Notre Dame's defense will get a new look this spring.
But the biggest change won't have a thing to do with the players.
Multiple sources tell Irish Illustrated that former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will join the Notre Dame coaching staff, replacing defensive backs coach Bill Lewis, who is expected to retire from coaching.
Notre Dame confirmed the hire late Thursday, announcing that Tenuta would take over as assistant head
coach on defense. Lewis will join the University's athletics community relations staff.
Tenuta will start his new job on Feb. 18.
Tenuta became available after Georgia Tech hired former Navy coach Paul Johnson in early December to replace Chan Gailey. Tenuta, renowned for his aggressive, blitzing style, had been rumored for defensive coordinator posts at Michigan and Washington in recent weeks.
How much influence Tenuta will have on Notre Dame's schemes is unclear but any input figures to be welcome. Georgia Tech ranked in the Top 25 nationally in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense last season. More impressively, the Yellow Jackets led the country in sacks and ranked fourth in tackles for loss.
The Notre Dame offensive line probably remembers how Georgia Tech rang up those stats. The Yellow Jackets sacked various Irish quarterbacks nine times in last season's opener. That stat helped leave Notre Dame with minus-eight yards rushing in a 33-3 blowout.
But Tenuta's defenses did more than blitz low-hanging fruit. In the 2006 opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech allowed 384 yards to Notre Dame and Heisman Trophy contender Brady Quinn but also held the Irish to season-low scoring output.
Notre Dame escaped with a 14-10 victory.
Of course Notre Dame wasn't Tenuta's only victim. Since he took over the Georgia Tech defense in 2002, the Yellow Jackets have ranked in college football's top half in every major statistical category every year.
In the seasons overlapping with Weis' Notre Dame tenure, Tenuta's defenses have allowed an average of 107.7 rushing yards, 315.7 total yards and 19.7 points per game. Compare that to Notre Dame's defenses over the same time span that yielded 154.4 rushing yards, 364 total yards and 25.5 points per game.
Before arriving at Georgia Tech, Tenuta held the same position at North Carolina (2001) and Ohio State (2000). Tenuta also served as the Buckeyes' defensive backs coach from 1996-99.
The timing of Tenuta's addition is unexpected with Signing Day less than a week away and because Charlie Weis said he wouldn't entertain staff changes until after Feb. 6.
"I wouldn't even think about that until after recruiting is over," Weis said on Dec. 3 during a season wrap-up press conference. "There's nothing I intend on doing until after recruiting is over. Right now … my main emphasis and everything I'm doing is making sure that we do a good job in recruiting."
When asked a second time about potential staff changes during that same press conference Weis was adamant that he wouldn't think about staff changes until after Signing Day.
"There's not even going to be a thought in my mind until we're done with recruiting," he said. "It's a rhetorical question because I'm not even going to think about it until we're done with recruiting."
Turns out that recruiting centered on more than just players.