Kelly, who is entering his sixth season in South Bend, hired four new coaches — Mike Sanford, Autry Denson, Keith Gilmore, and Todd Lyght.
Kelly said he was excited about his new coaching additions at his Monday’s press conference, particularly with the hire of Sanford. Sanford, 33, comes to Notre Dame from Boise State where he served as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator last year.
“What we were looking for was somebody who could turn the room upside down. We didn’t want somebody to be equal; we wanted somebody who was going to turn this room upside down.”
Sanford replaces Matt LaFleur, who was hired by the Atlanta Falcons, as Kelly’s quarterback coach. Sanford will be tasked will making the Fighting Irish’s quarterbacks better, particularly incumbant starter Everett Golson, who threw 29 touchdowns but also had 14 interceptions.
If Golson falters in the spring or decides to transfer as a fifth-year senior, Kelly will likely turn to Music City Bowl MVP Malik Zaire to run his offense. Redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer, incoming freshman Brandon Wimbush and freshman scout-team member Montgomery VanGorder rounds out the quarterback depth chart.
While Kelly is undecided who will call the offensive plays this fall, according to Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune, Sanford will also hold the title of offensive coordinator. The Fighting Irish averaged 32.8 points a game last year — the most in the Kelly era — but also turned the ball over 26 times, which ranked 101st in the nation.
Denson and Lyght make their return to South Bend where they were starred in college. Denson, who is the school’s all-time leading rusher (4,318 yards), was placed in charge of the running backs by Kelly while Lyght will head the defensive backs. Lyght started at cornerback for Notre Dame’s 1988 championship team and spent 12 seasons in the NFL. Denson and Lyght spent last season coaching at South Florida and Vanderbilt, respectively.
Gilmore, a 30-year coaching veteran, reunites with Kelly as his defensive line coach. Gilmore spent the last two seasons in the same capacity with North Carolina. He has previously served on Kelly’s staff at Grand Valley State (1991-93), Central Michigan (2006) and Cincinnati (2007-08).
Kelly also shuffled a couple of members of his staff that was with him last year. Kelly promoted Mike Denbrock to associate head coach through he still remains in charge of the wide receivers. Kelly added recruiting coordinator to the title of new linebacker coach Mike Elston, who coached the defensive line last year.
Additionally, Kelly brought back former Notre Dame quarterback Ron Powlus as director of player development. He also named Bob Elliot as special assistant to the head coach, Maurice Crum as a defensive graduate assistant and Donovan Raiola as an offensive graduate assistant.
2015 Notre Dame Football Coaching Staff
Brian Kelly – Head Coach
Mike Denbrock – Associate Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Brian VanGorder – Defensive Coordinator
Mike Sanford – Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
Mike Elston – Recruiting Coordinator/Linebackers
Scott Booker – Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends
Autry Denson – Running Backs
Keith Gilmore – Defensive Line
Harry Hiestand – Offensive Line
Todd Lyght – Defensive Backs
Maurice Crum Jr., Mike Hiestand – Graduate Assistants for Defense
Ryan Mahaffey, Donovan Raiola – Graduate Assistants for Offense
[Photo By Andy Lyons/Getty Images]