Tuesday night news broke that Mike Denbrock was leaving Notre Dame to be the Offensive Coordinator at Cincinnati only to be refuted early Wednesday. Multiple sources are now all reporting that Denbrock has officially informed Notre Dame that he is leaving for Cincy. Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, who initially broke the news Tuesday, was first to report Denbrock’s decision tonight.
Source: Mike Denbrock has informed Notre Dame officials he's leaving for Cincinnati.
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 30, 2016
And with that, Notre Dame will have an entire new set of offensive leadership on the sidelines and in the booth in 2017. Denbrock served as assistant head coach and wide receivers coach most recently for Notre Dame but also spent time coaching tight ends under Kelly. He joins Mike Sanford in leaving the Notre Dame staff this off-season for roles outside of the program. Technically Denbrock’s move is a promotion since he did not carry the Offensive Coordinator title at Notre Dame, but this can very easily been seen as a lateral move.
Denbrock’s departure is an indicator that either Brian Kelly is indeed planning on taking over control of the Notre Dame offense in 2017 or that Kelly is looking outside the program for a high profile offensive coordinator to fill Sanford’s role. Either way, it appears as though Kelly’s plan to revive the Notre Dame program after the 2016 debacle did not include giving Denbrock control of the offense – something he almost certainly will have at Cincinnati given their new head coach Luke Fickell’s defensive background.
Some will argue that the loss of Denbrock isn’t a big deal given the offensive struggles Notre Dame had in 2016, but his impact on the recruiting trail cannot be understated. Notre Dame is losing one of the best recruiters of the Brian Kelly era in Denbrock and could have its hands full closing out the class of 2017. That is unless of course, Kelly and Notre Dame pull off a home run hire at offensive coordinator.
Notre Dame Will Have At Least 4 New Coaches in 2017
Mike Denbrock joins Sanford, Brian Vangorder, and Scott Booker in leaving the Notre Dame staff. The former left on their on volition, the latter were not retained by Kelly and Notre Dame. This isn’t the first time Kelly will be replacing four assistants though. Just two years ago Notre Dame welcomed four new coaches – Sanford, Todd Lyght, Autry Denson, and Keith Gilmore. The result was a 10 win season and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl.
More changes could be coming though. The status of Kieth Gilmore is still up on the air as new defensive coordinator Mike Elko evaluates the defensive staff he has inherited since being named the Defensive Coordinator.
So far only Elko and new special teams coordinator Brian Polian have been added as replacements. Kelly still needs to fill the roles of quarterbacks coach, wide receiver coach, tight end coach and offensive coordinator with those two vacancies.
And Then There Was One
Mike Elston is now the only assistant coach at Notre Dame who has been with Brian Kelly for the entirety of tenure at Notre Dame. Elston’s position on the staff has been reported to be safe even with the addition of Elko who beat him out for the DC position. That will create an interesting dynamic on the staff, but given the turnover on the staff retaining Elston is absolutely critical to Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts for both 2017 and 2018.