Blue and Gold Illustrated

February 2017

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

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Page 30 of 55 FEBRUARY 2017 31 BY LOU SOMOGYI T he "Second Time Around," is supposed to better, per Frank Sinatra, and Brian Polian is counting on it. The special teams coordinator, among other duties, during the Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame from 2005‑09, Polian was hired Dec. 16 by eighth‑year head coach Brian Kelly for the same role with the Fighting Irish. This comes after serving as Ne‑ vada's head coach from 2013‑16. Polian, who turned 42 on Dec. 22, replaces Scott Booker, who was an in‑ tern during Kelly's first two seasons (2010‑11) with the Irish before being promoted to full‑time duty as special teams coordinator/tight end coach. "I'm thrilled about the opportu‑ nity to return to Notre Dame," said Polian, in a released statement from the university. "This is a very special university and football program. I want to thank Coach Kelly and [vice president, director of athletics] Jack Swarbrick for the opportunity to re‑ join the Fighting Irish family. "[My wife] Laura and I are look‑ ing forward to coming back to this wonderful community. I'm excited to go to work, get to know the terrific student‑athletes and prepare for a great 2017 season." Notre Dame special teams often have been sporadic/inconsistent during the Kelly regime, although the field goal kicking, other than in the last half of 2014, usually has been anywhere from solid to outstanding. The unit overall enjoyed a productive 2015 regular sea‑ son, including scoring touchdowns on special teams four different ways, but it was significantly outplayed in the 44‑28 Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State. This season it yielded what is be‑ lieved to be a single‑season school‑re‑ cord five touchdowns on special teams, including a game‑changing kickoff re‑ turn by Duke in the Blue Devils' 38‑35 win Sept. 24 plus a blocked punt at North Carolina State in the fourth quarter that propelled the Wolfpack's 10‑3 win. It also allowed a punt return and kickoff return for a touchdown to USC's Adoree' Jackson in the season finale, a 45‑27 Trojans victory. Special teams snafus also proved costly in losses to Michigan State (36‑28) and Navy (28‑27), and nearly in the win against Miami (30‑27) when a fumbled punt inside the 5‑yard line resulted in a direct Hurri‑ canes touchdown, while a misplayed onside kick also was a setback. After his stint at Notre Dame under Weis, Polian was hired by Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh to coach special teams/safeties in 2010, and that 12‑1 campaign included a 37‑14 win at Notre Dame. When Harbaugh left for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, his suc‑ cessor, David Shaw, added "recruiting coordinator" to Polian's job title. In 2012, Polian joined new head coach Kevin Sumlin's staff at Texas A&M as special teams coordinator/ tight ends coach. The Aggies fin‑ ished 11‑2 and No. 5 in the country that year, highlighted by a victory at eventual national champ Alabama that was propelled by Heisman Tro‑ phy winner Johnny Manziel. After that one‑year stay in College Station, Polian was hired as head coach by Nevada to succeed College Football Hall of Fame member Chris Ault. The Polian era had a rough start with a 4‑8 record in 2013, followed by 7‑6 seasons in 2014 and 2015 (highlighted by an Ar‑ izona Bowl win versus Colorado State). A 5‑7 mark in 2016, including a 39‑10 defeat at Notre Dame Sept. 10, resulted in what was announced Nov. 27 by Nevada as having "mutually decided to part ways," with Polian, the son of NFL Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian. During his time at Notre Dame, Po‑ lian earned a reputation as an inde‑ fatigable and effective recruiter, spe‑ cifically the Pacific region, highlighted by landing National Defensive Player of the Year Manti Te'o from Hawaii in 2009. Te'o would be the Heisman Trophy runner‑up to Manziel during the 12‑1 Irish season in 2012. Polian also lured several top Cali‑ fornia recruits to northern Indiana, including running back Cierre Wood and wide receiver Shaq Evans, among others. He was a nominee for the Ameri‑ can Football Coaches Association As‑ sistant Coach of the Year in 2008, the year he led the Irish kickoff return de‑ fense to a nation‑leading 16.47 yards per return on 59 kickoff return at‑ tempts. Only one Football Bowl Sub‑ division school since 2003 has posted a better kickoff return defense with at least 59 kickoff return attempts. While with the Wolf Pack, Polian also had a program‑record 21 student‑ath‑ letes earn 2015 Academic All‑Mountain West honors, and his team recorded a program‑best combined GPA of 3.05 in the 2015 spring semester. "Brian not only brings a successful his‑ tory of coaching special teams, but he's also considered one of the nation's top recruiters," Kelly said. "He simply un‑ derstands Notre Dame, what it's about and the type of student‑athlete that we need to succeed at the highest level. … Our players will benefit from his men‑ torship, passion, energy and enthusiasm — both on and off the field." ✦ Coaching Versatility Although he was formally announced as a special teams coordinator, Brian Polian's his- tory and experience as a Football Bowl Subdi- vision head coach for four years should allow him to help in numerous capacities at Notre Dame if needed. In his previous 2005-09 stint at Notre Dame, the ace recruiter assisted with tutoring defen- sive backs (2005) and linebackers (2006-07). In previous stops at Central Florida and Buffalo, he instructed running backs and tight ends, respectively. Polian instructed safeties for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford in 2010, and then moonlighted as the tight ends coach under Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M in 2012. He is the first assistant hire under Brian Kelly who had previously served as a head coach in the FBS. The most recent such hires were by Charlie Weis in 2005: defensive coordina- tor Rick Minter and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis. Chuck Martin (2010-13) had been a head coach at the Division II level (Grand Valley State). — Lou Somogyi SECOND WIND 2005-09 Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian returns to same capacity

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