The college football coaching carousel has already begun this season for programs around the country. Many who had disappointing seasons have already begun their searches. In some cases, some have made new hires as well such as Maryland hiring current Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to be their next head coach. According to Brian Kelly though, the Notre Dame head coach currently expects that he will have staff continuity this off-season.
“There’s always inquires for our guys but I am pretty confident that our group right now is in a very good position and expect to have continuity as I stand here in front of you,” Kelly said when asked about whether or not any of his staff had opportunities or inquires for head coaching jobs,
That is not to say that opportunities were not there for his assistant coaching staff. “I didn’t say that hasn’t been inquires and opportunities,” Kelly stated. “I said I think we are going to have good continuity with our staff right.”
Whenever a team goes on a 12-0 run like the one that Notre Dame is on, programs looking for a new direction obviously look their way for the next up and coming head coaches. If Kelly is right and Notre Dame maintains continuity this year it is fantastic news because their current staff is full of future head coaches.
The obvious candidates are up and coming coordinators Chip Long and Clark Lea. Both have seen their profiles skyrocket this year as both the Notre Dame offense and defense have excelled under their guidance. In addition to those two, Brian Polian was reportedly on Bowling Green’s radar. Mike Elston should be a candidate for a head coaching gig one of these years. And Tom Rees will be on the offensive coordinator market in the near future most likely.
For Long, remember this: against Michigan, Notre Dame played their first game after losing two top 10 NFL draft picks on the line and their top two wide receivers and running backs and played with a wide receiver starting at running back and a now backup quarterback running the offense. And the Irish manufactured enough offense to beat that “vaunted” Wolverine defense.
The worry with Long among the Notre Dame fan base is the Alabama OC opening. Nick Saban reportedly wanted Long last year when he was looking for an offensive coordinator before he settled on Locksley. The fear here is that after a year in which Long’s star only rose that Saban might make a run at him again and throw money at him. As of now though, it doesn’t appear as though Long will pull a Mike Elko and take the money and run even if Saban comes a calling.
Long will have an arsenal to work with next year at Notre Dame with Ian Book returning along with four of the five lineman who will start in the Cotton Bowl and most likely the top three wide receivers. He will have to replace Dexter Williams explosiveness, but year three of the Chip Long offense with a full off-season of Ian Book as the starter could really take off.
Clark Lea doesn’t even have a full year of being a coordinator under his belt, but it’s clear that his star is on the rise as well. Lea took over from Elko and not only did the defense not skip a beat, it got better in almost every department this year. Lea had a lot of talent to work with, but the job he did as a first year defensive coordinator was pretty remarkable. Notre Dame will lose a lot of talent on defense this off-season so his job will be even harder in 2019, but Lea appears more than ready.
As for the other coaches, it sounded like Polian was at least in the mix at Bowling Green and with Kelly basically confirming that there were some inquiries perhaps that is what he is referring to. Polian’s results are not nearly what Lea and Long have produced this year with the special teams being very much a work in progress still, but he does have head coaching experience and is a top notch recruiter.
Should Kelly’s statements yesterday hold true and Notre Dame heads into 2019 with either the exact same or almost exactly the same staff as they will end 2018 with, the Irish should be poised for another run at the playoffs next year as well.
Now, a lot can change between now and February. Remember, at this time last year we thought we were out of the woods with Mike Elko and that he would be back for 2018. Then he reportedly used Notre Dame as a bargaining chip before bolting to Texas A&M in a latterell move. A year later Elko is preparing for Taxslayer Gator Bowl instead of the College Football Playoffs.