-year-old son tried to corner his father into identifying Notre Dame as his favorite team.

“Even the question was asked to me this season by my 6-year-old son,” Molnar said. “He said, ‘Dad, what is your favorite football team? Is it the Bearcats or the Irish?’ I said, ‘Well Dominic, the Bearcats are the one that pay Daddy and that’s the team I’m with right now so that’s my favorite football team.'”

“Oh, I thought it was the Irish,” Molnar said his son responded.

Now, there is no question about Molnar’s favorite team.

“This really is the greatest honor that I have had in my life, to coach at Notre Dame,” he said. “I am fully aware of the history, the tradition and the legacy of Notre Dame football and of the University as a whole, and I will do my very, very best to uphold that tradition.”

Molnar’s dedication to the football program is echoed by Tony Alford, now the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame. Alford is the lone holdover from Charlie Weis’s coaching staff, when he was the running backs coach.

“I am very excited to work with [Molnar],” Alford said. “I have known Charley Molnar for years, and I coached with him at Kent State back in ’96 and have kept in contact with him for those years. He is an unselfish guy. He wants what is best for this football program.”