Irish lose Elston, land Stuckey and Grupe
Aidan Thomas | Friday, January 14, 2022
The season is over, but the news keeps rolling in regarding Notre Dame football. The coaching staff saw some departures, but they’re also expected to announce a few new names. On the player side of things, Notre Dame hauled in a graduate transfer at a position of need as they continue to stock their roster for 2022. Here’s a rundown of the recent news within the Irish program.
Elston leaves, Irish hire Stuckey
The Irish largely retained a lot of their coaching staff under Marcus Freeman, including Elston, initially. However, Elston pulled a bit of a shocker on Thursday afternoon, announcing his departure. Elston heads to Michigan to take over as the defensive line coach, the same role he held with the Irish. The destination isn’t stunning, as Michigan is Elston’s alma mater. However, until Thursday, Elston seemed set on returning to South Bend for another year. He recently filled in as the defensive coordinator during the Fiesta Bowl and his departure leaves the Irish with some holes. Not only does Notre Dame need to replace Elston, but they still need a full-time defensive coordinator to replace the recently-elevated Freeman.
The Irish did pull in a new offensive coach and wide receivers coach. They went in opposite directions with these moves, hiring back Harry Hiestand. Hiestand previously coached the Irish from 2012-2017 and comes back from a stint with the Chicago Bears. He’s been coaching since 1981. On the other hand, the Irish went with a young and high-upside coach for their receivers. After a bevy of candidates surfaced as possibilities, Chansi Stuckey filled the role. It was a minor surprise, as Stuckey has only been coaching since 2019. However, he’s gotten rave reviews during his time at Clemson and, most recently, Baylor. He spent two years coaching wide receivers with the Bears. Stuckey was a former NFL Draft selection and is just 38 years old. He joins the 35-year-old Freeman and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees (29 years old) on a very young Irish staff.
Kicker Blake Grupe Transfers To Notre Dame
The Irish already struck gold in the transfer portal once this offseason, nabbing All-American safety Brandon Joseph. This time, the Irish nabbed a smaller name, but it’s one that addresses a potential major positional need. Kicker Blake Grupe will finish out his eligibility with Notre Dame after spending four years with Arkansas State. The Irish’s only rostered kicker was freshman Josh Bryan. He backed up three-year starter Jonathan Doerer this season and has just one career kick, a converted PAT. Bryan has a big leg — he made a 47-yard goal as a freshman in high school and has shown range up to 60 yards in practice. However, a lack of experience and accuracy concerns are prevalent. Throughout his high school career, Bryan converted just 52% of his field goal attempts.
Grupe brings in four years of collegiate kicking experience. He had a nice bounce-back season in 2021, converting 20 of 25 field goal attempts. He was 6-9 for on kicks longer than 40 yards, and he was 6-7 before a shaky season finale. His career-long is 50 yards, and Grupe has made field goals at a 74% clip for his career. He is the immediate favorite to take over as the starter.