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Football

Crash course on offseason staff changes for Notre Dame football

| Friday, August 25, 2023

Max Petrosky | The Observer
Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman looks on during the game between Notre Dame and Clemson at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Credit: Max Petrosky/The Observer

Notre Dame football had plenty of upheaval in 2022 when longtime head coach Brian Kelly skipped town to LSU. Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was in turn hired as head coach and kept nearly the entire staff intact. However, the 2023 offseason was a different story as several assistants left the team for various reasons. Freeman acted quickly to find replacements for the Irish, as preparation time for the new season quickly approached. Here’s a recap of those changes and profiles of the new faces on the sideline for the Irish.

Offensive Coordinator: Gerad Parker replaces Tommy Rees 

Back in February, former offensive coordinator Tommy Rees left for the same role at Alabama, followed shortly thereafter by former quarterback Tyler Buchner. Tight ends coach Gerad Parker was promoted to offensive coordinator, a role he will fill while continuing to work with the tight ends. Parker worked with Freeman for four years at Purdue and was interim head coach for the final six games of the 2016 season. He was also the offensive coordinator at West Virginia in 2020 and 2021. In an address to the media shortly after his appointment, Parker said he wants to be “very O-line driven” this season, focusing on scoring while empowering his players to grow. “It’s our job to know what their skills are and make them better,” Parker said. “We are gonna do what our players do best, and find ways to enhance.” 

Quarterbacks Coach: Gino Guidugli enters the scene 

Another interesting move was the addition of quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli to the staff. Quarterback development has been an issue for the past several seasons for Notre Dame and the hiring of Guidugli will allow Parker to focus on the offensive scheme. Guidugli will devote his energy to developing sophomore Steve Angeli and freshman Kenny Minchey while also guiding graduate student transfer Sam Hartman during games. Guidugli had success in this role at Cincinnati, where he developed quarterback Desmond Ridder (who led the Bearcats to a victory over the Irish in 2021), now an NFL starter with the Atlanta Falcons.

Offensive Line Coach: Joe Rudolph replaces Harry Hiestand 

Just over a week after the Rees announcement, former offensive line coach Harry Hiestand retired from coaching. During his seven seasons at Notre Dame, Hiestand turned around a struggling Irish offensive line and built up its depth. Joe Rudolph will replace Hiestand, joining the Irish from Virginia Tech, where he served as offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Prior to Tech, Rudolph developed dominant offensive lines at Wisconsin from 2015-2021 and oversaw three successful seasons at Pitt from 2012-2014. As an 18-year coaching veteran, Rudolph has the potential to further develop Notre Dame’s offensive line and make a significant impact in recruiting.

Special Teams Coach: Marty Biagi replaces Brian Mason 

Rapid changes continued, as special teams coach and punt block guru Brian Mason left for the NFL, landing in the same role with the Indianapolis Colts. Marty Biagi arrives from Ole Miss as Mason’s replacement. Biagi has twice been named a finalist for Special Teams Coordinator of the Year by Footballscoop.com. He is no stranger to South Bend, as he spent one year as a special teams analyst for the Irish in 2016. Biagi’s specialty has been developing the kicking game. His kickers have had an 83.8% success rate on field goals over his career.

Strength Coach: Fred Hale replaces Matt Balis

In addition, Matt Balis suddenly resigned as strength and conditioning coach just one day before the start of fall camp. Balis played a large role in Notre Dame’s turnaround following its 4-8 2016 season. Assistant Fred Hale was appointed interim strength coach in Balis’ place.

While all of this turnover may be viewed as concerning, it appears that Freeman is putting his own stamp on the staff as it makes the final transition from the Brian Kelly era. Only cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens and safeties coach Chris O’Leary remain from the pre-Freeman times. These new faces on the sideline will look to bring Freeman’s vision to fruition as they gear up for this Saturday’s matchup against Navy and look to make a playoff run this season.

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About Madeline Ladd

Madeline Ladd is a junior in Pasquerilla West Hall majoring in Management Consulting with minors in Sport Media and Social Entrepreneurship. Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, Madeline is an avid Eagles fan and Wawa lover. In her free time, catch her cheering on the Irish or finding her next place to travel. Reach out to her below to talk all things ND football or Eagles.

Contact Madeline