As the OC, Molnar was not the team's play-caller (Kelly will likely always embrace that role), but rather charged with game day booth duties as described below by his head coach in October:
"The way we work together is, he's one play ahead of me in terms of play calling," Kelly offered of Molnar's in-game approach. "So let's say we called a run on 2nd and 10: he's got a third down pass ready. I try to get him thinking with options (such as) ‘Hey, what are you thinking on third down?' I always try to keep him a down ahead. (If) It's 3rd down, he's already got a 4th down play….We've got a pretty good working relationship. Sometimes it's just getting me to zone in on a particular play," Kelly added.
In his dual role as the team's quarterbacks coach (a role Kelly has added in the interim) and passing game coordinator, Molnar, along with Kelly and running game coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner, worked in congress to execute late-week or even game day/pre-game adjustments to the attack.
Also involved in the game day play-by-play is running backs coach, Tim Hinton.
"Tim Hinton is helping me with down and distance and hash," Kelly offered in October. "So (if listening), you would hear down and distance, hash mark, then there may not be anything unless we're in a down and distance situation. And (Hinton) is talking about blitz patterns as well. It's really a couple conversations."
Those conversations will likely include a new quarterbacks coach, though not necessarily one in the dual role of offensive coordinator.
"My background is that I like to keep things in-house if I can," said Kelly of his next hire. "If I can't, I'll bring somebody in that I have a relationship with. We've got talented coaches within the program that are capable of being in leadership positions. If that's the route I go, I'm very comfortable with that. But I'm not closing off any doors as to how I go about doing that."
Past Relationships Relevant?Rumors abound that former longtime Kelly aid Greg Forest could rejoin the head man in South Bend in a role similar to Molnar's. Forest coached under Kelly continuously from 1993 (Grand Valley State) through 2009 (Central Michigan and Cincinnati), tutoring running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and quarterbacks during that span.
Another trusted Kelly aid and current Buffalo Bulls head coach Jeff Quinn is another name often bandied about. Quinn's Bulls have struggled to a 5-19 mark in two years but he is unlikely to leave his post as a coach in charge of a program. He was a finalist for the 2009 Broyles Award, given to college football's best assistant coach in his final season with Kelly in Cincinnati. Quinn coached with or under Kelly from 1989 through 2009 during stops at Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati.
From within, the aforementioned Warinner is a likely candidate. The main point in favor of a Warinner promotion is his past experience as a spread attack offensive coordinator at Kansas and previously for Army in the late 90s. A logical con? Warinner would then have to move to the booth to occupy the "one step ahead" game flow role of Molnar to aid Kelly's play-calling – not an ideal situation for an offensive line coach who's presence has been notable with the group on the Irish sidelines over the last two seasons.
Another option and one that could be construed as relatively seamless despite a move across scrimmage is current safeties coach and recruiting coordinator Chuck Martin. Martin was previously the head coach at Grand Valley State where he called plays from the sidelines during his years following Kelly at the school.
Martin's move to the booth would be mitigated on the defensive side as current cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks could then be tasked with the more traditional role of Defensive Backs coach (the entire backfield rather than splitting the CB/S). Cooks was an All Big-10 safety at Iowa in the mid 90s and three-year NFL veteran at the position.
Martin to OC would then likely necessitate the hiring of a defensive assistant to fill out the 9-man staff.
Holding Steady?One Irish assistant rumored to be on the move is running backs coach Tim Hinton, whose past relationship with Urban Meyer, now at Ohio State, and 24-season connection to football in the state of Ohio are just part of an attractive package (Hinton began his Ohio-based career as a grad assistant at Ohio State in 1985-86 and remained in the state until he joined Brian Kelly in South Bend from Cincinnati in December 2009).
The move would no doubt be considered lateral, which, according to Kelly in the past, would likely mean any formal interview for the job would end Hinton's time in South Bend. Regardless, Hinton is reportedly a lock for the job if interested.
(Molnar's interview at UMass was not a perceived "lateral move" as he was afforded the chance to become a head coach.)
Regarding the Hinton speculation, Kelly noted this week: "I would know if my staff was not going to be with me. The first guy I would be talking to is Urban Meyer, and I have not talked to Urban Meyer."
As for the hiring timeline, Kelly stated, "We'll have another coach on board for Jan. 4 recruiting. We don't want to be short in the recruiting end of things. So we'll have it all sorted out and we'll have somebody on board so that when we hit the road recruiting, we're not short a coach. We're not going to put ourselves in that position."
Promotion from within is likely. An addition is mandatory; a second could be necessary as well – such is life in the college coaching carousel that presently defines December at the FBS level.