Assistants Excited By Opportunities

Notre Dame introduced Frank Verducci, Tony Alford and Bryant Young as the school's newest assistant coaches on Friday. All three talked about how anxious they are to get started and about how they feel they can help the Irish win.

Coaching changes work sometimes merely because players get excited when they hear a new voice talking to them. The additions made to Notre Dame's staff for the 2009 season should do just that and the new coaches sound just as excited about their new opportunities.

New offensive line coach Frank Verducci is returning to the college game after eight years as a NFL coach.

"It's just a pleasure for me obviously to be here. It's a thrill, not only professionally, but personally. Having a wife who's a graduate of Saint Mary's and her whole family are graduates of the University," Verducci said. "It's a familial thing for me to be able to come back to the college game, specifically to Notre Dame."

Notre Dame will be the sixth school that Tony Alford has coached at, but he acknowledged that in his short time in South Bend he has already noticed a difference.

"This is basically the epitome of college football. Anybody who follows it, follows it closely knows the history behind Notre Dame," Alford said. "This place is all it's advertised to be, there's no question. This is a first-class institution."

For defensive graduate assistant Bryant Young, his new job has allowed him to return to his alma mater.

"I have a ton of respect for this University. It's given me a lot. I came here as a boy and left as a young man," Young said. "It's a very unique place and people don't understand that until they're here. I'm just happy that I'm able to come back."

Young spent a year traveling the country and trying to figure out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life after retiring from the San Francisco 49ers following the 2007 season. Young had multiple business and coaching opportunities, but chose to come back to Notre Dame.

Charlie Weis left his door open for Young following his return to campus as an honorary coach for last year's Blue & Gold Game before Young decided that he wanted to get into coaching.

"The more I looked at the business opportunities, it just didn't fire me up like coaching did and working with young men," he said. "That's the one thing that never really went away. I'm excited that I have an opportunity to do this because it's something that I believe I have a passion for."

Weis envisions Young taking over as Notre Dame's defensive line coach one day, just not yet.

"Not that he's not capable of doing it. I want to make sure this is something he wants to do," Weis said. "Football players that transition to be coaches, some of them it really works and some of it doesn't work. Because when you realize the coach's hours versus the player's hours, there's two different set of circumstances. He has a wife, bunch of kids."

Alford introduced himself to Weis at coaches' clinic in Las Vegas last year and the two chatted for about 20 minutes.

"We have some mutual friends in the business," Alford said. "That was the first opportunity I ever had to visit with him."

Verducci has a link to Weis as both hail from the Garden State.

"Frank is from New Jersey. How can I go wrong there?" Weis said. "I'm saying that sarcastically, but I've seen the Frank Verducci's a thousand times."

Verducci is not as worried about what scheme the Irish will employ as much as he is with the effort of his players.

"Blocking is blocking, it still comes down to fundamentals," he said. "There's three things that I want to focus on with this group. One would be effort, as far as we're never going to be outplayed by somebody, outefforted by somebody over the course of four quarters. Another thing is to be technically sound, not beat ourselves in that regard. And then be a smart offensive line, awareness."

Verducci's job will be to revamp a unit that appears to be high on talent, but low on results. Verducci was hesitant to criticize the job of his predecessor John Latina, but did acknowledge that there were some things he saw on tape that he will try to fix.

"In my opinion, the issues were all correctable," he said. "It's very hard for me to sit in here and critique a colleague's previous work. As most of you know offensive line coaches, whether it's college or professionally, we're all like kind of network. We all know each other.

"I certainly respect the job that John Latina did here and I consider myself a friend of John's. That being said, there are some things here that I think are correctable and it's my responsibility to get in here and do that."

Alford believes that he will have the chance to work with some players who have great potential.

"The tape that I watched and I've watched quite a bit of it obviously, I think there's some really good players with an abundance of talent," he said. "I think we have a chance to have some guys have some success here, there's no question."

With incoming freshmen Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick ready to jump into the mix with senior James Aldridge, juniors Armando Allen and Robert Hughes and sophomore Jonas Gray, Alford is not worried about keeping everybody happy.

"My job isn't to keep them happy. That's not what I was hired to do, to keep people happy. Our jobs are here to win football games," Alford said. "You're happy when you win, you're happy when you have success. My deal is ‘Hey, you go and compete and if you show that you're the best guy and you need to be on the field and playing then you'll play.'"

Young knows that his hire has drawn more attention than a typical graduate assistant hire but also understands his role.

"I'll get in where I fit in without stepping on anybody's toes," Young said. "I'm a first-year guy and I have to earn my stripes."

When Weis was hired by Notre Dame in December of 2004 he was still coaching with the New England Patriots and did not get a chance to take as much time as he would have liked when putting together his staff, but he feels confident with this group working together.

"I was happy with how things came together [before 2005], but the one thing you can't do, unless you're around, is feel chemistry," he said. "I think that a critical factor in successful programs is chemistry. There has to be chemistry. Chemistry with the players, but there has to be chemistry with the coaching staff."

Weis understands that the dream of most assistant coaches is to one day be in charge of a program of their own but he wanted to make sure that he hired guys who would concentrate on their current tasks.

"You just don't want Notre Dame to be a steppingstone for someone else," he said. "If you work hard and you win games and your guys end up getting jobs because you won games, that's a good thing. That's not a bad thing." Top Stories