SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Whoever Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly tabs to replace Bob Diaco will have to be experienced, though there might be some wiggle room there.
"Experienced" is a fairly broad term, though Kelly said it wouldn't preclude him from bringing aboard a first-time defensive coordinator. Specifically, Kelly's looking for someone who can coach both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses and hasn't made his mark defending one style of offense.
"The coordinator's job here at Notre Dame, now having been here four years, requires a lot of experience in defending so many different looks," Kelly said Saturday. "And one of the most important things is you don't have a lot of knowledge of your opponents, unfortunately, with so many different teams that come in and off our schedule. So you have to have a great bank of experience."
But the bank of experience possessed by the current Irish defensive coaching staff — interim defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks, safeties coach Bob Elliott and defensive line coach Mike Elston — could counter hiring a bright candidate who's inexperienced.
Elston tweeted Saturday he's staying at Notre Dame, which came after a report surfaced that former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco wanted him for that position at UConn.
Keeping that continuity is key even if Notre Dame hires a seasoned defensive coordinator — losing Diaco wasn't ideal for the Irish, though losing him and Elston would've had a far more deleterious effect on the team.
As for Diaco, he flew back to South Bend to address his former players after taking the UConn gig last week. It was his idea facilitated by Kelly and one that was appreciated by members of Notre Dame's defense.
"That showed the kind of guy he is, how he's upstanding and has really high character," linebacker Jarrett Grace said. "We appreciated him doing that."
The meeting also helped ease some of the initial shock from his departure, the news of which elicited some frustrated, borderline vitriolic comments from players on Twitter. Kelly, too, addressed the team and defended Diaco's decision.
"After the initial wow, coach Diaco's leaving, I got a chance to talk to our team," Kelly said. "After they realized that it's a great opportunity for him professionally, they just wished him the best."