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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame reunites with Mike Denbrock to fill offensive coordinator void

Grant Tobin

The Irish are bringing Mike Denbrock back to South Bend, after a two-year stint at LSU under head coach Brian Kelly.

LSU is the third school where Denbrock has served as offensive coordinator. At LSU, he led the offense to an SEC West championship in 2022. Quarterback Jayden Daniels also won a Heisman Trophy in 2023 during his tenure.

Before joining up with Brian Kelly and the Tigers, Denbrock spent four years as the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, overlapping with Marcus Freeman’s coaching tenure with the Bearcats. Under Denbrock’s watch, Cincinnati reached the College Football Playoff (beating Notre Dame on the road) in 2021 and turned quarterback Desmond Ridder into a third-round NFL draft pick.

Much like the offensive coordinator search after Tommy Rees left for Alabama last season, Gerad Parker’s departure this year raised questions about whether Notre Dame would hire an external candidate or someone familiar with the program. Denbrock is both.

Denbrock’s experience with the Irish dates back to 2002. He spent three years coaching offensive linemen and tight ends under Tyrone Willingham. Then, after spending five years at Washington and Indiana State, Denbrock returned as part of Kelly’s inaugural staff in South Bend.

Denbrock certainly has a rich history with the Irish offense. He coached tight ends his first two years and receivers the next two. In 2013, he received a promotion. When former OC, Chuck Martin, left the Irish to take the head coaching job at Miami (Ohio), Denbrock was named interim OC for the Pinstripe Bowl that year. That was Tommy Rees’ final game at Notre Dame as a player. Denbrock held this role for the entirety of the 2014 season. The Irish went 8-5 that season, culminating in a Music City Bowl win over none other than LSU.

The Irish would switch to Mike Sanford as OC in 2015. However, Denbrock remained on the staff for two more years as an assistant head coach and receivers coach.

Denbrock’s return is an intriguing proposition for the Irish. LSU’s offense led the entire country last year with 46.4 points per game. Denbrock also helped develop Daniels into a superstar only two years after a 10-touchdown, 10-interception season. Though a Heisman win might seem far off, the Irish are hoping Denbrock can work some magic with Duke transfer Riley Leonard, another talented and mobile quarterback.

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