Three heads, one decision

Most of Denbrock’s work comes during the week when the game plan is formulated. Sanford will be the eyes upstairs, providing valuable information on defensive tendencies.

Tuesday was supposed to be the day.

Brian Kelly’s first in-season press conference in advance of Saturday’s 2015 season-opener against Texas was when the Irish head coach finally would have to answer the burning question of the pre-season.

Who will make the play calls for the offense?

It turns out a definitive announcement wasn’t imminent after all.

“We’re going to collaborate,” said Kelly at his noon ET press conference. “There will be collaboration. Mike Sanford, myself, Coach Denbrock…there will be collaboration on Saturday.”

Translation: I’m not telling.

For reasons fully known only to Kelly, there is reluctance to provide a black and white answer for public consumption, due at least in part to the fact that Sanford had a successful one-year stint in that capacity at Boise State last season.

Sanford, who was brought in as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach after a year in the same position at Boise State, will serve as the eyes in the sky from the press box. Denbrock, the long-time Kelly assistant, is more the choreographer of the play sheet with Kelly’s offensive concepts in mind.

A logical scenario would be Sanford sharing his view of the opposing team’s defensive fronts, its reaction to offensive formations, and areas where Notre Dame’s offense can exploit an opposing defense’s weaknesses.

As the one who pulls the master plan together, Denbrock will remind Kelly of the plays/concepts that correspond to the specific situation/defense, making it easier for Kelly to choose from a menu of play options.

“All three of us are collaborating,” Kelly reiterated. “How it comes out to the signaler, we’re all in unison as to how we want the game to unfold.

“We’re all working off the same play sheet. We’re all going to work off the same openers. We’re all going to be working off the same down-and-distance sheet. So whether it’s coming out of Mike or Mike or Brian’s lips is really immaterial as far as I’m concerned. All I know is we’ve got great collaboration.”

Kelly previously announced that Sanford would do his work from the press box on game day.

“His focus is really looking at the overall structure of the defense,” said Kelly of Sanford. “When you’re on the field, you’re much more zeroed in on specifics. That’s more of a bigger picture look when you’re up in the box.”

Representing the defense in the press box will be linebackers coach Mike Elston serving as the eyes for defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder, who will be on the field with defensive line coach Keith Gilmore and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.

On the field with Kelly’s offensive staff will be Denbrock, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, running backs coach Autry Denson and tight ends/special teams coordinator Scott Booker.

Two additions to the game-day dynamics include Jeff Quinn, Notre Dame’s offensive analyst, and Bob Elliott, the special assistant to the head coach who’ll focus on the defensive side of the football. Also assisting the effort will be offensive graduate assistants Ryan Mahaffey and Donovan Raiola.

Quinn will provide “statistical analytical work” and track “tendencies, numbers, personnel groupings, and some oversight as it relates to special teams.” Elliott will keep track of “game-management situations, video replay, and things of that nature.”

Quinn and Elliott can communicate with the coaches, but are not allowed to coach the players on game day.


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