Yahoo: Notre Dame to Name Clark Lea Defensive Coordinator

If your coaching carousel pool had a box for Clark Lea Defensive Coordinator Notre Dame, and you had that box, congrats – you won! Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reports that Brian Kelly will soon end an intense few days of fan base speculation when he promotes Lea to replace the departed Mike Elko.

The Case for Clark

Lea was the clear continuity choice. Consider:

  • 2017 was his third season working with Elko, so he knows the system.
  • He has also made a big impression on Irish players and coaches in a short time as an excellent teacher.
  • The cherry on the sundae is that he has already proven himself to be a plus recruiter; he was the reason Jack Lamb signed with the Irish a few weeks ago and Jeremiah Owusu flipped to the Irish last cycle. His next recruiting job will be to convince Te’Von Coney, who blossomed under his coaching this year, to stay.

Lea has shown an ability to develop talent as well; not only did Coney emerge this year, but Wake Forest MLB Marquel Lee had a season for the ages in 2016. Lee matched his previous career output in sacks and nearly doubled his career TFLs. Whether Coney comes back or not, Notre Dame will definitely need a couple of young linebackers to step up next year. Keeping Lea around is a good step toward making sure that happens. One of my favorite glimpses of Lea as a coach was in the USC ICON, which included a flashback to a preseason moment between him and Coney. He quietly called Coney over as practice went on. In an almost inaudible tone, he said, “Te’Von, what’s going on today? I feel like I’m not getting your best. Would you agree with that?” It struck me as a true teacher’s approach to his job. Love it.

There’s some concern about readiness, as Lea is in his mid-30’s and hasn’t been a coordinator before. However, there’s no question he’s intelligent and has a great resume otherwise. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in political science from Vanderbilt, where he was a two-time All-SEC Academic Team selection. He coached linebackers at UCLA under respected DC Chuck Bullough, then moved to Bowling Green to work with Elko for the first time. He headed to Syracuse to work with with former Jim Harbaugh DC Scott Shafer. He then reunited with Elko at Wake Forest in 2016 before following him to Notre Dame last year. Bullough, Shafer, and Elko are all pretty sharp defensive minds, and all obviously liked Lea. That’s a strong recommendation in itself.

The Rest of the Staff

Mike Elston has now been passed over for the DC job twice, three times if you count BVG’s hire. Will he leave? That’s a tough call. He has to be making good money right now with the recruiting coordinator and assistant head coach titles. I haven’t seen any rumors of anyone else coming after him. He’s been with Brian Kelly for 14 years, and has spent his entire playing and coaching career in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. That’s a lot of incentive to stay put. If he leaves, I think it’s more likely he’d leave for a head coaching job than a coordinator job.

There’s also the small matter of replacing Elko’s position responsibility, which was safeties. Given Lea’s youth, Notre Dame should look for an experienced secondary coach to take over the safeties. If he has coordinator experience somewhere in his background, so much the better. This is nearly as critical a hire as the DC position.

History Is On Our Side (Maybe)

What’s that you say? When was the last time Notre Dame promoted a linebacker coach with no coordinator experience? Hm, good question. The answer to that particular bit of trivia is none other than Barry Alvarez, who Lou Holtz kicked upstairs in 1988 when Foge Fazio left for the NFL.

Start making travel plans now, Irish fans. The playoffs await.

By |2018-05-09T22:25:37+00:00January 9th, 2018|Football|63 Comments

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OrlokMr. WednesdayThe commenter formerly known as occtipustlndmaPublius2010 Recent comment authors
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juicebox
juicebox

How did ND ever let a name like Foge Fazio leave???? That is a name worth backing up the brinks truck for.

DCIrish84
DCIrish84

I think this is a good choice. I am sure it is hard to call plays the first time, but it is not rocket science. At some point he was going to get a job like this, and if we had passed him over, my guess is he would be on his way to A&M.

I assume this means that none of the ‘proven names’ wanted to move and that Kelly was not sure about some of the less proven. Much of the speculation was on people with one or two years experience, and while more than none, it is hardly proven. I think continuity mattered.

Based on the LBs, we know he can coach. He can clearly recruit. We will find out if he can coordinate.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Well put, and I agree. Plus it seemed like a lot of the “proven names” or up-and-comers were refusing new jobs and sticking put (well, you know, except for Elko) with raises.

I don’t think it was plausible to get Leonhard out of his (and his wife’s) alma mater of Wisconsin, and no one else available from the post last week really moved the needle all too much to me.

Lea seems sharp, and he’s been coaching for 13 years I believe. He ought to know well the system and like you said, we’ll see how well he can coordinate it all himself. It’s a risk since he’s an unknown but I like this hire more than an uninspired veteran guy coming in. Always seems good to me on defense to have youth and energy leading the way.

