Notre Dame prepares with interim coordinators
The goal for Mike Denbrock and Kerry Cooks as interim
coordinators for No. 25 Notre Dame was to make the Fighting Irish
players feel as if nothing had changed as they prepared for the
Pinstripe Bowl against Rutgers.
Denbrock was elevated by coach Brian Kelly to interim offensive
coordinator when Chuck Martin left Notre Dame to become the head
coach at Miami, Ohio, earlier this month. Cooks went from
co-defensive coordinator to the top guy on that side of the ball
when Bob Diaco left to take over at Connecticut.
Denbrock said Thursday during Pinstripe Bowl media day at Yankee
Stadium that his job was to stay focused on the short-term.
”I didn’t ever think of it in terms of beyond getting ready for
this football game and doing whatever needed to be done to make
sure the players had the best opportunity they could have for
success,” he said.
The Fighting Irish went 8-4 the season after playing in the BCS
national championship game, including victories against No. 16
Arizona State and No. 4 Michigan State.
The biggest change the past few weeks for Denbrock, who was
outside receivers coach and passing game coordinator, was having
the final say in the plan the offensive staff presented to
”I took one step to the left or to the right or whichever
direction you’d call it,” he said. ”The offensive staff has been
unbelievable … It’s as good a job of coaching and getting these
guys ready to play in football game as any I’ve been around.”
Denbrock worked at Grand Valley State under Kelly and has been
at Notre Dame since 2010.
”The weeks of preparation have been great,” quarterback Tommy
Rees said. ”Smoother than you probably anticipate when you lose
your coordinator, but coach Kelly has a ton of experience and coach
Denbrock has a ton of experience so it’s been a pretty smooth
Cooks said the only change on the defensive side was a slight
shift in approach that was more in line with his personality.
”Just a little bit more of, not relaxation, but of allowing
those guys to be themselves, and not putting them in such tight
quarters,” he said. ”That’s a little bit of a change.”
Rutgers has also prepared for the Pinstripe Bowl while dealing
with staff turnover, but for different reasons. Coach Kyle Flood
fired defensive coordinator Dave Cohen and two other offensive
assistants after finishing 6-6. Special teams coordinator Joe Rossi
has been coaching the defense.
”Coaching defense is like riding a bike,” said Rossi, who has
also worked with the Scarlet Knights’ safeties. ”You just get on
it and go.”
Notre Dame’s offense is essentially Kelly’s and he hired Martin,
who also worked with him at Grand Valley, because he wanted someone
he could trust to be an extension of himself.
Denbrock goes way back with Kelly – they were graduate
assistants together at Grand Valley State in 1987 and was his
offensive coordinator at the Division II powerhouse for four years.
Denbrock seems like a good fit to fill Martin’s role
Denbrock’s message to the players about dealing with the
departures of Martin and Diaco has been the same as Kelly’s
”Change is difficult at times but we’ve got other people in
place that are going to step into roles and make things as
ordinary, if you will, as possible so there’s not a lot of change
on your end of things,” he said.