New coaches or coordinators in football are often implored to “think outside the box.”
Most of Notre Dame’s 10-man on-field assistant staff will be doing just that on Saturday against Temple. The only two on-field assistants who were slated to be upstairs in the press box or coaches' booth were first-year defensive coordinator Mike Elko and first-year quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees.
Meanwhile, first-year Fighting Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long has opted to be in the action along the sidelines. That goes against conventional thinking of having an aerial view of the football field for a panoramic perspective of the opposition’s strategy and how to best counter it.
Head coach Brian Kelly said this decision was elaborately discussed with the coordinators prior to making this choice.
“We clearly go over what communication system do we like, who our signalers are, what forms of communication do we want on the sideline with the players,” he said. “We kind of just start with that: Do the coordinators want to be watching the game from the box, whether I have a strong feeling in that, or do you want to be on the sideline? Then we kind of go to work on where the assets are, how they best fit, then we kind of put it together from there.”
Kelly said that Long said his preference, at least in the beginning, is to be on the sidelines to get a feel and comfort level closer to the action and communicate directly with his new personnel. Nevertheless, the door has been left ajar to adjust if needed.
“He'll start the first game on the sideline and see how that rolls,” Kelly said. “I think he just wants to get a real good feel of the game itself and all of our personnel and our communication. It could change, but that's where we'll start it.”
Long was designated as the play-caller from day one after he and Kelly agreed on their philosophies and how to utilize personnel.
“We’re on the same page,” Kelly said. “We both have a very good understanding of how we want the offense to be run. We had five or six months to sit down and talk philosophically. Now it’s more about how we utilize some guys’ traits that we may not be aware of.
“Chip has a style of his own — he likes to attack — and we’re going to use some things that he’s comfortable with and some things that suit our personnel. I said in my first year that I’m about players over plays, and Chip’s a pretty smart guy. He’s not going to get caught up in scheme over players.”
The main adjustment for Long, per Kelly, is getting assimilated into the uniqueness of the Notre Dame football culture, which includes all of the ancillary events that go beyond the football game.
“When we think about our Fridays, there’s Mass, there’s the pep rally, there’s class,” Kelly said. “He has to get acclimated to what makes this school special.”