Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2024

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

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14 FEBRUARY 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY TYLER HORKA A drián Beltré is as close to a sure- fire bet as there is on this year's National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. He hit .286 for his career. With the official announcement of Mike Denbrock joining the Notre Dame staff as offensive coordinator on Dec. 27, Irish head coach Marcus Freeman hit .500 on his last two OC hires. Getting exactly what you want half the time isn't so bad in sports. It's actually pretty darn good. Ask Beltré or any other Hall of Famer who could only dream of bat- ting .500. Let's call what happened in Febru- ary what it was; a suboptimal situa- tion. Whether Utah's Andy Ludwig had a change of heart and it was his choice to stay out West, like Notre Dame's brass contends, or the Fighting Irish fumbled the bag and couldn't come up with re- quired funds to buy him out, Ludwig not signing a deal to send himself to South Bend was a strikeout. Let's not forget Kansas State's Collin Klein turned Notre Dame down then, too. One year later, he willingly left his alma mater for Texas A&M. That wasn't a good look for the Irish. Doesn't matter now. Freeman cast a line for a big fish in the wake of for- mer Notre Dame offensive coordina- tor Gerad Parker leaving to become the head coach at Troy, and this time the hook stuck. He reeled it in. Freeman took Denbrock away from Brian Kelly and the LSU Tigers. That duo was one year away from completing an entire decade together as running mates between seven sea- sons at Notre Dame (2010-16) and two at LSU (2022-23). They had agreed to a new deal for Denbrock to remain in Ba- ton Rouge, but it couldn't officially get inked until LSU's board of regents ap- proved it. The soonest that could hap- pen was February. Freeman took matters into his own hands long before then. He didn't have to jump through any hoops to hire Denbrock. He didn't have to fly anyone into South Bend for a tour or take anyone to a Notre Dame hockey game like he did with Klein and Ludwig, respec- tively. He just had to pick up the phone. Freeman's plan to take the architect of the nation's No. 1 offense, that of 547.8 yards per game with the Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Jayden Daniels at the heart of it all, was simple; "Call Mike Denbrock." That's what you do when you work with a colleague for four seasons at Cincinnati, Freeman as the defensive co- ordinator and Denbrock as the offensive coordinator from 2017-20. So, Freeman did call Mike Denbrock. And now the two are working together again. "I'm really pleased with how quickly it worked out," Freeman said on Dec. 28. "I want to give credit to our administra- tion and Jack [Swarbrick] and the com- mitment they made to make sure that we can hire the best possible candidates to come to this program." That's something that couldn't be said 10 months ago. The Irish settled for an internal promotion of Parker to replace Tommy Rees. An up-and-down, BACK AT HOME Mike Denbrock leaves cushy situation at LSU for a third stint on the Notre Dame coaching staff Denbrock is making his third appearance on Notre Dame's coaching staff (2002-04 and 2010-16 were his previous stints in South Bend). Marcus Freeman hired him to be his new offensive coordinator. PHOTO COURTESY LSU

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