Revamped and Ready to Lead

The final piece of Notre Dame's 2012 coaching staff is appears to be a formality as Brian Kelly welcomes three additions to the team entering winter conditioning season.

Three exited, two have entered with a third on the way, and yet another embraced a drastic change in his job requirement for 2012. At least one more coaching staff designation remains with a potential position switch (switch back, to be accurate) possibly to follow as a result.

Irish head coach Brian Kelly was unable to maintain the staff continuity he had hoped for entering the third season of his Notre Dame tenure, but the veteran leader's ability to promote, promote from within, and find a pair of veteran assistants to join his crew places the football program in good hands entering the 2012 season.

Below is a look at Notre Dame's current coaching staff, pending an official announcement to complete the group, and another new coaching duty yet to be assigned.

Bob Diaco – Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach: Guided the nation's 23rd and 24th-ranked scoring defenses over the past two seasons, allowing 20.23 and 20.69 ppg., respectively. Notre Dame ranked No. 63 in the category prior to his arrival, allowing nearly 26 ppg. in 2009. Diaco was recently promoted to assistant head coach in addition to his coordinating duties and is in one of three "Leadership positions" in the program as noted by Kelly two years ago.

Chuck Martin – Offensive Coordinator/Recruiting Coordinator: Moves into the leadership position vacated by outgoing OC Charley Molnar who took the head coaching job at UMass. Martin served as the team's defensive backs coach in 2010 and its safeties coach last year. His championship head coaching background at Grand Valley State (2004-2009) included offensive play-calling duties of the system implemented by Kelly, who left GVS after the 2003 season to take the same position at Central Michigan.

Paul Longo – Director of Strength and Conditioning: The third member in a "Leadership Position" at the program per Kelly, Longo has served under the Irish head man since the two joined at Central Michigan in 2004 (2012 will be their ninth consecutive season together).

Mike Elston – Defensive Line/Special Teams Coordinator: Remains in his dual position as defensive line coach and special teams coordinator. Elston's defensive linemen keyed an Irish rush defense that ranked as the program's best since 2004 (a unit that included current NFL All Pro Justin Tuck), but the special teams struggled mightily last fall after showing promise three of five main categories in 2010. Kelly noted six additional assistants were involved as "lieutenants" coaching the specialty units, and each was held culpable for a 2011 season of unresolved issues.

Tony Alford – Wide Receivers Coach: The team's running backs coach in 2009 prior to Kelly's arrival, Alford moved to coach the wide receivers in 2010, continued to do so in 2011, and will coach the group in 2012 pending the final slotting of promoted graduate assistant Scott Booker (below). Should Booker be assigned the wide receivers, Alford would be the obvious choice to replace departed running backs coach Tim Hinton.

Kerry Cooks – Co-Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach: Former All Big 10 and NFL safety worked as the team's outside linebackers coach in 2010 while helping to tutor the cornerbacks, then moved officially to the secondary as the cornerbacks coach last fall. He'll likely have a major role tutoring the team's collection of young, untested corners again this spring and next fall, as none of the five current spring ball competitors have started a collegiate contest and two (Tee Shepard and Jalen Brown) will make their field debuts next season.

Mike Denbrock – Tight Ends Coach: Remains in his position as tight ends coach. Denbrock is in his second stint with the Irish and has helped mentor three of the school's 10 best tight ends of all time: Anthony Fasano (2002-2004 as Offensive Tackles/Tight Ends coach); Kyle Rudolph (2010), and Tyler Eifert (2010-present).

Scott Booker – Offensive Assistant: Expected to coach either the running backs or the team's wide receivers, the latter move would allow the aforementioned Tony Alford to return to tutor a backfield that's tiered in experience and depth. Booker worked in congress with Alford, Kelly, and the offensive staff over the last two seasons. Booker will apparently work with the kick and punt return prospects this spring and next fall.

Bob Elliott – Safeties Coach: A 33-year coaching veteran including 29 on the defensive side of scrimmage, Elliott coached both Diaco and Cooks during their playing days at Iowa; the latter directly as his position coach while Diaco also served as a graduate assistant under Elliott for the Hawkeyes. Elliott, who joined the staff on January 20, has worked primarily as a defensive backs coach or defensive coordinator for Iowa State (2010-11; 2000-01; 81-82), San Diego State (2006-08) Kansas State (2002-2005, where Cooks worked under him for a period as a grad assistant), Iowa (1987-94; 96-98), Ball State (1978-80), and Kent State (1977). He also coached wide receivers/tight ends at North Carolina from 1983-86.

Offensive Line Coach: Harry Hiestand is expected to be officially announced as Notre Dame's offensive line coach within the next 15 days. Hiestand held the same position previously at the University of Tennessee (2010-11), the NFL's Chicago Bears (2005-10 including the team's 2006 Super Bowl run), and at Illinois (1997-99), Missouri (1994-96), Cincinnati (1989-93), Toledo (1988-89), and was a grad assistant for USC (1987-88).

According to UND.com, Diaco, Martin, Cooks, Booker, Alford, Denbrock, and Elston have all received contract extensions.


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