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August 3, 2013

Voices they hear are same as last year

Bob Diaco.
Chuck Martin.
Tony Alford.
Mike Elston.
Mike Denbrock.
Kerry Cooks.
Paul Longo.

You should know the seven names well. You first heard them tied to Notre Dame in December of 2009 or in early 2010 when new head football coach Brian Kelly took over. In Alford, the Irish had a carry-over from the previous staff.

The only changes in Kelly’s four staffs at Notre Dame came between the 2011 and 2012 seasons when offensive line coach Ed Warinner and running backs coach Tim Hinton left for Ohio State and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Charley Molnar was named the head coach at Massachusetts.

Those three were replaced by tight ends coach Scott Booker, a former Notre Dame intern, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, and safeties coach Bob Elliott. All three are now in their second season with the Irish, and in Hiestand and Elliott, Kelly found two guys with a combined 62 years of coaching prior to their arrival to Notre Dame.

For a guy who talked about the importance of “coaching the coaches” when they’re new to his system, Kelly looks at continuity on his staff as a key component to the success of his system.

“We’ve had great continuity, obviously, and it starts with our coordinators, Chuck and Bob,” said Kelly, who moved Martin from the secondary to offensive coordinator upon Molnar’s departure.

“Having them back sets the leadership and the voice and that consistency of approach of what the expectations are. That never changes when you have your coordinators back, and that’s obviously very important for our players.”

It’s a bit surprising that Kelly didn’t lose any of his assistants following Notre Dame’s national championship run in 2012. Alford has flirted with the NFL in the past, and the more success the Irish have, the closer Diaco and Martin come to landing a coveted head coaching position.

For Kelly, a consistency in the message is imperative.

“When they hear that same voice, you just pick up where you left off,” Kelly said. “Then obviously having the entire position coaching staff back as well continues to build depth in consistency of approach.”

One of Kelly’s positive traits is the ability to form a team, a united front, which extends well beyond his coaching staff. That includes support staff as well as the strength and conditioning approach, which is a partnership with Longo that is in its 10th year in 2013.

It also includes Chad Klunder (Director of Football Operations), Dave Peloquin (Director of Football Development), Beth Rex (Director of Football Administration), Rob Hunt (Head Football Athletic Trainer) and Ryan Grooms (Head Football Equipment Manager).

Ernest Jones (Director of Player Development and Engagement) is in his second year at Notre Dame after serving in a similar capacity under Kelly at Cincinnati. Tim McDonnell (Director of Player Personnel) just left for the New York Giants (which his grandfather founded) after an eight-year stint at Notre Dame.

Like Booker, former Irish wideout David Grimes, who joined Longo’s staff last season, was an intern upon Kelly’s arrival. The video coordinator (Tim Collins), his assistant (Ryan Gould), Hunt’s assistants (Mike Bean and Dustin Melvin) and Grooms’ assistant (Adam Myers) remain the same as well.

When Kelly talks about “one voice” in his program, it comes from most of the personnel that arrived with him in late-2009, early-2010.

“You don’t lose time through communication,” Kelly said. “You lose time when you have poor communication. We’ve got great communication and we’ve got great continuity, which lets you go into the season with a great deal of confidence.”


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