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JAPPY OLIVER: Oliver leaves South Carolina, is now ‘starting from scratch’

Kate Gales | Friday, April 22, 2005

After losing star defensive end Justin Tuck, the Irish will need something special on the defensive line this year.

Luckily, coach Jerome “Jappy” Oliver, a Michigan native, has returned to the Midwest after a stint under Lou Holtz at South Carolina to work with Victor Abiamiri and the rest of the Irish linemen.

“Notre Dame picked me,” the 1978 Purdue graduate and former Boilermaker wide receiver said. “It’s just a great opportunity to have the chance.”

This fall, Oliver was in his second year with Holtz at South Carolina as the defensive line coach.

“I get a call from Coach Weis and it took me totally by surprise, it really did,” Oliver said. “So obviously he did a little homework on myself and some of the other coaches and thought I would be a good fit here.

“And with my background, the places I’ve been … they kind of chose me. It was a blessing.”

Oliver began his coaching career in 1978 at Davidson (Mich.) High School, where he worked with the defensive line and wide receivers.

He then worked as an assistant at Purdue, Eastern Michigan, Navy, Northeastern, Grand Valley State, Western Illinois and Vanderbilt before settling at the Air Force Academy from 1995-2002.

In 2003, he began working with the Gamecocks, who finished 6-5 last season. He began a new era with Notre Dame this winter, working to transition the football program and prepare for a difficult fall schedule.

“Everything’s been challenging because you’re talking about a new staff, new organization,” he said. “Just implementing Coach [Weis’] procedures, how he wants to go about handling recruiting, the weight program, just getting ready for spring … it’s been a challenge.”

Though Oliver watched some old film to get a feel for his new players, he plans to focus on the future.

Abiamiri will return for the Irish next year, but there is the difficult task of adjusting the players to new coaching styles and dealing with the loss of ends Tuck and Kyle Budinscak.

“We’ve really been starting from scratch – everything’s been a challenge,” Oliver said. “That challenge, I can see, will continue throughout the spring and throughout the summer.”