Brian Kelly's hiring of Mike Denbrock as his next offensive coordinator wasn't a surprise -- "it's probably one of the worst kept secrets out there," he quipped last week -- in part because Denbrock fit the bill.
Since taking over as the head coach at Grand Valley State in 1991, Kelly has generally had prior coaching experience with his offensive coordinators. Jeff Quinn and Denbrock served as Kelly's offensive coordinators at Grand Valley State, both of whom were assistants with Kelly there before he ascended to the heading coaching job.
Quinn followed Kelly to Central Michigan and Cincinnati as his offensive coordinator, but took over as Buffalo's head coach after Kelly left for Notre Dame. So Kelly brought Charley Molnar in as his offensive coordinator at Notre Dame -- and Molnar coached under Kelly at Central Michigan and Cincinnati as a passing game coordinator, wide receivers coach and quarterbacks coach.
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When Molnar left Notre Dame after the 2011 season to become the head coach at UMass, Kelly again hired from within, promoting Chuck Martin from safeties coach to offensive coordinator (the pair had previously coached together at Grand Valley State as well).
And then there's Denbrock, who coached with Kelly six years at Grand Valley State and all four years at Notre Dame.
Kelly's an offensive coach, so all the familiarity does make sense. Perhaps a better word is trust -- Kelly is able to trust coaches he knows to form an offensive plan he's comfortable with. And too, Kelly will take over play-calling duties again in 2014 after relinquishing them for the first time in his coaching career last fall.
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But the familiarity doesn't mean Notre Dame's offense will be bereft of ingenuity. Hiring internally with Denbrock provides the comfort Kelly wants, but he and his staff will continue to look elsewhere for ideas and inspiration -- as has been the case in the past.
"We're always looking outside our own walls to bring in other ideas," Kelly said. "I've always considered my offense, you know, the coast-to-coast offense. I've stolen great ideas from one coast to the other, and that's really what this is about.
"We look to find great ideas that can help our offense and we will continue to do that. They will bring in great ideas that will continue to strengthen what we do offensively."