Brian Kelly

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Notre Dame welcomes back Kerry Cooks as analyst

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Notre Dame has a familiar face back on the football staff in 2020. Kerry Cooks has returned to South Bend to take on a role as a defensive analyst.

Cooks was spotted at Notre Dame’s brief spring practices earlier this month and head coach Brian Kelly confirmed to reporters the return had been in the works. Judging by Cooks’ profile update on Twitter, it seems it is about as official as it can get. Once it’s on Twitter, it’s as real as it gets, right?

Cooks spent one year with the Texas Tech program as a safeties coach. He was not retained by Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells for a second season amid some coaching staff changes in Lubbock. Prior to joining the Red Raiders, Cooks was a defensive backs coach for Oklahoma from 2015 through 2018. Cooks had been a member of the Notre Dame coaching staff before heading to Oklahoma. Cooks coached the cornerbacks from 2010 through 2014, and he held the title of co-defensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.

Cooks also has coaching stops at Kansas State (2003 as a graduate assistant), Western Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Cooks, an alum of Iowa, also spent four years in the NFL with stints with the Minnesota Vikings (a fifth-round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft), Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars. He also played briefly in the original XFL with the Chicago Enforcers. After that, he got into coaching.

Notre Dame promotes Tommy Rees to offensive coordinator

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Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has promoted two assistants on the coaching staff to new positions for the 2020 season. Tommy Rees will be the new offensive coordinator of the Fighting Irish and Lance Taylor has been promoted to run game coordinator.

“After an extensive national search, I’m proud to name Tommy Rees our next offensive coordinator,” Kelly said in a released statement. “Tom’s ability to connect with our players and staff and accepting and embracing the incredible opportunity in being the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame made him the right choice. While Tom’s leadership ability and knowledge of the game was evident, it was his humble approach to his own development and desire to continue to grow and learn that were also key factors that set him apart in a talented pool of candidates.”

Rees, a former Notre Dame quarterback, had been serving on the staff as a quarterbacks coach for the past three seasons. Rees started his coaching career at Northwestern as an offensive graduate assistant under Pat Fitzgerald in 2015. Rees then got some coaching experience in the NFL with the Sam Diego Chargers in 2016. He returned to his alma mater in 2017 to fill the role of quarterbacks coach and has overseen the position for the past three seasons.

Rees was a regular starter for the Irish under Kelly. During his time in South Bend as a player, Rees passed for 7,670 yards and 61 touchdowns from 2010- 13. Notre Dame was 23-8 with Rees at quarterback.

Taylor joined the Notre Dame coaching staff last season as a running backs coach. The former Alabama special teams captain has held a number of coaching positions since starting his coaching career in 2007 at his alma mater in Tuscaloosa. Taylor was a graduate assistant for the Crimson Tide in 2007 and 2008 before taking on a role as wide receivers coach at Appalachian State in 2009. Taylor spent three seasons in different roles with the New York Jets from 2010 through 2012 and as an assistant receivers coach with the Carolina Panthers in 2013. Taylor joined the Stanford coaching staff in 2014 and worked with Christian McCaffrey. He returned to the NFL with the Panthers in 2017 and spent two seasons with the franchise before coming to Notre Dame last season.

No. 9 Notre Dame shuts down Louisville in season-opening 35-17 win

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No. 9 Notre Dame (1-0) spoiled the start of the Scott Satterfield era at Louisville (0-1) by shutting down the Cardinals in the second half Monday night in Louisville. Since being knotted up at 14-14 after the first quarter, the Fighting Irish outscored the home team 21-3 the rest of the way for a 35-17 win to start the new year.

Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book gave the Irish the lead just before halftime, making up for a lost fumble just a few plays prior to that. Book lost a fumble one play after the Irish recovered a Louisville fumble. But the third fumble in three successive plays gave the ball right back to Notre Dame, and Book capitalized with an 11-yard run with 17 seconds left before the halftime break.

