Following Notre Dame’s open practice which it referred to as the “New and Gold” game inside Notre Dame Stadium on Sunday, Brian Kelly met with the media. In addition to the normal team and player updates, Kelly announced a restructuring of the Notre Dame recruiting department naming a new director of scouting, a new recruiting coordinator, and a promotion for former recruiting coordinator Mike Elston.
Bill Rees Named Director of Scouting
Notre Dame will have two Rees’s in the athletic department with Bill Rees being named the director of scouting joining his son Tom Rees who will serve as a graduate assistant this season until the NCAA expands assistant coaching staffs. Kelly announced the move that had been previously rumored for weeks.
“He has begin in that role. He’ll be working within the recruiting operations on a day to day basis,” said Kelly.
This is a really good move for Notre Dame. The elder Rees is a seasoned talent evaluator who most recently served as the Director of Player Personnel for Wake Forest under Dave Clawson. That makes him the third member of Clawson’s staff that Kelly has poached since January (Mike Elko and Clark Lea being the others). That’ll be a fun handshake to watch later this year when the Demon Deacons come to town November 4.
Rees started his career as a graduate assistant at Northwestern just like his son ended up doing. Rees made a name for himself at UCLA, however, where he served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for 15 years from 1979-94. From there Rees spent 16 season working the NFL in various player personnel and college scouting roles for The Kansas City Chiefs (1994-1997), Chicago Bears (1997-2001), San Francisco 49ers (2001-2004), Cleveland Browns (2004-2008), and then back with the Chiefs (2008-2009).
Brian Polian Taking Over Recruiting Coordinator Role
Rees isn’t the only addition to the recruiting department. Special teams coordinator will take over the coordination of Notre Dame’s recruiting department from Mike Elston. “Brian Polian will serve as the new recruiting coordinator. He is also our special teams (coordinator) but now will assume that role,” Kelly said Sunday.
While Polian has built a reputation as an ace recruiter thanks in large part to his role in luring Manti Te’o to Notre Dame eight years ago, he has only served as a recruiting coordinator for a major college program for one season – Stanford 2011. Polian’s philosophy on recruiting, however, should serve him well in his new role.
The following quote came from Polian shortly after he was named the head coach at Nevada.
I do believe you can out-work people in recruiting. I don’t think you can out-work people in coaching,” he said. “During the season, we all grind it out pretty good. We’re limited in the amount of time by the NCAA that we can spend with our players. Everybody’s fairly equal when it comes to the coaching end of it. But, with the recruiting part of it, you can out-work people.
– Football Scoop 1/21/13
Mike Elston Elevated to Assistant Head Coach
So with Polian taking over as recruiting coordinator, what’s up with Elston you might ask? Well, Elston got promoted by Kelly to assistant head coach. “I’ve elevated Mike Elston to the assistant head coach,” Kelly said. “He will be assisting me on a day to day basis with support staff work with all facets of the program. In my absence he will be able to speak on my behalf.”
Elston took over a recruiting department run by Tony Alford that was not in good shape. While Alford had a strong reputation as an individual recruiter, the recruiting department failed to innovate and trailed other programs on his watch. Under Elston’s guidance, Notre Dame has made huge strides in its social media efforts and its graphics department. And they are looking to expand those efforts. That will now by Polian’s job though.
Kelly noted that “Mike will continue to work with Brian as we make that transition over the next few weeks.” This transition will be vital for Notre Dame given the success of the class of 2018 and the very early commitments in the class of 2019.
Elston is the longest tenured assistant under Kelly and this move very much has the feel of Elston being groomed for a well deserved chance at a head coaching gig somewhere. He’s left the recruiting department in very good shape for Polian and if he is able to get the Irish defensive line to produce this year, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if his name gets linked to head coaching openings at some smaller schools this off-season.