Irish strength program to get major remake

Notre Dame football’s strength program will have new leadership this spring. It’s also expected to have connections to one of the nation’s top college coaches and one of the country’s elite high school programs too.

Brian Kelly said strength and conditioning could face an overhaul this off-season.

Now it’s become clearer what those changes will look like.

Through sources, Irish Illustrated has learned two names expected to join the football program’s strength staff, in addition to the next role for long-time Kelly assistant Paul Longo, who’s been with Notre Dame’s head coach the past 13 seasons across three different programs.

After serving as Director of Football Strength and Conditioning, Longo will transition into the role of Special Assistant to the Head Coach, a title currently held by former defensive backs coach Bob Elliott. It’s unclear if Elliott, who helped craft Notre Dame’s defensive game plans against option the past two years will remain in that post or if Longo’s position will be a new one on top of the current staff.

As for Notre Dame football’s next strength team, the Irish will add Matt Balis as Director of Football Performance from the University of Connecticut, where he spent three years overseeing all programs. While Balis has a connection to former Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco via Storrs, his roots in the profession cut closer to Urban Meyer.

Balis, a Chicago native, spent two years on Meyer’s strength staff at Utah (2003-04) and two seasons with the current Ohio State head coach at Florida (2005-06), where he worked as assistant director of strength and conditioning under Mickey Marotti.

From there, Balis spent two years running Virginia’s strength program before ultimately landing at Mississippi State (2009-13) under Dan Mullen, also a Meyer disciple. Balis ran the strength program for football in Starkville.

Working with Balis in some capacity will likely be Dave Ballou, the Physical Conditioning Coach at IMG Academy last year, a stop preceded by 15 seasons at Avon High School outside Indianapolis. Working at IMG put Ballou in contact with Irish commitment and offensive lineman Robert Hainsey, who will enroll early in South Bend later this month.

The Irish landed running back Tony Jones Jr. and safety Spencer Perry out of IMG last recruiting cycle.

As Irish Illustrated has previously reported, Notre Dame is exploring the partial move of spring practice to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this off-season. Michigan relocated to the prep school campus for a week last March.

While it’s not clear when Notre Dame will announce the changes to strength and conditioning, Jan. 17 marks the first day of classes for the spring semester.

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