Gino Guidugli will work to bring quarterback success with him to Notre Dame
The names of the professional football teams for whom Gino Guidugli once played while he was chasing an NFL career tells you everything you need to know about his love for football.
Even the most ardent supporters of the sport on any level can’t tell you much about the Green Bay Blizzard, New York Dragons or the Milwaukee Mustangs. Guidugli spent time on the rosters of each of those Arena Football League or AF2 teams.
“You’re always in hopes that you’re going to one of these leagues and you’ll get a call back to the NFL,” said Guidugli, who had a brief stint with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 after a record-setting career as a quarterback at the University of Cincinnati.
But Guidugli didn’t want to be a 40-year-old playing arena football, so he reached out to Dan Enos, who was one of Guidugli’s quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati. Enos was in the process of interviewing for the head coaching job at Cincinnati. Once Enos received the position in January 2010, he gave Guidugli a position as a graduate assistant working with wide receivers.
“And you get up there and you realize how much you don’t know as a player,” Guidugli said, “and have no idea what being a coach entails as far as hours and attention to detail and understanding the game.”
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Guidugli, who at one point was taking tests in Wisconsin to become a financial advisor, soon fell in love with coaching. Thirteen years later, his journey led him to South Bend, Ind., as Notre Dame’s quarterbacks coach. He turned 40 on Monday.
“To go from that point in 2010 to where I’m at now,” Guidugli said last week, “I feel extremely thankful for that opportunity that (Enos) gave me and for the kind of career he’s provided me.”
Guidugli spent seven seasons at Central Michigan with running backs coach, recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as his various titles. Then he returned to his alma mater to be Cincinnati’s running backs coach in 2017. After being shifted to quarterbacks coach in 2018, Guidugli slowly made a name for himself as a quarterback developer with the work he did with Desmond Ridder.
Just mention Ridder’s name and Guidugli will start sharing background information of how their careers became so intertwined. Ridder committed to Cincinnati in May of 2016 before Guidugli was coaching for the Bearcats, but Guidugli still knows that Ridder only had one other scholarship offer from FCS-level Eastern Kentucky as a two-star recruit out of Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier.
Ridder redshirted in 2017. The following year, his first with Guidugli, Ridder became the 2018 AAC Rookie of the Year. Things only improved from there. Ridder finished his career with a trip to the College Football Playoff in 2021. His 44 career wins as a quarterback are third-most in college football history. He set the Cincinnati record for total yards (12,418) as a career 62% passer (810-of-1304) with 10,239 yards, 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions.
Ridder was the second quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft when the Atlanta Falcons picked him in the third round.
“Des developed,” Guidugli said. “Des is a product of a kid being very motivated and having a dream that he wanted to play in the NFL and did everything possible to go achieve that dream every single day he stepped in that football building. Very fortunate to have coached him, but he got better and better every single year. Constantly developed.
“His redshirt freshman year, he relied on his legs. We relied on our run game and brought him along as a passer every single year. The year we went to the College Football Playoff, Des was throwing the ball as well as he was running the ball. I’m so happy for him.”
So who deserves the credit? Did Guidugli turn Ridder into an NFL quarterback? Or did Ridder elevate Guidugli’s coaching profile?
“At the end of the day, you’re the coach. You want to take a lot of credit for that guy,” Guidugli said. “Obviously, I was the guy in the seat. My ability to get him prepared, week in and week out, and for us to have the relationship we had while we were there. But he was self-motivated. It was just about me preparing the information for him, giving it to him in a way that he could understand it and go out there and perform his best on Saturday.
“That’s my job as a coach: Put those guys in a situation to go out there on Saturdays and perform at their best.”
Guidugli has a pretty good sense of what that should look like from his own playing career. The former Fort Thomas (Ky.) Highlands star set Cincinnati’s single-season and career records for passing attempts, completions, yards and interceptions in his four years (2001-04) as a starter. Guidugli finished with 11,453 passing yards, 78 touchdowns and 48 interceptions with a 56.6% completion rate (888-of-1,556).
“My philosophy on coaching is I had a lot of great coaches in my past teach me a lot of stuff that helped me be a very successful player,” Guidugli said. “I think my responsibility as a coach is to take that information and pass it along to the players that I coach. That way they’re a much better player than I ever dreamt about being.
“How do you go about that? You have to build a relationship and build those guys’ trust that you can develop them, you are giving information that’s going to make them a better player. Ultimately at the end of the day, I think that’s how you get the most out of them.”
Guidugli won’t be starting from scratch as a developer of ND quarterback Sam Hartman, who set the ACC record for career touchdown passes (110) during five seasons at Wake Forest. But the two of them are starting from a similar outsider standpoint learning offensive coordinator Gerad Parker’s offense and learning more about what previous offensive coordinator Tommy Rees did.
Junior-to-be quarterback Tyler Buchner and sophomore-to-be Steve Angeli can help with that process. But they’re ready to compete with Hartman as well — particularly Buchner after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury after starting the year as the starter.
“I don’t think Tyler Buchner is going to take a back seat to anybody,” Guidugli said. “Tyler Buchner is going to go out here to compete for the starting quarterback position. He’s going to get an opportunity to compete for it. Just like the rest of those guys in the room.
“I’m coming in with a clean slate. I know what I know of them knowing the offense and understanding the offense by the way I’ve installed it, the way I’ve quizzed them and what they’ve done so far out in football school.”
Guidugli chose to audible on his decision to follow former Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell to Wisconsin this offseason. Guidugli was hired as passing game coordinator/tight ends coach for the Badgers but had yet to move his family to Madison when an opportunity to interview for the job at Notre Dame came to him.
Guidugli left Wisconsin after less than three months with the program to reunite with Irish head coach Marcus Freeman. The two were on Cincinnati’s coaching staff together for four seasons (2017-20).
“When Marcus called me for the first time,” Guidugli said, “there was no way I was going to turn that job down.”
Guidugli hopes quarterback recruits have that same reaction. He’s already started to nail the recruiting pitch. He just needs to find quarterbacks who love Notre Dame the way he loves football.
“You’re going to come to Notre Dame because you’re going to get a great education, you’re going to have an opportunity to play for a national championship every single year,” Guidugli said. “To me, there’s no bigger stage in football than being the quarterback at Notre Dame.”
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