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ND Assistant Coaches: Assistants must secure future in wake of change

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Charlie Weis’ future at Notre Dame was made quite clear Monday when director of athletics Jack Swarbrick announced his firing, but the 11 assistant coaches on Weis’ staff await their destinies while Swarbrick searches for a new head coach.

The odds are few of the 11 will be retained by whomever Swarbrick hires, and as assistant head coach Rob Ianello said in a press conference Monday, the coaching staff will be looking out for themselves while helping the University through this transitional period.

“I have committed to Jack [Swarbrick] to do all that I can to ease this transition for the University and I am going to devote my time and efforts to that,” said Ianello, who was given the responsibility for football operations until a new coach is hired. “I think you’d be naïve that I wouldn’t be reaching out to some people about my future also.”

Ianello said the entire coaching staff will put the players and the University first, but will naturally look out for their families and their futures.

“This coaching staff is a very professional coaching staff, a very committed staff,” he said. “They will certainly do the University right through this transition.”

Ianello may be able to breathe easily for at least a season. His duties as assistant head coach involved coaching the receivers and, more notably, coordinating recruiting. Over the past five seasons Notre Dame receivers, from Jeff Samardzija to Golden Tate, have enjoyed much success, but Ianello’s true value to the next Irish coach will be his recruiting knowledge.

The Irish have landed four straight top-15 recruiting classes, and without Weis as the lead recruiter, Ianello’s knowledge of the incoming class will likely lead to him sticking around campus for another season.

If not, Ianello will likely land on his feet somewhere, as he already has coached at Wisconsin, Arizona and Alabama.

Offensive line coach Frank Verducci is the next most likely candidate to be on the Irish sidelines next season. In his one season with the Irish, the offensive line performed noticeably better than in the previous two, and the running game became a legitimate weapon. But if the next head coach chooses to proceed without Verducci, he, like Weis, will likely find a position waiting in the NFL. Verducci coached for Cleveland, Buffalo, Dallas and Cincinnati before coming to Notre Dame.

Player favorite co-defensive coordinator Corwin Brown will present an interesting case to any new head coach. While Brown may be the best motivator on staff, his defensive backs largely underperformed this season. If Brown is kept, it will likely be because of his relationship with many of the returning players.

Though the defensive line looked overmatched at times this season, it seemed progress had been made through the first several games under first-year line coach Randy Hart. He survived nearly three decades and several coaching changes at Washington before coming to Notre Dame, so while the line did not perform up to expectations, Hart’s resumé may earn him another year in South Bend.

Swarbrick’s hire will want to mark his start here with his own staff, so it is unlikely many, if any, other assistants will be retained. Defensive graduate assistant Bryant Young could return for another season, as he is a former Irish and NFL star. But his role this season was unclear, and the next hire is most likely not going to have Notre Dame ties, so Young’s accomplishments years ago may not hold much weight.

Special teams coordinator Brian Polian should be able to find an NFL position if it comes to that. His father is the president of the Indianapolis Colts, and one of his brothers serves as the vice president of football operations with the Colts. Polian’s younger brother is the assistant to the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta did not find the same success at Notre Dame as he found at Georgia Tech the six seasons prior, but he will likely end up in the same position somewhere else in college football.

Running backs coach Tony Alford has never stayed at the same school for long, but in his past 14 years as running backs coach at various schools he has produced seven 1,000 yard rushers, and he should be given a chance for another next season at yet another school.

The three remaining members of the coaching staff — tight ends coach Bernie Parmalee, quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus and offensive graduate assistant Brian White — will all likely be elsewhere in college football next season as well.