Thursday, January 15, 2009

Staff carousel

As promised, the changes to the Notre Dame football program this offseason are beginning to take shape.

Haywood is gone to take the head coaching job at Miami (OH). As yet his position (offensive coordinator/RB coach) is vacant.

Jappy Oliver is out as the defensive line coach. The official word is that he resigned. However, much like the next coach on the list, it is clear that he was asked to do so in no uncertain terms. As yet, no replacement has been named, but it has been reported that Ohio State Co-Defensive Coordinator / LB Coach Luke Fickell was offered a position on the defensive staff at Notre Dame. Fickell played for one year under Jon Tenuta when he was at OSU. He is an OSU alum, and seems to be in position to at least be conidered for the OSU job if Cheaty McSweatervest ever leaves. However, ND pulled a major coup by bringing in Tenuta last year, and they have it within their means to do it again. No word yet on whether he will accept.

Fickell is an interesting hire, if successful. As the linebackers coach for the last 7 years, he has developed/coached All-American linebackers Matt Wilhelm ('02), A.J. Hawk ('04, '05) and James Laurinaitis ('06, '07, '08). That's got to be appealing to the likes of Manti Te'o and Jelani Jenkins, our top two remaining targets in this year's class. It remains to be seen, however, whether Fickell would take over the linebacking corps from Tenuta, or be moved into Jappy's job on the D-line. Either way, it would be a major coup if ND could get him to sign on the dotted line.

Finally, John Latina is out as offensive line coach, replaced by longtime coach Frank Verducci, who has spent the last two years as an offensive assistant at the Cleveland Browns. Verducci has over 27 years of coaching experience, including 19 in college. He is known as a good recruiter, and has the bulk of his experience on the offensive line. While there is nothing in Verducci's resume that screams success, he did essentially take a step down from the NFL to come to Notre Dame. At the very least, he is a known quantity as far as teaching blocking fundamentals.

I expect that this ends the firings for the staff, as the fans got their sacrificial lamb (Latina), and the greatest deficiency on Weis' team (D-line) was addressed as well.

The only really interesting thing remaining from these changes is to see what Weis does in regards to replacing Haywood. Does he retain play-calling duties and hire what will essentially be another glorified running backs coach, or does he go out and make the big splash to bring in someone he knows he can turn the offensive reins over to?

It will be interesting to follow in the coming weeks, and I expect that everything will be settled down by signing day in February.