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Football

Kelly introduces VanGorder

| Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Irish coach Brian Kelly officially introduced new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on Tuesday afternoon.

VanGorder, who originally worked with Kelly at Grand Valley State for three seasons beginning in 1989, served as the linebackers coach of the New York Jets in 2013, his 25th consecutive season coaching in the collegiate or professional ranks.

20140114-20140114, Brian Kelly, by Grant Tobin, Defensive Coordinator, Gug, Press Conference, The ObserverGrant Tobin | The Observer

Between all the years and all the stops VanGorder has made, Kelly said one factor set the new defensive coordinator apart from other potential candidates.

“The first thing I wanted in this position is a great teacher,” Kelly said. “I think first and foremost when you’re talking about the ability to bring together our defensive players, you need the ability to communicate and to teach, and Brian is one of the very best teachers, if not the best teacher, that I’ve ever been around, and I go way back with Brian.”

VanGorder was the defensive coordinator at Auburn in 2012, following five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, the last four as the defensive coordinator. He replaces Bob Diaco as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator after Diaco left earlier in December to become the head coach at Connecticut. Irish cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks had been serving as the interim defensive coordinator.

In hiring VanGorder, Kelly said other major factors were the new hire’s experience and understanding of the importance of player development.

“The idea of development, which favors the college player, has always been my desire as a coach,” VanGorder said.

In the first step of developing his players, VanGorder said he is still in the early stages of evaluating his defensive contingent. While he does that, VanGorder said he will consider the team’s strengths and, then, determine the type of defense he intends to run.

“No matter what you run schematically, the idea of our players’ enthusiasm for what they’re doing and their standards and expectations are relative to whatever we do, whether it’s 4‑3, 3‑4, all those kinds of things that we like to talk about,” he said.

In surveying Notre Dame’s defense, VanGorder said he has liked what he has seen thus far.

“When I put the film on, I like our players’ intensity,” VanGorder said. “You can see their body language and enthusiasm. They’re all in, and so that’s the most important thing is you build scheme and all those things moving forward. But that’s what I like. I like their enthusiasm and their commitment to excellence and they represent Notre Dame, so that’s the way it should be.”

Before entering the coaching ranks, VanGorder was a four-year letterman at Wayne State, where he ranks seventh in school history with 335 career tackles. In February, VanGorder was inducted into the Wayne State University Hall of Fame.

At Wayne State, VanGorder was coached by Dick Lowry, a fellow University Hall of Famer who spent six seasons at the helm of the Tartars. VanGorder mentioned Lowry as one of his primary coaching influences.

After coaching his three seasons at Grand Valley State, VanGorder left to take the head-coaching job at his alma mater in 1992. He spent time visiting Michigan and learned from then-Wolverine coaches Cam Cameron and Les Miles.

Roughly 10 years and four coaching stops later, VanGorder made the jump to the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005, and he noted the experience of learning under then-Jaguars coaches Jack Del Rio and Mike Smith.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu

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About Mike Monaco

Senior Sports Writer Mike Monaco is a senior majoring in Film, Television and Theatre with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy as well as Business Economics. The O’Neill Hall native hails from the Boston area and is an aspiring play-by-play broadcaster.

Contact Mike