The coaching carousel with Notre Dame assistants is in full swing this off-season. According to a report from 247Sports Tuesday morning, Notre Dame special teams and tight ends coach Scott Booker will not be back in South Bend for the 2017 season.
Booker came under fire during the 2016 for a special teams unit that committed costly blunders in multiple games:
- Momentum swing in Michigan State’s favor when a Spartan punt hit an Irish upback with the Spartans recovering. Michigan State scored a few plays later and added a two point conversion on a trick play.
- Notre Dame allowed Duke to return a kick-off for a touchdown after taking a 14-0 lead.
- A 76 yard punt return allowed Syracuse to pull within one score of Notre Dame before half-time before the Irish pulled away.
- A 12 men on the field penalty against Navy extended what became the go ahead Midshipmen drive.
- The weather in the NC State was atrocious but an NC State blocked punt won the game for the Wolf Pack.
- The Miami game was the tipping point with another punt hitting an upback, a fumbled punt by CJ Sanders recovered for a TD, a blocked punt, and a successful surprise onside kick by Miami.
- Adoree Jackson returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown and a kick-off 97 yards for a score in Notre Dame’s 45-27 loss.
- Justin Yoon connected on just 13 of 17 field goals a year after nailing 15 of 17 as a freshman.
Along the way Notre Dame made some big special teams plays of their own. A blocked PAT against Texas was returned for two points by Shaun Crawford. CJ Sanders returned two kick-offs for touchdowns.
To his credit, Notre Dame’s special teams units were much stronger in 2015, but the fall off in 2016 was beyond drastic.
Tight End Production Has Fallen Drastically
A significant drop off in the play of Notre Dame tight ends under Booker’s coaching likely played a role in him not returning next year. Notre Dame had a ridiculous stretch of producing NFL ready tight ends from 2005-2013 but the last three seasons the tight end has been a non-factor for the Irish.
In 2016 Notre Dame’s leading tight end, Durham Smythe, caught just 9 passes for 112 yards. Four of those nine catches did, however, result in a touchdown. The only other tight end to catch a pass this year was Nic Weishar with just three receptions for 47 yards. Losing the athletically gifted Alize Jones to suspension in the summer didn’t help, but this is an offense that has produced strong seasons from tight ends in the past.
In 2013, Troy Niklas – a converted outside linebacker – caught 32 passes for 498 yards and 5 touchdowns.
No names have been mentioned as possible replacements at this time, but with Mike Sanford reportedly close to being hired as head coach at Western Kentucky, the Notre Dame offensive staff will look substantially different in 2017.
Notre Dame is also reportedly interviewing Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko and could be close to filling another open position on the staff.