The makeup of the 2009 Notre Dame coaching staff is nearly complete, but not without the shuffling around of some duties.
Notre Dame held a press conference on Friday to introduce its three newest hires, offensive line coach Frank Verducci, running backs coach Tony Alford and defensive graduate assistant Bryant Young. Notre Dame also announced that Brian White has been hired as the school's offensive graduate assistant.
In addition to the new faces, head coach Charlie Weis also announced some changes to the staff's titles. Weis will serve as the team's offensive coordinator for 2009.
"I thought the best chance for us to win this year would be to make me the offensive coordinator," Weis said.
As the new offensive coordinator, Weis has not ruled out coaching from the booth like he did in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.
"I can tell you that it's a subject that we've addressed as a staff. Although I'd say it's definitely on the lower end of 50-50, it's not something that's a 5% consideration by us at this point," he said. "Whatever that decision is, you have to intend to do it on a fairly permanent basis. I can honestly tell you it's not a no. It's something that's still under consideration."
Wide receivers coach Rob Ianello assumes the title of Assistant Head Coach for Offense that had been held by former offensive line coach John Latina.
"What he then is, is a sounding board for the offense when I'm not there, or things come up that they have somebody to turn to," Weis said of Ianello. "Especially having two new guys on the staff with Frank and Tony, I needed an experienced guy to kind of be the sounding board to this offensive staff to get to me when any issue has to be resolved."
In addition to his job as offensive line coach, Verducci will serve as the Irish's Running Game Coordinator.
"I felt that just me being the coordinator, I felt that I needed somebody that had to put an emphasis on the run game," Weis said. "Frank will be my emphasis when it comes to that."
On the defensive side of the ball, Corwin Brown has been promoted from Defensive Coordinator to Associate Head Coach.
"Because I'm now running the offense, not just the play-caller, Corwin is now kind of my second in command," Weis said. "He now has been promoted to the associate head coach, because there's going to be times where I need input from him."
Jon Tenuta adds Defensive Coordinator to his title and although Brown will serve as Co-Defensive Coordinator, Tenuta will be calling the defensive signals.
"He will be the play-caller on defense, just like I'm the play-caller on offense," Weis said. "Jon being the defensive coordinator, Corwin being the co-coordinator because it's a collaborative effort really between those guys.
"Now with these additional titles, I now feel I have the leadership in place when we go forward into the football season to make sure I'm not negligent."
The staff still has an open position at defensive line. When Young decided to join the staff as a graduate assistant, Weis said that his thinking changed when it came to hiring a defensive line coach and began to look for someone to groom Young.
"When Bryant came in, I thought I'd like to bring him in here to eventually be a defensive line coach," Weis said. "I didn't want to bring him in here to be a career graduate assistant after 14 years in the NFL."
Weis admitted that he wanted his former colleague Romeo Crennel to fill that role, but that it did not work out.
"I was not going to go with any other defensive line coach until after Romeo made the decision whether he was going to do it or not do it," Weis said.
Weis did say that he expected the situation to be figured out shortly.
"My other direction will be resolved here within days," he said. "We'll have the defensive line situation resolved very quickly."
The coach said that there would be either 24 or 25 roster slots taken up by incoming freshmen and fifth-year players. The announcement of Roby Toma as the 17th member of the Irish's latest recruiting grab leaves room for seven or eight seniors to come back for a fifth year, although Weis could not say who the candidates were.
"I can tell you that several guys have applied for the fifth-year," he said. "They've not rejected a guy yet, but still they have to go through the process."
Weis would not get specific on any injury issues either other than to say that there were a variety of issues, none of which were very serious.
"There's ankles, there's knees, there's tonsils. Tonsils are a big one. We've had a whole bunch of guys having tonsils pulled," said Weis. "There's no one that's projected to not be ready to go for training camp."
"Luke and I and his parents, we all met and felt it would be in his best interest if he moved on and didn't play any more football, because it was getting to be too risky with the number of concussions that he was having," Weis said.
As far as his own health goes, Weis had surgery on his right knee, which is responding well, and his doctors do not see the need for surgery on the left knee at this point.
"I've gone from the walker to crutches to a cane to nothing. I walk slow, but I'm pain-free," Weis said. "My left one is relatively firm. As I said, no kidding intended, me and 'fast twitch' are not in the same sentence. But because it's firm and I have no pain, we tabled the February 24th operation. We're just going to put it off until there is pain, because there isn't."