Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2020

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

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Page 6 of 47 FEBRUARY 2020 7 UNDER THE DOME "You've got to have, first of all, a great background. [Rees] had a great background leading up to this. He's been in this arena before. He grew up in this arena of college football and he'll be well supported." The coach's main advice is to not be afraid to stay with what is work- ing rather than overthink and feel like he needs to call every play in the book. "Dialing up plays — we've got plenty of plays," he said. "We've got to execute them." Kelly has maintained that he will still have a national search to get the best possible coach — whether it's at coordinator or a specific position group — to fill out the staff on of- fense, but it won't begin in earnest until after the New Year. "I could hire an offensive line coach, I could hire a tight end coach, I could hire a quarterback coach," Kelly said. "I'm going to hire the best coach that I believe fits what we have currently." GROUP EFFORT Collaboration often includes co- coordinators as well. Each of the four College Football Playoff participants this year (Clem- son, LSU, Ohio State and Oklahoma) either had co-coordinators on of- fense, or one with the title of offense coordinator such as LSU's Steven En- sminger while giving the title "pass- ing game coordinator" to Brady. Minus Long, Kelly inserted him- self into the offense more in Decem- ber and was better able to evaluate the strengths of his staff, including Taylor working more with offensive line coach Jeff Quinn on the running game. "More than anything else, [Taylor] is a louder voice in the room," Kelly said. "Everybody has a voice right now. Giving him that opportunity, you get to see another side that you hadn't seen. … I've loved the col- laboration, guys working together without ego." Kelly also contended there would be no "reinventing the wheel" af- ter averaging 37.1 points per game during the regular season and hav- ing much success under Long, but a stronger consistency with a conven- tional ground attack does need to be addressed. While Notre Dame did finish No- vember strong with a five-game win- ning streak, the ground game had to rely heavily on senior quarterback Ian Book's ad-lib scrambling or jet sweeps from sophomore wideout Braden Lenzy for some creativity. Top rusher, senior running back Tony Jones Jr., in his final five regu- lar season games had 165 yards on 53 attempts, or 3.1 yards per carry. In the game that Jones was sidelined with an injury, the 21-20 win versus Virginia Tech on Nov. 2, Jafar Arm- strong carried 19 times for only 37 yards. "We ran the ball at times effec- tively, and at other times we weren't effective," Kelly said. "We want to be moving forward much more effec- tive, so that requires complete collab- oration and everybody on the same page, and that's what I'm looking to accomplish. "… It's not for the untrained eye. I think you're not going to see a whole lot of difference. But for those that re- ally study our offense, I think you'll see some improvements that will help us from the start of the game to the end of the game. That's what we're looking for." ✦ Clark Lea: Future Head Coach In The Making While replacing Chip Long as the offensive co- ordinator and tight ends coach garnered much of the attention inside Notre Dame's football offices throughout the month of December, another up- heaval nearly took place on defense as well. Second-year defensive coordinator Clark Lea re- portedly was a finalist for the vacated head coach- ing position at Boston College after the Eagles fired seventh-year head coach Steve Addazio, whose seven-year run from 2013-19 ended with a 44-44 record. Addazio, an assistant at Notre Dame from 1999-2001, was hired a little later as Colorado State's head coach. Selected for the Boston College head coaching position was Ohio State's Jeff Hafley, who had coached secondaries in the NFL from 2012-18 be- fore doing the same at Ohio State this season in a co-coordinator role. Lea's rapid ascent in his profession and as an appealing head coach candidate hardly is a sur- prise. In his two seasons as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator, the Irish have ranked in the top 10 defensively in both the Fremeau Efficiency Index and ESPN Football Power Index, placing eighth this year in the former and sixth in the latter prior to the bowl game. "We've had great conversations about where he is right now, where he believes he needs to grow," head coach Brian Kelly said of Lea. "Some of the insight that I've been able to give him to where he needs to continue to grow as it relates to head coaching. "He's an outstanding defensive coordinator, but there are other things that you have to begin to develop philosophically as a head coach. Those are off to the side, but those are exercises that he'll put together now in the offseason as he builds his résumé. "… A successful defensive coordinator at Notre Dame can put himself in a position to be a Power Five head coach." Whereas Long reportedly had become overbearing and even too personal to the point a change was needed, Lea's demeanor hits the right chords with the troops. "He's great with his players," junior Mike linebacker Drew White said of Lea, who also is his position coach. "He's not a screamer, and I think that's a good thing because a lot of players benefit from just being taught and sat down. You can have the tough conversations for sure, but he's not going to just scream and yell at you where you just really stop listening at that point. "He's a great teacher, he's got great schemes, and I think he cares about his players just on an overall perspective — and really cares about what kind of guys are coming here and what kind of guys he wants leaving here. He does a great job of preparing us." — Lou Somogyi Lea was a finalist for the vacated head coach- ing position at Boston College. PHOTO BY MIKE MILLER

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