Michael Bryan

Good deal – I found this video of Lea with Martini from the spring pretty enlightening.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTIvLuACEjk

He seems to be a terrific person, character-wise, for ND – really loves to teach, greatly appreciates the academic value of ND, and is super family-oriented.Football-wise, he’s high upside – clearly a bright guy, knows Elko’s scheme (which is pretty proven at this point), and puts a lot of effort and thought into recruiting. There’s a chance it falls apart since he hasn’t been the man in charge of his own defense before, but I’m giving this one a thumbs up.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

That video is great. Seems like a good dude.

juicebox
juicebox

So who else do we hire? Can we give TFR double the salary to coach safeties and QBs? He ought to be fairly familiar with Safeties as he completed quite a few passes to them.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

I lol’d. Take your upvote.

More Noise
More Noise

Tommy… NOOOOO….!!!!

KG
KG

On somewhat the note of QB coaches and safeties….those of you who caught the end of the NCG, any of you shaking your head like I was that A. A true freshman QB with minimal garbage time this season could come in and lead a come back in the NC-freakingG and B. in his post-game interview, could talk through how he was looking off the safety to keep him to the right side of the field so he could come back left and make that deep throw for the TD? If you watch the replay, he did all that in milliseconds. Now, I know that Tua Tagovailoa was a 5-star kid and there’s been talk of him replacing Hurts all season, but still–this is why I just laugh when someone says “Well, Wimbush is only a first year starter, give him time….” 3 YEARS IN THE SYSTEM and NOPE. Meanwhile, Bama’s bringing a kid in off the bench that can completely change their offense and lead them from behind in the NCG, as a true freshman. I hate them so much.

alstein

It’s certainly not the same thing, but we brought in a RS freshman in our bowl game after getting shut out for nearly a half, and he led us to 21 points in 32 minutes against a really good SEC defense. Both played pretty well although still had freshman-worthy INTs. Even did the “looking off the safety” thing for the game-winning TD:

https://twitter.com/jamieuyeyama/status/948633644578488320

KG
KG

Well played.

MikeyB
MikeyB

It would have been pretty funny if that horrible sack he took the play before the TD knocked them out of field goal range and cost them the game though. The second guessing Saban would have been getting from the media would have been hilarious.

KG
KG

I was hoping…I was sooo hoping…

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Reminds me of the time we brought a redshirt freshman into an away game we were losing and this was the result:

comment image

KG
KG

Except that was an injury, not the deliberate choice to bench a guy who had won SEC offensive player of the year and led you to a 26-2 record.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

Are you going for a Doctorate in Medieval Japanese Accounting Rules??? No! Don’t get hung so up on details. Banzai!!!!!

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

What Head coach has the balls to sub in a true freshman? Only Saban. Any other coach is thinking about the media shitstorm that would follow if they lose the game. Saban is only thinking about how to win the game.

GoldenIsThyFame
GoldenIsThyFame

This is the right move if you truly believe in what Elko was building at ND. At the end of the day, I’m sure Kelly thought that hiring another DC with a different system from the one he just invested heavily in was only going to hurt the defense.

It would’ve been nice to have a Grinch or a Kwiatowski, but those transitions would’ve come with growing pains and the program can’t afford another overhaul with next year’s schedule looming. With upwards of nine starters coming back, establishing a baseline level of competence and continuity is the best option.

gambit1077
gambit1077

Works for me. It’ll be an interesting next 6 days for Irish football waiting on the rest of the draft decisions and the official announcements from the staff, but this is a good place to start.

spider-man
spider-man

Two things – (1) I hope that Elston sticks around as he seems good with the d-line and with recruiting. (2) Any thoughts on who the new safeties coach is going to be? Let’s hope for a dynamo recruiter

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Jacob Eason transferring to UW. Knew it’d be a longshot, but my hope never really died until now. Oh well. Jurky boys for life.

https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/uw-husky-football/sources-georgia-qb-jacob-eason-the-former-lake-steven-star-expected-to-transfer-to-uw/

juicebox
juicebox

Is he even good? The one season he played his stats were pretty similar to Wimbush. Then he got passed up by a true freshman. Fromm turned out to be good, but he wasn’t a world beater early in the season. Not sure Eason would be much of an improvement.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Elston appears to be staying. That’s a big win – https://twitter.com/NDFootball/status/950867564644638720

King Kenny
King Kenny

Very happy with his promotion. I dont think there will be any steps backward from a x and o point of view. He should know this system like the back of his hand and the work he put into Coney should speak for itself. Coney went from a backup to a monster and every Irish fan is praying to Touchdown Jesus that Coney returns (Tillery to). My only concern is recruiting. I dont know how good he is or how good he can be. I had the exact same concerns with Elko last year. Elko was a beast out there and he really attacked recruiting and we will need the same from Lea. We have the opportunity to have a better class in the 2019 cycle compared to this one and Lea will have to deliver like Elko did.

juicebox
juicebox

One possiblyfactor here. When you promote a young guy to be a first time coordinator, he will probably stay in that role for awhile. Probably won’t get poached for $$, like Elko, or get grabbed for a HC gig. I wonder if all this is planning on Elston leaving next year anyway for a MAC job.

