Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A fully-staffed staff | by Pat

Though perhaps over-shadowed a bit by Lane Kiffin becoming Public Enemy #1 in the state of Tennessee, the rest of the ND coaching staff was finally officially announced yesterday evening after all members had made their way through ND's labyrinthine hiring process. First up was the new strength coach and his assistants. As expected, Paul Longo will be the new strength coach at Notre Dame and resume the position he held under Brian Kelly at UC and Central Michigan.

One constant of any coaching regime change are the stories about how the new strength coach will be a shock to the system of the players and he's a clear improvement over the last guy. We heard it when Mickey Marotti (who came to ND from Cincinnati as well) took over under Davie. We heard it when Ruben Mendoza took over from Mickey, and I suspect we'll hear a lot of it now that Longo is in place.

We wouldn't want to disappoint in the predictable praise of the new strength coach though, so here's a story on Longo's methods at UC and the dreaded Longo Beach (which is apparently included in your admission to Camp Kelly). It certainly sounds like Longo will is more apt to include Marotti-esque strongman-type competitions than the more traditional weight room work used by Mendoza.

Every year, the Bearcats' strength coach sets up an 80-yard long, 10-foot wide sand pit inside of Nippert Stadium for players to run sprints through. It saves some pounding on the knees, but of course sand is harder to run on than turf. He dubs his creation "Longo Beach."

"I'm sure our guys would tell you that it's no day at the beach," Longo says with a laugh.

Longo also constructs a 30-yard hill inside Nippert during the summer for sprint work. Peek inside some of the Cincinnati summer workouts, and you might think you're watching a taping of the "World's Strongest Man" competition. Longo has been known to ask his guys to lift unusual items like tires and perform what's called a Farmer's Walk, where you walk while carrying a heavy object in each hand.

"Our linemen will carry up to 200 pounds in each hand for 100 yards," Longo said. "Don't you think that's a better test of strength than a bench press?"
Mendoza reportedly also attempted to set up the hill for sprint work, but for whatever reason it never happened. It will be interesting to see if Longo does get his hill set up for this winter's conditioning work.

One difference between Longo and the former strength coaches is how Kelly views the role of ND's latest strength coach. Perhaps Davie, Ty, and Charlie had similar thoughts, but as far as I know they never mentioned the strength coach as a de facto third coordinator for the football team.
"Paul joins our offensive and defensive coordinators as leaders of this program. He cuts across the traditional strength and conditioning coach mold because he builds relationships with all players and coaches and serves as a leader, not just in the weight room, but throughout the program.

Paul is a critical addition to our program because, arguably, no coach will have more contact with our players throughout the whole year than our strength and conditioning coach. Based on his track record and what I have personally witnessed, I can't wait to see how he'll make our team better moving forward."
With Kelly reportedly inviting members of the media to witness some of the Camp Kelly/Longo Beach activities (whereI'm sure Brian Hamilton will be checking all available sheds for shunned players), I suspect there will be plenty more written about Longo's methods at ND.

Rounding out the day of announcements were the final three additions to the coaching staff that included one surprise twist. Former Kansas OC Ed Warinner, former Wisconsin DB coach Kerry Cooks, and former UC RB coach Tim Hinton were named ND's newest OL, OLB, and RB coaches respectively. The big twist is that ND already had a running backs coach in Tony Alford, but he will move over to coach wide receivers while Hinton takes on the same role he had for the Bearcats. Alford has never coached receivers before, but Kelly has been known to shuffle assistants around and that's what he's doing here.
"Over the past few weeks, I've gotten to know Tony Alford well while traveling with him on the recruiting trail," Kelly said. "I can tell that he is a terrific teacher and coach, so that is why I've asked him to become our wide receivers coach. This move will not only help Tony but also benefit the program. For Tony, this is a great professional development opportunity and gives him a chance to really increase his coaching acumen. For the team, this takes a great coach and puts him at a position where he will have multiple players on the field at one time in our offense. I have complete confidence in Tony's ability to coach our wide receivers and plan to see a similar impact with them as he had with the running backs last year."
Ed Warninner will slide into one of the most critical spots on the staff, not only because the OL coach is the most important coach on any college staff (in my opinion), but also because he is the replacement for Kelly's long-time OL coach and right hand man Jeff Quinn, who took the head coaching job at Buffalo. Ed's resume shows success running the football (Army, Illinois), and passing (Kansas) as well as experience and familiarity with the spread offense. But as the only member of the new ND coaching staff that has never worked with Brian Kelly before -- Cooks explains he technically worked for Kelly for 7 days -- Ed's transition will be interesting to watch.

Now that the whole staff has been named, they will be busy hitting the road recruiting for the next few weeks to try and finalize the 2010 recruiting class. Kelly hasn't officially assigned the special teams and recruiting coordinator titles to any of the assistant's yet, but it is assumed that DL coach Mike Elston will get the special teams title while Hinton will become the recruiting coordinator, a position he held at Cincinnati.