Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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6 FEBRUARY 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI F or the better part of 60 years, there has been an unofficial term limit of 11 years to be a Notre Dame head coach. Year 11 marked the final one even for luminaries such as Frank Leahy in 1953, Ara Parseghian in 1974 and Lou Holtz in 1996. That might cease with Brian Kelly, whose current contract runs through 2021, which would be the completion of his 12th season. If the program's trajectory continues the way it has in 2017 (10-3) and 2018 (12-0 regular season with a College Football Playoff bid), Kelly night not only be invigorated to continue even beyond that contract, but a succession plan at Notre Dame for current coor- dinators Chip Long (offense) or Clark Lea (defense) cannot be dismissed. Perennial College Football Playoff contenders such as Oklahoma, Ohio State and Clemson have followed that blueprint. Sooners offensive coordinator Lin- coln Riley — who also had no previous head coaching experience — succeeded Bob Stoops in Norman at age 34. Offensive coordinator Ryan Day (39) was named Urban Meyer's successor in Columbus this December. Ten years ago at Clemson, Tigers wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney — who had never even been a coordinator — was named the interim coach at age 39 over two coordinators when head coach Tommy Bowden resigned during the season. While the promotion was in many circles deemed too much, too soon for Swinney, he has built a power- house in the last half decade second only to Alabama. Likewise, Kirby Smart bided his time from 2008-15 as Alabama's defen- sive coordinator before accepting the head coaching position at Georgia, his alma mater, which he took to within a whisker of winning the 2017 national title before barely missing the College Football Playoff again this year. A long-term commitment from the combination of Long and Lea might have a chance to go beyond the typical two- or three-year run that most coordinators have had at Notre Dame over the past several decades. COMING A LONG WAY One of five finalists for the Broyles Award this year as the nation's top assistant coach — won by Alabama's Mike Locksley, now the newly hired head coach at Maryland — Long is in no hurry to show he is on the fast track by just accepting any head coaching job that might come his way. In the first two seasons of his current role, after Kelly hired him and turned over the play-calling keys to Long fol- lowing the 4-8 debacle of 2016, Notre Dame was 22-3 (prior to the Cotton Bowl versus Clemson), highlighted by this year's College Football Playoff bid. On a personal level, the 35-year-old Long and his wife, Kari, are expecting their second child. Sometimes, a desti- nation just feels right, and that is where Long is with his current location. "That's every person's goal, but it's got to be the right fit," Long said when asked about becoming a head coach. "My wife loves it here, she's from Chi- cago, and I'll be at Notre Dame as long as they want me to be here. "You don't get to coach kids like this anywhere else in the country. It's such a special place. I don't see my- self leaving in a long, long time. … I'm not chasing a head coaching job at all. It has to be the right fit. "They have to have the success — that they want to win — that Notre Dame has. If not, I'm in no rush to do it. I love what I'm doing here." From a professional level, he de- sired to restore a physicality at Notre Dame, and that was manifested in 2017 with the highest rushing av- erage (269.5 yards per game) at the school in 22 years. Yet he demonstrated the willing- ness to do what is best suited for the offense by turning to quarterback Ian Book as the starter this year despite a 3-0 start with Brandon Wimbush. The primary reason was to spread the ball around to all elements on offense. "We're always going to be physi- cal, and we're always going to es- tablish the run and be a play-action team," Long explained. "We want to get all of our playmakers involved and get them their touches so they can do what they do." "A talented play caller has a philoso- phy that is based upon either I'm go- ing to spread this out and we're going to be much more creative and finesse, or we're going to be physical," Kelly said of Long. "And he has an under- standing of that. Then he's really good, I think, of being patient and probing. "He will stick to what the plan is. I've seen callers that can be affected by the crowd, that hear the boos or hear the impatience. He sticks with what the game plan is and is not moved by it. Those are some really important tenets to begin with." Unlike most coordinators, Long calls the game from the field instead of the press box, which is more art than science to Kelly. "You have to have a feel and a UNDER THE DOME COORDINATED EFFORTS Chip Long and Clark Lea have been vital components to Notre Dame's resurgence Long was one of five finalists for the 2018 Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant coach. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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