DCIrish84
DCIrish84

Good for Elston with the promotion and presumably pay raise. Wasn’t Jeff Burris on staff a while back as a grad assistant? Did he stay in coaching? Perhaps he could join Lyght in the defensive backfield.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Rumors starting to pick up steam now that Harry Hiestand might be Bears bound to be their o-line coach. This offseason sucks

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

You can’t blame teams for trying to get Harry. ND needs to step up to the plate with this one.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Iirc Hiestand rejected NFL offers last year, but if he stays it’s going to be because he wants to stay. Colleges and NFL teams are too far apart on upper OLine coach salaries for ND to compete in a $ competition. But I would hope that ND would offer a raise at least as a sign of their desire to keep Hiestand, even if they don’t match any proposed NFL salaries.

juicebox
juicebox

This one really sucks. He has been a stud. Also means we lose any chance at getting Petit-Frere. And yet another coach we need to hire this year. I’ve secretly been hoping we are still looking for an actual 10th assistant (or 11th or however many at this point) over TFR.

God I hate ND offseasons. Why is a 10-3 team getting decimated like this? Shouldn’t NFL teams be hiring Clemson, or Bama, or OU’s coaches? Well maybe not OU’s DC. Hey Bears, go hire the Badger’s OL coach.

Russell Knox
Russell Knox

ISD is reporting that Hiestand is taking the job with the bears. Oh woe is me. Anytime this team finds success, a thousand fleas attack them and begin dragging them back down.

I’m starting to believe all of the Negative Nacys out there that are predicting the end of the BK era. It certainly looks like the assistant coaches are seeing it.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

NFL pays more than college and Hiestand’s losing the 2 best players in his group. Easy to see this being independent of the current status of ND, it makes total sense for him to make one more run at the NFL, especially since he’s no spring chicken.

Elko, meh, the Fisher situation isn’t one anyone could have predicted but it did seem like Kelly and ND expected Elko to go somewhere after a short period and had Lea in the wings. If Lea refused the ND DC spot and tagged along with Elko, that would be a sinking ship scenario.

juicebox
juicebox

Could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Coaches think they see better stability somewhere else, so they leave, so ND becomes unstable, making the perceived improved stability true.

Perception IS reality, maaaaan.

Individually, both of these guys will be making more money than they would at ND. BUT both are still leaving. Jumping ship doesn’t look good, doesn’t help attract new top tier talent (coaches or players), and won’t help 2018 when BK will be criticized for anything short of 11 wins.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Don’t forget: not only is it more $, it’s also not having to recruit.

Publius2010
Publius2010

Elko gushed about A&M, saying he took the job in part because he wanted to compete for a championship. That one stings.

Concrete Charlie
Concrete Charlie

What would you expect him to say? “I came here because you guys offered me a literal truck-load of money – Guaranteed! I can pick my nose for the next three years and you’ll still be paying me, sucka!.” OR “”I came here to win championships!!!”

I know which of those statements seems more likely to be truly true…

Mr. Wednesday
Mr. Wednesday

Listen! We’re not just doing this for money!

We’re doing it for a *(pant) load* of money!

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

As you note, this 100% makes sense for Hiestand, but a major bummer nonetheless.

Another major bummer is the seeming inevitability of Jack Swarbrick using all this turnover to explain why BK will continue as coach after an 8-4 season.

More Noise
More Noise

This is sooo OT — but doesn’t anyone want tp chat about the Natty? I would love to hear some of your expert analysis stuff.
I kinda felt bad for Georgia, I sort of bonded with all their fans sitting around me back at the game in September (seems like forever ago)… and I was REALLY wanting the evil genius to lose that game yesterday. (Remember, I am from the era when Bear Bryant was 1 and 5 against us; this current state of affairs feels so… wrong.

The commenter formerly known as occtipus
The commenter formerly known as occtipus

Hiestand to Da Bears. This is going to be another patented ND Offseason of Pain(tm, all rights reserved, copyright MMXVIII)

dannan14
dannan14

The downvote is because i lost control and shot the messenger….sorry ’bout that.

juicebox
juicebox

I think E should do a post outlining the top 10 worst off-seasons for ND. This could be a legit series to cover all the horribleness that happens to us every year.

Orlok
Orlok

This is a great idea for Irish people who love suffering. And any Russian ND fans as well