Latina Out, Verducci In

Notre Dame announced today that offensive line coach John Latina has been replaced by Frank Verducci.

The University of Notre Dame announced today that Charlie Weis has hired Frank Verducci as the team's new offensive line coach. Verducci replaces John Latina, who resigned on Wednesday ‘to pursue other opportunities' after four years on Weis' staff.

Verducci, 51, is a New Jersey native like Weis and worked on Romeo Crennel's staff with the Cleveland Browns.

"Frank provides an excellent background on both the offensive line and run game in general from two perspectives, having coached several years in professional football and at the Division I level ­ predominantly in the Big Ten," Weis said in a statement released by the University. "His experience will be an asset both to our players and our staff."

"I'm very excited for this opportunity and am grateful to Coach Weis," Verducci said in a statement. "Notre Dame is the one college job I pursued and is the only school I considered leaving the NFL for.

"I'm looking forward to this return to college football and developing the talent we have here. The difference between the pro and college levels is the development you are able to see as they transform from young men when they enter to mature men when they graduate. I can't wait to get started."

Verducci has 19 years of experience as a collegiate coach, but has worked in the NFL since 1999, spending time four franchises. All of Verducci's experience was with the offensive line and tight ends, but found himself out when his last three head coaches were let go.

Verducci was the tight ends coach for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1999-2001 before joining Dave Campo's staff with Dallas Cowboys in 2002. Verducci brought his zone blocking scheme with him to Dallas and the Cowboys gained 1,754 yards on 423 carries (4.1 average). Emmitt Smith was Dallas' leading rusher with 975 yards and five touchdowns on 254 attempts.

The Cowboys were inexperienced at quarterback and surrendered 54 sacks. Dallas finished the season 5-11 and Campo and his staff were fired.

In 2004, Verducci joined Mike Mularkey's staff with the Buffalo Bills, starting as the assistant offensive line/tight ends coach before being elevated to offensive line coach in 2005. The Bills rushed for 1,607 yards and six touchdowns on 428 carries (3.8 average) in 2005.

Mularkey resigned at the conclusion of the 2005 season and Verducci was out again.

Verducci spent the last two seasons as an offensive assistant on Crennel's staff with the Cleveland Browns. Verducci was let go when Crennel was fired last month.

Prior to coaching in the NFL, Verducci coached tight ends, running backs and wide receivers in nine years as a college assistant at Colorado State, Maryland, Northern Illinois, Iowa and Northwestern. In 1989, Verducci returned to Iowa City as Iowa's offensive line coach.

Verducci worked under Hayden Frye at Iowa for 10 years. In those 10 years, the Hawkeyes averaged over 175 rushing yards per game six times and went over 200 per contest in 1990 (224.9), 1994 (221.0) and 1997 (217.0).

Tom Lemming ranked Verducci as one of the nation's top 10 recruiters in 1990 and Allen Wallace also had him ranked in the top 10 at SuperPrep from 1990-92 and in 1995.

Verducci's father, Tony, was a legendary high school football coach at Seton Hall Prep in Newark (N.J.)

"The name Verducci in New Jersey high school football is legendary as both his father and uncle were coaching icons," Weis said. "This should aid our recruiting efforts in New Jersey and the Northeast."

During his tenure at Iowa, Verducci mentored 12 future NFL linemen before jumping to league himself in 1999.

The Irish offensive line has come under more fire than any other position on the team in the last two seasons.

The Notre Dame offense had plenty of problems in 2007, but pass protection may have been the biggest as the Irish set a NCAA record for most sacks allowed with 58. The Notre Dame running game ranked 115th out of 119 Football Championship Subdivision teams in 2007 with an average of just 75.25 rushing yards per game.

Latina's group in 2007 was a highly-touted, yet young unit that struggled to maintain consistency with five different starting lineups.

With four juniors and a senior lining up for the Irish in 2008, Notre Dame hoped that a year of maturity would help the 2008 unit, but there were still struggles despite the fact that four of the five players started all 13 games at the same spots.

The Irish improved dramatically in pass protection in 2008, giving up just 22 sacks, but the running game continued to flounder. Notre Dame's average moved up to 109.7 per contest, but the Irish still ranked 100th out 119 teams in the FCS.

Notre Dame was able to run the ball against inferior defenses, but was never able to establish a consistent attack and that was part of the reason why the Irish coughed up three double-digit leads in 2008.

In the final four games of the season Notre Dame rushed for more than 66 yards just once and that came against Navy.

The Irish offensive line will be even more experienced in 2009 as it returns five of its top six. Starting guards Chris Stewart and Eric Olsen, starting right tackle Sam Young and starting center Dan Wenger will be seniors in 2009 and Notre Dame will also bring back sophomore guard Trevor Robinson, who saw significant playing time as a freshman.

The Irish lose left tackle Michael Turkovich, who was one of the most pleasant surprises on the team last year.

Born on St. Patrick's Day in Glen Ridge, N.J. in 1957, Verducci was a fullback and tight end at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (Kings Point) before receiving his bachelor's degree from Seton Hall. His wife Noel is a graduate of St. Mary's and the couple has two children, a son, Jack, and a daughter, Cameron.

Verducci's brother Tom is a Major League Baseball writer for Sports Illustrated. Top Stories