Notre Dame needs a new ace recruiter and running backs coach.
Tony Alford told Irish Illustrated that he will leave Notre Dame for Ohio State after six seasons in South Bend to become the new running backs coach and assistant head coach for the defending national champions. Irish Illustrated first reported on Friday night that Alford was a target for Urban Meyer in Columbus.
Alford plans arrive in Columbus on Sunday night.
He spent Saturday morning cleaning out his office and meeting with Notre Dame’s players about his departure.
It is unclear where Kelly will turn next at the position, although the program’s all-time leading rusher, Autry Denson, figures to be a candidate. Denson spent last season coaching running backs for Chuck Martin at Miami of Ohio before taking a position at South Florida this off-season.
The 38-year old Denson is a Florida native, meaning he could be a like-for-like replacement for Alford in both position and recruiting region.
Alford just was the lone holdover from the Charlie Weis regime and only assistant retained by Brian Kelly upon his arrival. Alford has coached running backs and receivers under Kelly and took on the title of recruiting coordinator in 2012.
Tasked with recruiting Florida, Alford was integral in landing Louis Nix, Aaron Lynch, Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston, Dexter Williams, Corey Holmes and Tevon Coney, along with a handful of other prospects. Each had offers from in-state schools and three of them were committed to local programs before flipping to Notre Dame.
Alford has been a target of Meyer before, with their connections dating back nearly a quarter century. Alford’s senior year at Colorado State synced with Meyer’s first season as receivers coach in Fort Collins. Meyer spent six seasons there before taking the same position at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz.
If Meyer needed a more updated recommendation on Alford, he could have turned to offensive coordinator Ed Warinner or fullbacks/tight ends coach Tim Hinton. Both were on Kelly’s first staff at Notre Dame with Alford before departing for Columbus after two seasons.
Alford follows defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks and quarterback coach Matt LaFleur out the door in a tumultuous off-season within the Irish coaching staff. Cooks left for Oklahoma, with the Irish staff able to manage that move before National Signing Day. LaFleur will make an NFL return, joining the Atlanta Falcons staff with his brother, as first reported by Irish Illustrated on National Signing Day.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder was also rumored to exit the program this off-season for the defensive coordinator position with the Oakland Raiders. A source told Irish Illustrated that VanGorder would remain in South Bend. The Raiders filled their defensive coordinator post with Ken Norton Jr.