When Urban Meyer convinced Tony Alford to leave Brian Kelly’s staff a year ago for the same position on his, Notre Dame fans – this one included – were terrified about the potential recruiting impact Alford’s loss would have. Well, a year later, Autry Denson -Alford’s replacement – is making us all forget all about those worries.
Prior to joining the Notre Dame coaching staff last February, Autry Denson had limited coaching experience. He coached the running backs at Bethune-Cookman for three seasons before joining Chuck Martin’s staff at Miami of Ohio in 2014. Just before joining the Irish staff, he had agreed to coach running backs at South Florida. A little over a month later he was being introduced as Tony Alford’s replacement.
In less than a year, Autry Desnon has established himself as Notre Dame’s ace recruiter. The Florida native has made Notre Dame fans forget the success Alford had in the Sunshine State with commitments from six prospects. Denson helped the Irish secure running backs Tony Jones and Deon McIntosh, defensive backs Spencer Perry and Devin Studstill, wide receiver Kevin Stephenson, and offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux.
Aside from the work Denson has put in recruiting in Florida, he’s been deployed by Brian Kelly on special assignment with 5-star linebacker Ben Davis. The Alabama native was convinced to visit Notre Dame in January primarily because of Denson. Davis’s other finalists include Alabama, Auburn, and LSU. Notice anything different about those finalists compared to Notre Dame? All SEC schools. Still, Denson was able to keep Notre Dame into the race as Notre Dame now awaits his decision. The Irish are considered a long shot for Davis, but the fact that Notre Dame is still in the race is an accomplishment in itself.
Denson is already hard at work on some top 2017 targets as well none bigger than 5-star WDE Joshua Kaindoh from IMG Academy the same high school as two of Denson’s 2016 commitments Spencer Perry and Tony Jones. Hopefully Denson’s success at IMG continues next year as well.
In addition to Denson’s success on the recruiting trail, he made his impact felt on the field in 2015 by getting freshman running back Josh Adams ready for early playing time following the string of injuries and transfers that decimated the depth chart at the position. Adams went on to break the Notre Dame freshman rushing record at Notre Dame. Denson also helped converted wide receiver CJ Prosise get almost seamlessly transition to running back while racking up 1,000 yards rushing.
Notre Dame fans shouldn’t be surprised that Autry Denson hit the ground running though. Denson ran for 695 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman in 1995 at Notre Dame before going on to set the Notre Dame career rushing record – a record that still stands.
If Denson’s progression as a recruiter mirrors that of his as a runner for Notre Dame some twenty years ago, Notre Dame could have a bonafide star in the making on its hands. Even if Davis selects Alabama tomorrow as most expect, Denson will be responsible for locking down roughly 25% of Notre Dame’s class 0f 2016. And he did that with getting a late start. Imagine what he can do with a full year already under his belt working on the class of 2017.
Again, we shouldn’t be surprised. Denson spent his entire Notre Dame playing career getting better every year and surpassing expectations. He’s just doing that all over again on the recruiting trail and on the sidelines.