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Notre Dame Football: How the Loss of Bob Diaco Affects the Irish

Jan 3, 2013; Fort Lauderdale FL, USA; Notre Dame fighting Irish defensive coordinator  Bob Diaco during a press conference for the 2013 BCS National Championship game at Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports
Connor KillorenSenior Analyst IDecember 12, 2013

The dominoes continued to topple in South Bend, Ind., Wednesday evening.

One week after offensive coordinator Chuck Martin accepted the Miami (Ohio) head coaching job, Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco was lured away by Connecticut to fill its vacant head coaching position, per the Associated Press. 

Concerns have arisen regarding the direct effect on the product on the field due to Diaco leaving his post with the Irish, though the process of replacing him has received, perhaps, more attention than any related topic since the news broke late Wednesday.

During a press conference following Notre Dame's first bowl practice last Sunday, Irish head coach Brian Kelly revealed that no decisions will be made regarding available coaching positions until after the Irish's matchup with Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 28 in New York City.

Spending time fretting in the short term is unnecessary, though the long term effects of the current scenario are worth dissecting.

Dec 17, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco answers questions at the Notre Dame BCS national championship media day at the Loftus Sports Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

While Martin's departure wasn't met with an overwhelming amount of consternation or despair—head coach Brian Kelly is the true architect of the Irish offense—Diaco jettisoning to the East Coast, while worrisome on the surface, won't be a damaging blow to the program. 

Take, for instance, the scenario that played out at Florida State one year ago.

After finishing the 2012 regular season with a 10-2 record and receiving an invitation to the Discover Orange Bowl, the Seminoles lost defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to Kentucky, which was seeking a head coach to replace Joker Phillips.

Early ruminations may have been that the Seminoles would regress defensively in the absence of Stoops, particularly with his replacement hire—Jeremy Pruitt—only having coached defensive backs at Alabama for the previous three seasons. 

However, the course of Florida State's 2013 season belies those notions; the Seminoles finished the regular season ranked 14th nationally in rushing defense, first in passing efficiency defense, third in turnover margin and third in total defense.

Quite a drop-off, right? I hope you've noted the sarcasm in that question.

Clearly, Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher made the correct hire, but more than anything, he possessed the personnel to keep continuity flowing.

And that's exactly where Notre Dame's recruiting ability during the course of the past four years will be on display.

Did Kelly and Co. recruit well enough to experience the same type of continuity Florida State did from 2012 to 2013?

Taking a look at the roster, the Irish defense will be in good shape, despite nose guard Louis Nix's decision to sign with an agent and begin his professional career, and the potential departure of defensive end Stephon Tuitt.

Oct 19, 2013; South Bend, IN, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt (7) during the game against the Southern California Trojans at Notre Dame Stadium. Notre Dame defeated USC 14-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame returns defensive linemen Tony Springmann, Chase Hounshell, Jarron Jones, Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell and, potentially, Tuitt. Also, incoming freshmen Andrew Trumbetti, Jay Hayes and Matt Dickerson will enter the fold should they sign their respective national letters of intent on national signing day. 

That group will be the key cog of the 2014 defense, regardless of who Kelly names as Diaco's replacement.

Yet another moving part exists for the unit, though.

Per Pete Roussel of CoachingSearch.com, current Irish defensive line coach Mike Elston will receive a rather juicy coaching offer in the immediate future.

Bob Diaco plans to offer the defensive coordinator job to Notre Dame DL coach Mike Elston, per source.

— Pete Roussel (@coachingsearch) December 12, 2013

Should Elston accept that offer (I'm assuming he will, for the offer is an indication that Elston likely wasn't considered for Notre Dame's defensive coordinator position), the necessary circumstances for success in 2014 won't change.

If that bunch lives up to its potential and coexists harmoniously with deep, experienced units at linebacker and within the secondary, losing Diaco won't have the negative connotations that have been associated with the move thus far.

On the flip side, the defense as a whole must mesh well with its new coordinator.

My early favorite to replace Diaco was, and continues to be, current co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks.

Should Cooks receive that promotion, the replacement of Diaco would prove to be a seamless transition in an otherwise tangled situation. Through it all, Irish fans needn't worry.

Having both coordinators accept head coaching positions is a direct reflection of the quality of the program, which Kelly will maintain. After all, he did bring two future head coaches with him to Notre Dame when he was hired four years ago.

 

Statistics courtesy of NCAA.com

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