Notre Dame officially announced the hiring of three new assistant coaches to first year head coach Brian Kelly’s inaugural staff. Former Irish assistant Mike Denbrock (tight ends), former Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin (defensive backs), and former Cincinnati Bearcats assistant Mike Elston (defensive line) officially joined holder Tony Alford (running backs) on the Irish staff Tuesday.
None of Tuesdays hires comes as a surprise with all previously being linked to Notre Dame with Martin and Denbrock being rumored for several weeks.
Of the new hires, head coach Brian Kelly has this to say via an official University press release. “Because these guys have worked with me in the past, all three guys understand the importance of player development and we share the same philosophies for making our team better. They each will be valuable recruiters for us as we put together a staff that will be able to cover the country and attract some of the best talent available.”
Denbrock most recently was the associate head coach for Indiana State under former Irish assistant Trent Miles. He also served as the teams special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach, but will serve as the tight ends coach at Notre Dame replacing Bernie Parmalee who had served as the tight ends coach for all five years of the Charlie Weis Era.
This will be Denbrock’s second stint at Notre Dame after serving as the tight ends and offensive tackles coach for three years during the Tyrone Willingham Era. During that time Denbrock helped recruit or coach Irish tight ends John Carlson, Anthony Fasano, and Marcus Freeman. He was also tight ends for the Irish when Notre Dame recruited and signed former five star and current NFL star tight end Greg Olsen though Olsen would transfer from Notre Dame before ever playing a down.
While coaching offensive tackles from 2002-2004 at Notre Dame, Denbrock recruited or coached Irish tackles Ryan Harris, Jim Molinaro, Jordan Black, and Brennan Curtin.
Denbrock will have star tight end Kyle Rudolph along with veteran Mike Ragone and sophomores Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic. Notre Dame also currently has a commitment from four star tight end Alex Welch.
Denbrock has previously worked with Kelly at Grand Valley State where he served as the offensive coordinator for Kelly from 1992-1995 before switching over to the other side of the ball and serving as the defensive coordinator from 1996-1998.
Kelly said in Tuesday’s release that Denbrock will serve as Notre Dame’s lead West Coacst recruiter due to his five years of experience coaching in the Pac 10 (Stanford 2001; Washington 2005-2008).
New defensive backs coach Chuck Martin also coached under Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State although he didn’t cross paths with Denbrock during his tenure there. Martin joined Kelly’s staff at Grand Valley State in 2000 as the defensive back coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2003 and then eventually replacing Kelly as the head coach after Kelly’s departure for Central Michigan in 2004.
Since taking over for Kelly, martin has more than sustained the success that Kelly started. Martin complied an impressive 74-7 record with back to back Division II national championships in 2005 and 2006. This past season Martin guided the Lakers to the championship game again, but fell just short of securing a third national championship in five seasons.
Martin, a native of the South Side of Chicago, will serve as Notre Dame’s lead recruiter in the critical area for the Irish under Kelly. Chicago should be a recruiting base for Notre Dame every year and it will be Martin’s job to make sure that happens.
Kelly had previously asked Martin to join him at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati, but it wasn’t until Kelly came calling with an offer to coach at Notre Dame that Martin reunited with his old boss. Martin said Tuesday that, “The two main factors are working for Coach Kelly again and working at Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the one place on this planet I’d love to go to work for and I have that opportunity which means a lot.”
Martin will be tasked with rebuilding an Irish secondary that transformed from a strength to a weakness from 2008 to 2009. The Irish defensive backfield took a few steps back in 2009 after showing promise in 2007 and 2008. Martin will have a very experienced group of corners led by Darrin Walls (if he comes back for a fifth season), Gary Gray, and Robert Blanton but will face some experience and depth problems at the safety positions in 2010.
Defensive line coach Mike Elston is following Kelly after coaching under him for the previous six years in a variety of capacities. Elston joined Kelly’s staff at Central Michigan in 2004 as the defensive line coach. The following season he served as the co-defensive coordinator along with coaching the line before moving to coaching the linebackers and special teams in 2006. When Kelly moved to Cincinnati in 2007, Elston followed him and coached tight ends and special teams for two seasons before moving back to the defensive line in 2006.
Elston also served as the recruiting coordinator for Cincinnati in 2007-2008. From 2002-2003, Elston was also the recruiting coordinator for Eastern Michigan although nothing was mentioned of Elston filling that role for Notre Dame. Nothing was mentioned about Elston working with the special teams even though he has coached the special teams units for Kelly in three of the past four years.
Elston, a Michigan letterman from 1994-1996, gives Notre Dame a former Wolverine player on staff for the fourth year in a row following in the footsteps of Corwin Brown. He will inherit a defensive line full of young, but unproven players to go along with incumbent starters Ian Williams, Ethan Johnson, and Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Despite coaching exclusively in Michigan and Ohio throughout his career, Elston had great success recruiting in the state of Florida for Cincinnati. For that reason, he will serve as one of Notre Dame’s top recruiters in Florida along with Tony Alford.
More official announcements are expected to be made in the near future, but for now the official coaching staff consists of Brian Kelly, Tony Aflord, Mike Denbrock, Mike Elston, and Chuck Martin.