A look at each Notre Dame Fighting Irish football assistant coach's standing after Brian Kelly exit for LSU
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A look at each Notre Dame assistant’s standing after a change at the top

Brian Kelly’s departure for LSU did not precede a mass coaching exodus from Notre Dame.

In fact, most of his 2021 Notre Dame staff members have stated their intent to remain with the Irish — a significant step in making Marcus Freeman’s impending promotion to head coach a more viable move. Here’s a rundown of each assistant’s status in the wake of the Kelly exit and Freeman news.

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Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees

Rees told Notre Dame players Wednesday night he will remain with the Irish, turning down an offer to join Kelly at LSU that reportedly included a significant pay bump. It’s safe to assume Notre Dame gave him one to remain with the program.

Keeping Rees on staff was a key cog in the appeal of hiring Freeman, who can turn his focus to further elevating what Kelly built instead of needing to restart with a new staff and a new offensive direction. Rees will begin Year 3 as offensive coordinator in 2022 and Year 6 as a Notre Dame assistant.

Running backs coach/run game coordinator Lance Taylor

BlueandGold.com first reported Wednesday that Taylor will remain at Notre Dame for his fourth season.

Wide receivers coach Del Alexander

Alexander remains on the road recruiting for Notre Dame, but there has been no final decision on his status. He has served in his current role since 2017.

Tight ends coach John McNulty

McNulty is staying on staff, BlueandGold.com reports. He joined the program in 2020.

Offensive line coach Jeff Quinn

Sources have told BlueandGold.com that Quinn’s next move is not final, with an exit or staying put still in play. The former appears more likely.

Quinn took over as offensive line coach in 2018 and has spent 29 seasons on staffs with Kelly, dating back to 1989 at Grand Valley State.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish football defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston
Defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston is staying at Notre Dame. (Blue & Gold Illustrated)

Defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Mike Elston

The 2022 season will mark the first time since 2004 Elston and Kelly will not be on staff together. Elston announced on Twitter Wednesday night he is staying at Notre Dame, where he has worked since 2010.

Defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Marcus Freeman

Notre Dame is expected to elevate Freeman to head coach after one season as defensive coordinator. One of Freeman’s next tasks is finding a linebackers coach and naming a defensive coordinator. It appears he will hire from within, and Elston is a strong candidate for the position.

Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens

BlueandGold.com reports that Mickens, who joined the staff in 2020, will stay at Notre Dame. If Freeman was selected as head coach, Mickens’ retention was all but guaranteed. The two were teammates at Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne High School and worked together at Cincinnati from 2018-19.

Safeties coach Chris O’Leary

O’Leary is remaining with the program, BlueandGold.com confirmed. He is in his first year as the safeties coach and his fourth at Notre Dame. He spent the first three in defensive analyst and graduate assistant roles.

Special teams coordinator/associate head coach Brian Polian

Sources have indicated to BlueandGold.com that Polian is likely headed elsewhere, with LSU or an FCS head coaching job as possibilities.

Director of football performance Matt Balis

BlueandGold.com first reported Tuesday that Balis will not follow Kelly to LSU and instead stay in South Bend. He has led Notre Dame’s strength and conditioning program since 2017. Notre Dame tweeted a video Tuesday of Balis informing players that he wanted to remain at Notre Dame and “want[s] to die here.”

BlueandGold.com's Mike Singer contributed to this report

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