Bringing Back Brian Polian A Great Move for Notre Dame

Photo: Lance Iversen // USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Lance Iversen // USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame assistant coach carousel continued on Friday with news breaking that Notre Dame was bringing back former assistant Brian Polian to coach the Irish special teams.  Polian spent the last four seasons as the head coach at Nevada, but the two mutually agreed to part ways at season’s end paving the way for his return to Notre Dame.  A move that could pay off big time for Notre Dame and Brian Kelly.

Brian Polian, son of long time NFL executive Bill Polian, will replace Scott Booker who was fired earlier this week after seven seasons as Notre Dame – the last four in charge of the Irish special teams.

Polian coached special teams at Notre Dame for five seasons from 2005-2009 under Charlie Weis.  Throughout that time Polian had some shared position coaching duties as well at linebacker and defensive back.  More importantly, Polian was one of Charlie Weis’s ace recruiters and was responsible for some of the biggest recruits of the Charlie Weis Era.

Brian Polian’s Greatest Hits

Here’s a quick list of recruits for which Polian was listed as the primary recruiter.

  • Manti Te’o – 5-star LB
  • Jimmy Clausen – 5-star QB
  • Dayne Crist – 5-star QB
  • Kyle Rudolph – 4-star TE
  • Cierre Wood – 4-star RB
  • Shaquelle Evans – 4-star WR
  • Joseph Fauria – 4-star TE
  • Taylor Dever – 3-star OT (multiyear starter)

Along the way Polian also helped Notre Dame add role players like Roby Toma, Ben Turk, Will Yeatman, Dan McCarthy, Brandon Walker, and Dan Fox as well.

Of all the recruiting wins in which Polian played a role, however, none was bigger than luring Manti Te’o out from Hawaii to snowy South Bend.  After the elite linebacker visited Notre Dame for the embarrassing 2008 Syracuse loss during which fans hurled snowballs on the field, things looked bleak.  That didn’t deter Polain though.  Throughout the recruiting of Te’o Polian visited the island 14 times.  And he wasn’t there just to get some sun.  He was busy locking up arguably the greatest linebacker in Notre Dame football history.

Polian’s efforts in 2008 earned him the 6th place ranking in 247Sports rankings of the top recruiters in the country.

Polian also helped Weis and staff hold together the class of 2008 on the heels of their disastrous 3-9 campaign.  That kind of experience should do Polian and the current Notre Dame coaching staff well as they look to hold onto the class of 2017 while attempting to add to it.

Polian’s Special Teams Chops

Recruiting isn’t all Polian is adding to the Notre Dame coaching staff though.  On top of his five previous years with Notre Dame, Polian coached special teams at Stanford and Texas A&M for three years before being hired by Nevada.  Given the current state of Notre Dame’s special teams, that experience will be needed.

During Polain’s first stint with Notre Dame he was nominated for the Football Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year in 2008 for his work with the Notre Dame special teams.  The Irish led the nation in kick-off coverage and were in the top 30 in punt coverage as well.

Notre Dame’s multiple special teams snafus this year led to the dismissal of Booker earlier this week.   Muffed punts, punts hitting up backs, and returns for touchdowns allowed among other special teams errors all played vital roles in several of Notre Dame’s eight losses in 2016.   Polian will be tasked with turning around those coverage units while finding more ways to unleash CJ Sanders in the return game.

Polian’s immediate task however will be on the recruiting front where Notre Dame lost two high profile recruiting battles this week in defensive end Joshua Pashcal and cornerback Thomas Graham.  At one point or another, Notre Dame was considered an odds on favorite for both.  The Irish still have the 8th ranked class in the country but fell two spots this week as other programs picked up commitments.

Brian Kelly faces a make or break season in 2017 and will have at least three new coaches on his staff for it.  With Brian Polian joining Mike Elko as new assistants, he is off to a heck of a start.

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  1. A good move. I’m glad to see BK is hiring from outside the box for a change. Will that help? Well, my faith in BK right now is just about nil. But I hope it does because I want ND to win football games, no matter who the HC is.

    Polian is a good hire for the reasons Frank mentioned. He’ll need to get started right away with recruiting, and he will have a difficulty job ahead with special teams, as it appears they need to learn basic fundamentals at this point. But he has a good history with STs so I think he’s up to the task.