Book then added to the Notre Dame lead with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Tommy Tremble midway through the third quarter. With the Irish defense getting a handle on Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass and the Cardinals unable to sustain the energy and momentum they ha din the first quarter, Notre Dame started to pull away. After Louisville resigned to settling for a 42-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the Notre Dame lead to 28-17, the Irish delivered what was essentially the knockout blow with Jahmir Smith‘s one-yard touchdown run at the end of a 12-play, 75-yard drive.

There were some glimpses of improved football by Louisville that Satterfield can take into practices for next week. Among the chief areas of concern should be ball control. Louisville lost three fumbles. Last season, Satterfield’s Appalachian State was among the best teams in the nation in handling the football with just 10 fumbles all season long, and just five lost fumbles all year. Louisville was much more of a mess handling the football, ranking 125th in the nation with 23 fumbles and 10 fumbles lost. It may not happen overnight, but Satterfield should be able to find ways to improve how his players hold on to the football relatively quickly. Pass scored both Louisville touchdowns on the ground, but has room to improve with his passing accuracy (10-of-24 for 127 yards).

Notre Dame had some shaky moments early on with the defense as Louisville was showing some new looks with their offense, but the Irish calmed things down a bit and started locking down on the Cardinals offense after the first quarter. The defense in South Bend should once again be pretty solid against most of their opponents. As seems to be the biggest concern in the Brian Kelly era is will the defense be good enough when up against some of the nation’s best programs. We don’t need to worry too much about that just yet, although a road trip to Georgia is approaching pretty quickly (Sept. 21).

Next up for Notre Dame is a home date with New Mexico, coached by former Fighting Irish head coach Bob Davie. Whether Davie coaches his team this weekend remains in question as the former Irish coach recovers from a health scare from over the weekend. Davie coached at Notre Dame from 1997 through 2001 after serving three seasons as the defensive coordinator for Lou Holtz. This weekend would mark Davie’s first game as a coach back in South Bend if he is able to make the trip and coach for New Mexico. Davie was 35-25 as head coach at Notre Dame, with a 0-3 bowl record.

Louisville will host Eastern Kentucky, an FCS opponent, in Week 2.

NFL coaching carousel begins, so get ready for the rumor mill to spill over to college football

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Today is Bloody Monday around the NFL as the regular season has come to a close. Head coaching vacancies have been made with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and more. And with the NFL coaching carousel now in full swing, do not be surprised to hear some conversation pick up about potential candidates coming from the world of college football.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has been one of the trendy names to follow in the NFL rumor mill, although the head coach of the Wolverines appears to be keeping his distance whenever asked about the possibility of pursuing a job in the NFL. Harbaugh has stated he does not really have representatives, and the Jets have turned aside the rumors suggesting the franchise was looking to make a push for Harbaugh.

For years, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has been seen as a likely candidate to make the jump to the NFL at some point in time. Coming off an undefeated regular season only to be shown the exit from the College Football Playoff in dominant fashion against Clemson will certainly have some suggesting Kelly may have tapped out at Notre Dame and could be willing to look for a new challenge. Confirming his allegiance to Notre Dame is nothing new for Kelly, as he’s been doing it multiple times during his time in South Bend. We’ll see if anyone kicks up some dust on his name for a potential job opening.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has had his name thrown around by some NFL folks, and with the success of Baker Mayield in his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns, it’s not difficult to understand why. Former Texas Tech head coach and current USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has also had his name tossed around at times, more likely as a coordinator however. There are also reports that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald could get a look from the Green Bay Packers. Former Washington and USC head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian could be out of a job as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, so it would not be out of the question Sarkisian makes his way back to college football in some capacity either. This thing works both ways, right?

Then there are the college coaches who have some previous NFL head coaching experience. Good luck prying Nick Saban back to the NFL when he is the God of Alabama football at the height of his career, but might an NFL franchise be willing to give a guy like Herm Edwards another shot after proving some doubters wrong in his first season at Arizona State? Given how coaching hires are made, recycling a veteran coach like Edwards would hardly be a surprising move by some NFL franchise.

