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

Kelly.

”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

transition.”

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

permanently.

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.