    1. Ron,
      He was one fine wrestler too! He definitely influenced me when I was in grade school. I was only a scrub wrestler myself, I never even lettered in HS, and much later just an average wrestling coach (at best) but Arrington (and Gable, of course) were my heroes for that sport!

      Wow! The ancient names you hear on this web site! Thanks, Ron.

      Bruce G. Curme
      La Crosse, Indiana

  2. First of all hurls I am not whining. I support Kelly and hope he wins every game. however, special teams have never been that good under Kelly no matter who has been coaching. Also, his offenses have continued to underperform. of college football.compared to the elite. And his talent on offense is comparable to the top teams in the country and Notre dame averages way below points per game than the elite playoff teams. will fuller, promise, Brown, Kizer Zach Martin, etc. these guys don’t take a back seat to anyone.

  3. Hey, Frank, We need to address our basketball needs. Losing to instate Boilermakers is an embarrassment. Now, I’m getting the picture load up wins on the softies, Fort waynes, then get the 20 wins for a slot in the brackets. Seriously, Farrell is taking this team on His shoulders. If He were to go down, no 20 wins.

    1. I think you’re on the wrong article. However, I will say Purdue does have a good BB team. But ND does need to work on closing out games. They held the lead against both Villanova and Purdue going into the 2nd half and lost both games.

  4. @Pete, Bruce & David: If all you uncritical idiots can do is whine then kindly take your criticism elsewhere. BK built a 12-1 team with his loyalty. Unfortunately, many of the successful coaches of that squad pursued opportunities elsewhere. BK is not the problem. Delivering loyalty to staff (keeping some dorks longer than they should have been retained) delivered the 12-1 season, as many of the coaches rose through the ranks with BK. BK was finally forced to be practical-before-loyal. He has fired some old & hired new coaches. (adjustment) Stop the whining!

      1. david,

        We all know that “HURLS” couldn’t come up with an original idea if his life depended on it.

        However, as a realist, I accept that we’re stuck with BK through at least this season. Perhaps rearranging the chairs on the Titanic is meaningless. Then again, since this isn’t an exact science, who knows? The new and rearranged pieces may work out. I doubt it, but I’m not a fortune teller.

        Like I’ve said, unlike “bj,” I want BK to succeed. I think it’s very unlikely he will. But wouldn’t I love to be proved wrong for the sake of ND football!

        What I would find pathetic, though, is if BK does turn things around, sad ass apologists like “HURLS” who give BK none of the blame for the current state of the program then turn around and give him all the credit for righting the ship. Can’t have your cake and eat it, as the old saw goes. Right now it’s everyone but BK’s fault ND isn’t winning as per “HURLS” et al. If ND starts to win, mark my words that all we’ll hear from “HURLS” is how BK turned things around single-handedly.

        Of course, none os this really means anything according to “Dick Arrington” or “duranko”. This is just some stupid kid’s game none of us should really care about, except for him, apparently.

        Hey, “Dick,” if you don’t think we should care all that much about ND football, why do you post on here so much?!

        GO IRISH!

    1. You’re being critical about how BK is now being forced to try to win football games (“forced to be practical” as you put it) while sacrificing his precious loyalty. Kindly take your criticism elsewhere. Also, stop embarrassing yourself.

    2. Hurls cannot control his excitement over the possibility of landing Al Borges. He has no real basis for his opinion other than that if it’s what BK and Jack want then it must be right.

  5. since Kelly is coming back I guess we all have to hope these coaching changes will produce big positive gains for Notre Dame next year, Elko and Polians past are impressive. The big key to me is what Kelly does with the offense. Will he bring in a big time elite coach and give him full control or will it be a coordinator in name only with Kelly and Denbrock running the whole show. Feels to me like they wasted Sanford. Going in a different direction with strength and conditioning was a good move.

  6. ND athletic director was and is unqualified to hire a football coach as evidenced by delegating to a search committee finding a coach It speaks volumes why he is also not qualified to be an AD in todays college job description

  7. Meanwhile, Kelly can’t even muster the guts to just fire Longo, a guy who should have been fired for cause given the completely eerie injury epidemic at ND football.

    He will instead be shuffled around in the background — posing as a very expensive coat rack, and making free copies of his resume for the next couple years.

    Yup, championship football from this fraud of a head coach is right around the corner.

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