This time of the year, nothing should be considered completely off the table, so brace yourselves, college football fans. This coaching carousel isn’t quite done just yet (and it was already potentially in motion with some recent vacancies already opened up at Houston and Temple).

Tua Tagovailoa named Walter Camp Player of the Year, wins Maxwell Award

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The college football world’s elite gathered in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame for the 28th annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The night turned out to be a pretty eventful night for College Football Playoff representatives from Alabama, Oklahoma and Notre Dame all took home some major awards on Thursday evening.

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took home the first player of the year award prior to the start of the show when he was named the Walter Camp Player of the Year winner for the 2018 season. The last five Walter Camp award winners have gone on to win the Heisman Trophy, but we will have to wait until Saturday night to see if Tagovailoa keeps that streak going. The last four Walter Camp award winners also took home the Maxwell Award. Tagovailoa later made it five straight by closing out the evening’s presentation by being named the winner of the Maxwell Award. For a college football player, Tagovailoa has completed the first two legs of the player of the year triple crown with the Heisman Trophy on deck this weekend.

Tagovailoa wasn’t the only Alabama player taking home some hardware. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award, and Quinnen Williams won the Outland Trophy.

Some quick notes:

  • Kyler Murray became the fifth Oklahoma quarterback to win the Davey O’Brien Award, following Baker Mayfield from last year. No school has more Davey O’Brien Award winners than Oklahoma.
  • Georgia defensive back DeAndre Jordan became the first Georgia player to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.
  • Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly won his second Home Depot Coach of the Year Award (he previously won it in 2009 at Cincinnati). He is the first two-time winner of the coaching award.
  • Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy was named the Biletnikoff Award winner, breaking a three-year run by the Big 12 since Alabama’s first Biletnikoff Award winner, Amari Cooper, won the award in 2014.

Here is a full list of the finalists and winners of awards handed out Thursday night. Winners of the awards are listed first and are in bold, with the remaining finalists following them in alphabetical order according to last name. Some of the awards were announced prior to the awards show but are included here because they were recognized or formally presented Thursday night.

WALTER CAMP PLAYER OF THE YEAR

  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  • Josh Allen, Kentucky
  • Will Grier, West Virginia
  • Gardner Minshew, Washington State
  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

MAXWELL AWARD
(Player of the Year)

  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
  • Will Grier, West Virginia
  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma

CHUCK BEDNARIK AWARD
(Defensive Player of the Year)

  • Josh Allen, Kentucky
  • Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • Quinnen Williams, Alabama

DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD
(Best Quarterback)

  • Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
  • Gardner Minshew II, Washington State
  • Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

FRED BILETNIKOFF AWARD
(Outstanding Receiver)

  • Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
  • Andy Isabella, UMass
  • Tyan Wallace, Oklahoma State

DOAK WALKER AWARD
(Best Running Back)

  • Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
  • Travis Etienne, Clemson
  • Darrell Henderson, Memphis

JOHN MACKEY AWARD
(Best Tight End)

JIM THORPE AWARD
(Best Defensive Back)

  • DeAndre Baker, Georgia
  • Julian Love, Notre Dame
  • Greedy Williams, LSU

OUTLAND TROPHY
(Most Outstanding Interior Lineman)

  • Quinnen Williams, Alabama
  • Christian Wilkins, Clemson
  • Jonah Williams, Alabama

RIMINGTON TROPHY
(Best Center)

  • Garrett Bradbury, NC State
  • Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame
  • Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama

LOU GROZA AWARD
(Outstanding Placekicker)

  • Andre Szmyt, Syracuse
  • Cooper Rothe, Wyoming
  • Cole Tracy, LSU

RAY GUY AWARD
(Punter of the Year)

  • Braden Mann, Texas A&M
  • James Smith, Cincinnati
  • Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah

HOME DEPOT COACH OF THE YEAR

  • Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

WUERFFEL TROPHY
(Community Service)

  • Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame
  • David Blough, Purdue
  • Dalton Risner, Kansas State