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Football: Denbrock returns, will coach TEs

Christopher Masoud | Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Second chances can be rare in the coaching profession, but tight ends coach Mike Denbrock is pleased to return for a second stint as an assistant at Notre Dame.

Denbrock coached offensive tackles and tight ends under former Irish coach Tyrone Willingham from 2000-02, and now he’ll work under Brian Kelly with unfinished business on his mind.

“I think I bring a lot to the table,” Denbrock said. “There are a lot of positive things that we left here, even though we obviously didn’t win enough games to remain. I think from a recruiting standpoint, I was able to recruit many quality kids here, many of whom ended up being captains at one time or another, even after we were gone.”

Denbrock spent four seasons with Willingham at Washington before going to Indiana State in 2009 as an associate head coach. During his previous tenure at Notre Dame, he developed several NFL draft picks and helping running backs Ryan Grant and Julius Jones become 1,000-yard rushers.

But Kelly’s decision to hire Denbrock extends beyond his history with Notre Dame. Before working together at Grand Valley State from 1992-98, the two lived together as graduate assistants in 1987.

“Brian has always been a tremendous leader of men,” Denbrock said. “I didn’t have any doubts about the type of success he was going to have. It’s hard to think back to 1987, when we first met each other, that we would someday be together here, but I knew good things were going to happen for him.”

Denbrock’s addition to the coaching staff is consistent with Kelly’s practice of hiring coaches who have worked with him in the past, as the majority of the members of Kelly’s current staff have.

“I think when you have that track record and that history together, we talked about it as unconscious confidence,” Kelly said. “You don’t have to talk about it. You know what’s expected. And that’s what we want from our football team. So when you’re with coaches for a number of years, they already know what you’re going to say.”

Like a number of coaches on Kelly’s staff, Denbrock’s duties will encompass a number of tasks beyond the gridiron. With no official recruiting coordinator at the helm, Denbrock will serve as Notre Dame’s top West Coast recruiter. Both Kelly and Denbrock said his background as a football coach in California and Washington will be a great asset when attracting recruits to Notre Dame.

“It’s the connections and the relationships that you build with the high school coaches,” Denbrock said. “I think they know me from my time not only at Washington, but at Stanford as somebody they can trust what I tell them. With these kids, East Coast, West Coast, wherever, you’ve got to get them excited about what Notre Dame has to offer.”

Denbrock’s recruiting accomplishments include former Irish standouts David Bruton, Travis Thomas and Brady Quinn.

“I think, more than anything, I have a quality of understanding about the type of student-athlete that we’re trying to attract here, what it takes to be successful here,” Denbrock said. “I do a really good job of bringing that information to the athletes we’re recruiting and help them to understand what Notre Dame’s about and what that can do for them.”

A proven winner, Denbrock is excited to be a part of the Notre Dame community once again. More importantly, he looks forward to working with the current Irish tight ends — and especially returning starter and junior-to-be Kyle Rudolph — in maximizing their full potential.

“I’ve had an opportunity to talk with the young men in person and on the phone several times,” Denbrock said. “We’re beginning the feeling-out process of getting to know each other. I think it’s really exciting for Kyle in particular to line up in the scheme that we’re going to run, and the matchup nightmares that he creates for defenses are something that we’re really going to be able to take advantage of.”