Notre Dame, Ind (UHND) – If Charlie Weis’ ability to recruit assistant coaches is any indication of his ability to recruit prep football players; Notre Dame won’t have any more classes like last year. While still unofficial, the staff at Notre Dame is believed to be complete with only a few names still unofficial. This unofficial staff is also the best collection of coaches Notre Dame has seen in a long, long time.
Rumors floated around the internet for a month with a lot of names being mentioned, but it appears now that Notre Dame alum Michael Haywood will be the offensive coordinator, former Mississippi coach David Cutcliffe will be the quarterbacks coach, Wisconsin tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello will be the wide receivers coach, and former Mississippi offensive line coach John Latina will take over those duties for ND to round out the offensive side of the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, Rick Minter is believed to be coming back to Notre Dame to serve as defensive coordinator as he did for the Irish in 1992 and 1993. Joining Minter on the defensive side of the ball will be Jerome “Jappy” Oliver to coach the defensive line with Bill Lewis and Brian Polian coaching the defensive backs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers special teams coach Rich Basaccia is also rumored to be joining the Notre Dame staff.
This staff, assuming it all falls into place, gives Notre Dame a talented staff that can recruit. Haywood is considered to be one of the best recruiters in the country and coming from Texas gives Notre Dame a tie to the talent rich state. Willingham’s staff was not able to recruit Texas well. Davie’s staff did a pretty good job in the Lone Star State with names like Grant Irons, Carlyle Holiday, Jamaar Taylor (who later transferred), Omar Jenkins, Derek Curry, and Cedric Hilliard. Notre Dame needs to regain a presence in Texas and Haywood can certainly help. Haywood also played for the Irish and will be able to sell the University for all it stands for since he played under the Dome in his college years.
David Cutcliffe joins the staff as the quarterback’s coach which is a bit surprising to some since he had been a head coach at Mississippi for the last 5 seasons. Cutcliffe coached Peyton Manning while the offensive coordinator at Tennessee and his brother Eli as head coach at Mississippi. Both Manning’s had stellar collegiate careers and Cutcliffe’s coaching should help Brady Quinn develop and take the next step toward becoming a great quarterback. Cutcliffe’s stay at Notre Dame might not to extended since he has head coaching experience so the chances of head coaching offers next season is there, but having him on this staff this year greatly helps recruiting and the development of the offense.
The additions of Rob Ianello and John Latina give Notre Dame recruiting prowess and pure coaching skill. Latina was the offensive line coach at Mississippi before accepting a job on Steve Spurrier’s new staff at South Carolina. Latina got the offer from Notre Dame however and choose the Irish over the Gamecocks. Latina is an excellent offensive line coach – something Notre Dame has really been missing since the days of Joe Moore. Notre Dame’s offensive line has been full of high school All Americans, but has under achieved much of the last decade under the Willingham and Davie tenure’s. Ianello gives Notre Dame experience as a recruiting coordinator which he served as on Barry Alvarez’s staff at Wisconsin.
Defensively, I love the addition of Rick Minter as defensive coordinator. His defenses in 1992 and 1993 helped Notre Dame to a 21-3-1 record in those 2 seasons while sending 18 defensive players from those teams to the NFL. Minter is an excellent defensive coach whose teams excelled at stopping the run while at Notre Dame. Players such as Greg Lane, Bobby Taylor, Jeff Burris, and Tom Carter roamed the secondary under Minter’s watch which is great news for a secondary that has been terrorized by every quarterback with a half decent arm the last three seasons. Minter was most recently the defensive coordinator at South Carolina for Lou Holtz after an extended stint as the head coach for the Cincinnati bearcats. Weis needed his defensive coordinator to be a home run and he got it in Minter.
Jappy Oliver also comes from South Carolina where he was the defensive line coach for Minter. Oliver is s good d-line coach and is familiar with Minter’s defensive schemes. Bill Lewis comes from the Miami Dolphins where he served as the defensive nickel package coach. Since Lewis has been with the Dolphins, they have finished in the top 8 in pass defense 5 of the last 6 seasons. Lewis has head coaching experience from Wyoming (1977-79), East Carolina (1989-91), and Georgia Tech (1992-94) and was also defensive coordinator for Georgia in the 80′s. Brian Polian, son of Indianapolis president Bill Polian, comes from Central Florida where he served under George O’Leary. Polian was the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach for O’Leary this past season after coaching special teams and running backs at Buffalo from 2001-2003.
The staff is rounded out with excellent coaches and coaches with lots of recruiting success in the past. Weis will be heavily involved with the offense allowing Haywood to learn the system Weis likes to run. Cutcliffe gives the Irish a recent head coach who will be counted on a lot during recruiting while Weis finishes his duties with the Patriots.
On the defensive side of the ball, I love Minter coming back as the defensive coordinator. He may not be here for the long haul since head coaching positions may come his way in a few seasons, but the days of Notre Dame grooming future head coaches should be back. Not many coaches have left Notre Dame for head coaching positions since Holtz left, outside of Urban Meyer, which to me shows that Notre Dame has not had top notch assistants – something they should have now.