Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2024

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

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM FEBRUARY 2024 7 BY TYLER HORKA N earing four months since the sud‑ den and unexpected departure of Matt Balis as Notre Dame's strength and conditioning coach, the Fighting Irish officially named Loren Landow as the Trematerra Family Director of Football Performance on Dec. 19. Landow, who was with the Denver Broncos as their head strength coach from 2018‑22, joined the Irish staff in January. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said in a press release that Landow checks the necessary boxes he was looking to fill in a successor for Balis, a six‑year staple with the Irish from 2017‑22. Freeman said Landow is an authentic and commanding leader. He also said Landow has an "alpha" personality. "We need someone who can rein‑ force the vision of the head coach and uphold the standards in discipline that it takes to create a championship environment," Freeman said. "We need someone who has a background in group training, yet the expertise to individualize training to meet specific individuals' needs and goals. "We need someone who can enhance our approach in regard to power, ex‑ plosion and speed development. Loren Landow is all of these things." Landow has an extensive history in his field. He graduated from the Univer‑ sity of Northern Colorado with a degree in kinesiology in 1996. He's working to‑ ward a master's degree in sports injuries and return to performance management from Setanta College in Ireland. That area has long piqued Landow's interest. Landow started as the director of s p o r ts p e r fo r m a n ce a t S tea d m a n Hawkins Clinic in 2008. That organi‑ zation took on a new title eight years later; Landow Performance. Landow was instrumental in bridging the gap between sports medicine and sports performance at the clinic. He estab‑ lished the department of sports perfor‑ mance there. Sports organizations such as the United States Women's National Team, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies, Carolina Panthers and Washington Spirit have sought out Landow's con‑ sultation over the years. He dipped his toes into collegiate consultation with Stanford, Colorado and Kansas. Former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, an NFL veteran of seven different franchises including the Broncos, is aware of Landow's work. "Loren is a world‑renowned move‑ ment and sports performance coach," Quinn said in a statement. "I can at‑ test from personal experience, there is no one better suited to fulfill the role and help Notre Dame be the preemi‑ nent leader in sports performance." Notre Dame went through the entire 2023 season with Fred Hale serving as the interim strength and conditioning coach. It was business as usual for Hale leading up to Notre Dame's 40‑8 win over Oregon State in the Sun Bowl Dec. 29, even after the announcement of Landow as the pro‑ gram's next man in charge of strength and conditioning. But now, it's all on Landow. Just the way Freeman wants it. "He has demonstrated incredible expertise in the strength and condition‑ ing field and will truly help us advance our sports performance knowledge," Freeman said. ✦ UNDER THE DOME STRONG HIRE Notre Dame finds its new strength and conditioning coach Xavier Watts Will Return To Irish Defense In 2024 One of the best defensive players in the country in 2023 is coming back to South Bend in 2024. Notre Dame safety Xavier Watts, winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as college football's national defensive player of the year, will not declare for the NFL Draft. Watts announced on social media Dec. 30 that he is running it back. He's locked in with the Fighting Irish for one more season in 2024. Watts, a unanimous first-team All-American, was a senior by class year but a junior by eligibility standards in 2023. He redshirted in 2020 before playing 11 games in 2021, 13 in 2022 and all 13 in 2023. As a precursor to his choice to remain in school, Watts was not one of 31 Notre Dame seniors and graduate students who walked out early during the Irish's Senior Day ceremony before the Wake Forest game Nov. 18. Watts bounced around between defensive back and wide receiver early in his time at Notre Dame. It wasn't until the beginning of the 2023 calendar year when he truly settled in as a full-time safety. It was a magical year for Watts. He led the nation with 7 interceptions during the regular season. Two of those came in a 48-20 thumping of Notre Dame rival USC. Two more came in the Irish's next game against Pitt. He nearly returned an interception, his fifth in three games, for a touchdown versus Clemson. He did get his score against the Trojans, though, when he scooped a fumble and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. He also forced a fumble on USC's final possession. Watts is the unquestioned leader of the safety group Notre Dame will be working with next fall. He's the only upperclassmen in a room full of three true freshmen (Tae Johnson, Taebron Bennie-Powell and Kennedy Urlacher) and two second-year players (Ben Minich and Adon Shuler). — Tyler Horka Notre Dame's long-term replacement for Matt Balis as head strength and conditioning coach is Loren Landow, the for- mer Denver Broncos strength coach. PHOTO BY GABRIEL CHRISTUS/COURTESY DENVER BRONCOS

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