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Kelly has ‘plan in place’ for coaching staff

Bill Brink | Friday, December 11, 2009

Charlie Weis is gone, Brian Kelly is here, but there are two groups of assistants and coordinators whose job situation remains uncertain.

Some Irish assistants led their departments to success this season and coached their players to drastic improvement, but other position groups took steps back. Kelly has not yet announced who he would bring with him and who, if any, of Notre Dame’s assistants he will retain, but did say he would interview all of Notre Dame’s assistants.

“I’ve got a plan in place. I clearly know where I want to go,” he said. “I want to make sure I talk to everyone involved in the process.”

Kelly said he would begin the process Monday.

“That’s a process that won’t take very much time,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of those pieces already put together.”

Some seem like logical choices to keep; others seem as though their jobs might be in jeopardy. Interim head coach Rob Ianello has taken the head coaching job at Akron, leaving the positions of receivers coach and recruiting coordinator open.

Bearcats offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn has been with Kelly the longest, back to Kelly’s days at Grand Valley State. Quinn played football and wrestled at Elmhurst College and was a third-team All-America selection in football in 1993. He coached football and wrestling at DePauw starting in 1984 and moved to Ohio Northern in 1986.

Quinn has coached alongside Kelly for 19 years and joined Cincinnati’s staff for the 2007 season. He also served as the offensive line coach. Weis functioned as Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator.

Quinn’s offensive line counterpart, Frank Verducci, joined the staff this season and helped the line’s play, keeping junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen off his back and allowing the running game to improve. The Irish rushed for 3.8 yards per carry this year.

Quarterbacks coach Greg Forest has also spent a long time with Kelly. He was a sports management intern in 1991 at Grand Valley State, Kelly’s first year. Forest has had great success this year with both quarterbacks Tony Pike and Zach Collaros. Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach, Ron Powlus, has helped develop Clausen into one of the nation’s top passers.

Charley Molnar has run the Bearcats passing game for the past four years and worked with Kelly while he was at Central Michigan, where he coached Dan LeFevour during his freshman year. At Cincinnati, along with the success of Pike and Collaros, Molnar coached receiver Mardy Gilyard to a great season.

The closest parallel at Notre Dame is Ianello, who previously served under Weis as receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Ianello helped receivers Michael Floyd and Golden Tate flourish during his tenure and also knows Notre Dame’s recruiting inside and out, giving him a strong case to stay around.

Cincinnati’s recruiting coordinator, Tim Hinton, also serves as the running backs coach. Given the success of Notre Dame’s running backs coach, Tony Alford, in improving the run game and the fact that Hinton was the only coach Kelly inherited at Cincinnati, Hinton is less likely than others to make the jump. He has coached multiple positions, however, which adds to his appeal.

Lorenzo Guess, Cincinnati’s tight ends coach, has a background in strength and conditioning in both football and basketball. He has not coached with Kelly long. Bernie Parmalee, Notre Dame’s tight ends coach, helped Anthony Fasano and John Carlson reach the NFL.

Given Notre Dame’s struggles on defense, Kelly will likely make changes to the defensive staff. Bob Diaco took over as the Bearcats’ offensive coordinator before this season. Previously he served as defensive coordinator at Virginia and as linebacker and special teams coach before that.

Kerry Coombs, Kelly’s associate head coach and defensive backs coach at Cincinnati, may make the trip with him. Coombs started in the high school ranks and has coached with Kelly for the past three seasons.

Coombs would replace Corwin Brown, the associate head coach and defensive backs coach. Notre Dame’s defensive backs underperformed this season based on previous performance and perceived level of talent.

Cincinnati’s linebackers coach, William Inge, has coached at Cincinnati for two years but in 2008 three of the team’s top four tacklers were linebackers — not the case at Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s linebackers coach Jon Tenuta has enjoyed great success elsewhere, but his blitz-happy style of defense hasn’t produced results during his tenure at Notre Dame.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston spent his first year coaching the linemen after two years as the tight ends coach. Elston would replace Notre Dame defensive line coach Randy Hart, who has 39 years of college coaching experience, 21 of them at Washington.

Notre Dame recorded 20 sacks and 73 tackles for loss this season.