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Football: Ianello insight

Matt Gamber | Wednesday, December 2, 2009

When Tuesday morning rolled around, a new man was leading the Notre Dame football program.

No, director of athletics Jack Swarbrick had not named a full-time replacement for Charlie Weis, whose dismissal was announced Monday. But effective Tuesday, assistant head coach Rob Ianello was the man in charge, at least for the time being.

“I have asked Rob Ianello to step in and take over the program during this period of time,” Swarbrick said at Monday’s press conference. “Rob is a skilled coach and has already played a central role in coordinating our recruiting, and I know he will provide us with the leadership we need going forward between this period of time and when we have a new coach in place.”

As recruiting coordinator, Ianello helped land three top-10 classes from 2006-2008. As receivers coach, he’s coached prolific Irish receivers from Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardzija to Golden Tate and Michael Floyd.
So now that he’s assumed responsibility for football operations, what exactly will the 44-year-old be doing?

“Well, it’s a threefold thing right now. First of all, to supply the support to our current student-athletes that they need during this transition,” Ianello said Monday. “The second thing is to help secure the recruiting that we have so far … And the third thing is to supply any support that I have for our coaches and our support staff and our administrative staff during this time [of] transition. So that’s how I see this breaking down.”

Nowhere in that breakdown did Ianello mention his own best interests. And while he said Monday that he would “reach out to some other people to make sure to secure my future,” his firm commitment to the Irish program is both admirable and crucial, especially because Swarbrick has not set a timetable indicating when a new coach might be in place.

Ianello has an impressive resume, particularly with regard to recruiting — and that should be his top priority in his current position, with Notre Dame still in the running for several of the country’s top prospects. Ianello has been recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters by ESPN.com, Sporting News, Rivals.com and recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, according to und.com, and he has previously coached at Alabama, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Though recruiting is undoubtedly more difficult in times of uncertainty like the present, Ianello said Monday he would continue to sell prospective Irish players on the range of opportunities and advantages Notre Dame presents.

“You come to school here because everybody that comes here is going to get a degree,” Ianello said. “You’re going to play on college football’s biggest stage. You’re going to be on television 32 guaranteed times in your career before you ever set foot on campus here.”

“Those are great resources that this University has, and those things won’t change. I think that message is clear to the guys that we’re dealing with at this time, and that will be what we go out throughout the country and continue to be on the forefront here in the next few weeks.”

Aside from recruiting, Ianello’s role largely depends on whether the Irish choose to accept a potential Bowl bid, which Swarbrick, Ianello and several players all said had yet to be decided Monday. Ianello said the team would be back in the weight room Tuesday under his guidance, and then several coaches would hit the road recruiting early this week in an attempt to strengthen current verbal commitments and seek further commits as well.

“I think we’ll have some guys in some homes [Tuesday] night and we’ll be out on Wednesday and Thursday,” Ianello said. “Our coaching staff will come back to campus on Friday, we’ll regroup as a staff Friday afternoon in preparation for our team banquet on Friday evening, and then during that time there will be discussions about if and when we’re in a Bowl.”

The efforts of Ianello and the rest of the staff have already paid off, as it was reported that defensive tackle Louis Nix gave Notre Dame his verbal commitment Tuesday night. Nix was previously considered a soft verbal commit to Miami but had been interacting with members of the Irish coaching staff for most of the fall. The Jacksonville, Fla., native is a future Under Armour All-American.

As might have been expected, though, Notre Dame lost its first verbal commitment Tuesday, when blue-chip defensive end Chris Martin not only decommitted, but also eliminated the Irish from consideration, according to an ESPN.com recruiting service. Martin was said to have been wavering throughout the fall, and he will consider California, Florida, Oklahoma and USC, according to reports.