Notre Dame Football: Recapping the Biggest 2014 Offseason News So Far
There never seems to be a dull moment with Notre Dame football—neither in the regular season, nor the offseason.
This year has been no different.
Since the Irish wrapped up their 2013 campaign with the Pinstripe Bowl in late December, there has been the usual fare of offseason stirrings, from new coaches to returning players and recruiting drama. We’ll highlight some of the biggest offseason news since last season came to a close.
Irish Name New Coordinators
Immediately following Notre Dame’s victory over Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, Irish head coach Brian Kelly said he had decided on who would be the next defensive coordinator to replace Bob Diaco.
And while Brian VanGorder was not officially introduced for roughly two more weeks, his hiring was still met with plenty of buzz.
VanGorder stressed his desire for Notre Dame to run “multiple” looks defensively, but it seems clear the Irish will deploy loads of four-man fronts in 2014. VanGorder and defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks have also highlighted aggressive cornerback play as a key to a new-look, attacking defense.
Offensively, Kelly promoted Mike Denbrock to offensive coordinator, replacing Chuck Martin. Kelly, though, has said he will call the plays in 2014. Together, Kelly and Denbrock are aiming for a new-look offense of their own.
“With the athletes that we have we feel like we're in a position offensively to push the tempo more and to put our playmakers in positions where they can make big plays and do the things that all of us hope our offense looks like, one that's dynamic and can score more points and move the football consistently,” Denbrock said at his introductory press conference.
Everett Golson Returns, Competition Ensues
Everett Golson rejoined the Irish for the spring semester and brought with him lofty expectations.
Maybe it was the nearly two months spent working with esteemed quarterback guru George Whitfield. Maybe it was the 15 pounds Golson added. Maybe it was the new throwing style, which may explain the bullets Golson fired throughout the spring.
Yet during the spring, it didn’t add up to an awe-inspiring performance from the returning signal-caller. Kelly didn’t name a starting quarterback in late January and still wasn’t ready to do so following the Blue-Gold Game in mid-April.
Where the competition goes from here remains to be seen. Personally, I believe Golson will be the starting quarterback when the Irish open their regular season Aug. 30 against Rice.
Regardless, Notre Dame is in good shape at the position, as our own Adam Kramer wrote.
FieldTurf to Replace Natural Grass
The playing surface at Notre Dame Stadium had become a ready-made punch line.
The grass seemed to always have its rough patches, maybe never more evident than during the Blue-Gold Game at the end of spring ball. It just so happened that during the game, Notre Dame announced it would install synthetic FieldTurf for the 2014 season.
“I think you look at the conditions of the field today, going out there and it's really about getting a surface where there's some consistency week in and week out for our players,” Kelly said after the Blue-Gold Game. “I think today was an indication; we can't even practice out there. ... We want some safety issues to not be part of the equation.”
With the natural grass on the way out, Notre Dame sold the sod and wiped clear the stadium surface.
Work on the new field continues at ND Stadium: pic.twitter.com/0ksru97UdC— Matt Cashore (@mattcashore) May 30, 2014
DaVaris Daniels Officially Readmitted
Notre Dame recently made it official that senior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels has been readmitted to the university, as had been expected.
Still, the importance of Daniels’ return cannot be overstated. He’s the only player on Notre Dame’s roster with more than 17 career receptions. Plus, other than Daniels, Golson has only completed two career passes to pass-catchers on the 2014 roster (one to tight end Ben Koyack and one to wide receiver Chris Brown).
Now Daniels, the leading returning receiver and the No. 2 pass-catcher in 2013, can claim his spot as the No. 1 target. That will be a fairly sizable boost for whichever quarterback is under center during the last weekend in August.
Blake Barnett Decommits
Sure, there are certainly other offseason issues more pertinent to Notre Dame’s 2014 season. But last week’s news that Class of 2015 quarterback Blake Barnett had decommitted from Notre Dame was still a major development.
The No. 3 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 65 overall player in the class of 2015 would have been the highest-rated quarterback (other than Gunner Kiel) hauled in during the Kelly era.
Instead, the Irish must move in a different direction and hope they’re not too far behind in courting other 2015 prospects at the position.
It is worth noting, however, the remaining eligibility already on the Notre Dame roster. Golson still has two seasons of eligibility, while Zaire and incoming freshman DeShone Kizer each have four.
Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.