Brown, Powlus Officially In

Two straight BCS bowl appearances would make a lot of schools happy. That's what Notre Dame and head coach Charlie Weis have accomplished in two seasons in South Bend. But on closer examination, there were a few glaring problems that have kept the Irish distant from the elite teams of college football. On Friday, changes to the coaching staff were officially announced to help cure the ailment.

After a week's worth of knowing the obvious, Weis introduced Corwin Brown as defensive coordinator and Ron Powlus as quarterbacks coach for next season. They're replacing Rick Minter and Peter Vass, whose contracts were not renewed. The change of coordinators on the defensive side of the ball was expected after another poor showing is the 41-14 Sugar Bowl loss to LSU. Powlus replacing Vaas might be a surprise to some.

It was part of a two-step plan for Weis, who will spend the vast majority of spring practice determining who'll replace outgoing senior Brady Quinn at quarterback. After calling up Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel and Al Groh for defensive coach possibilities, the same name kept popping up in the conversations.

"I felt I needed to be able to turn the defense over in the spring to somebody who I was familiar with and whose familiarity in the system that I was brought up in made the most sense," Weis said about Brown.

Despite being a Michigan graduate, which Weis called his only downfall, Brown has built up quite the resume. He was an NFL player from 1993-2000 with three different organizations. Groh hired him at Virginia as the special teams coach before moving to the New York Jets from 2004-06 as a defensive backs coach. In the three-year span, the Jets intercepted 56 passes, tied for fifth most in this time period. The familiarity of the Parcells coaching tree, along with similar philosophies, made this choice a natural one for Weis.

"I won't have to concern myself with knowing what we're doing, because I know what we'll be doing," Weis said. "Because it's a system that I was grown up in as I started on the defensive side of the ball my first year. And all I know is if I can get recommendations, ringing recommendations with one name from Parcells and Belichick and Crennel and Groh and they all give you the same person, then I must be on the right track."

The one area Notre Dame has been lacking on is defense. This season, time and time again in big games, the group faltered. Although statistically the numbers went down from 2005 to 2006, there appeared to be no forward momentum. This year, Michigan's Mario Manningham and USC's Dwayne Jarrett both torched the secondary for three touchdowns. In two bowl losses to Ohio State and LSU, the defense surrendered 617 yards and 577 yards of total offense respectively. Some one had to take the fall for poor performances and Minter was the guy.

Insert Brown. He has the task of rebuilding a demoralized group that still might be trying to stop LSU from running up and down the Louisiana Superdome turf. Brown did not publicly commit to what type of defense Notre Dame will be playing. There has been some speculation that a switch to a 3-4 alignment is a possibility. He did talk to the defensive players this morning and made clear a top priority in his philosophy.

"What a lot of people say is they talk about pressure," Brown said. "And there is some pressure here, but the one thing that we talked about with our players is pressure really defines you. It defines who you are and it shows really what you're about."

Brown's own personal assessment of his coaching style: fast and hard. He stressed the team will be sound fundamentally and technique wise and wants his players to believe in themselves and the system.

"These guys are going to be confident and they're going to be aggressive and they're Notre Dame," Brown said. "So that's what you know about our players right now. And believe me, it's all about our players."

Powlus makes the moves from director of personnel development to quarterbacks coach. A former Irish signal caller himself, Powlus held most of the Notre Dame passing records before Quinn came to campus. In the past two years, he's worked with players on the current roster and helped recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello direct the administrative aspects of Irish recruiting. Powlus knows the type of attention the quarterback of Notre Dame receives.

"The attention you receive as the quarterback of Notre Dame is part of the job," Powlus said. "And I think I had that mind set from the day I walked on campus. I never came on campus not to play. Came to campus to play and part of the job is the attention you received.

"I don't know if that mind set started the day I walked on campus or before I got here or what. But you deal with it. You go to class and sign autographs and you take pictures coming out of 7-Eleven. I mean, that's life being a Notre Dame quarterback."

Powlus's main job is to help Weis determine who'll be quarterbacking the team in the opener at home against Georgia Tech. There are four candidates. Evan Sharpley was the backup to Quinn last year. Freshmen Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer should be strong candidates for the position. And then there's Jimmy Clausen, who enrolled early to take advantage of spring practice and get a jump on the playbook. Clausen possibly is the most heralded recruit at Notre Dame since Powlus. The position of quarterback at Notre Dame is as scrutinized as any other in college football and the next signal caller will have to deal with the hype.

"People call it pressure," Powlus said. "I call it attention. That's part of the game. That's part of what you buy into and all the guys that come here expect to play and expect to be the starting quarterback of Notre Dame. If you don't, we don't want you on the team.

"So every guy that walks in this door that plays the position of quarterback, I hope he expects to play. And that's the mentality that they should have coming in and that's the mentality of every one of the guys competing for that job, and we'll help breed a competitive environment and let the best guy get on the field."


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