University of Notre Dame passing game coordinator/outside wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock, a member of the Irish coaching staff since 2010 and a 28-year veteran of college coaching overall, has been promoted to offensive coordinator.
Irish head football coach Brian Kelly made the announcement today.
Denbrock served as Notre Dame’s interim offensive coordinator during preparation for the 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl. The Irish knocked off Rutgers, 29-16, and rolled up 494 total yards over a season-high 90 offensive plays. The 494 total yards of offense against the Scarlet Knights was the third-most by the Irish in a game in ’13. Notre Dame also racked up 175 yards on the ground against the nation’s fourth-best rushing defense.
Denbrock returned to Notre Dame in 2010 and spent the next two seasons coaching the Irish tight ends. He played a major role in the development of future NFL tight ends Kyle Rudolph (2011, second round, Minnesota Vikings) and Tyler Eifert (2013, first round, Cincinnati Bengals). Both Rudolph and Eifert were the first tight ends selected in their respective drafts.
In 2010, Rudolph collected 28 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns in the first six games of the season before a hamstring injury ended his season. Despite Rudolph’s absence, Denbrock developed Eifert into an immediate receiving threat. Eifert had not managed a reception over his first two seasons at Notre Dame, but snagged 27 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns in ‘10.
In 2011, Denbrock helped Eifert to one of the best seasons ever by a Notre Dame tight end. Eifert ranked second on the team with 63 receptions for 803 yards and five touchdowns. A Mackey Award finalist, Eifert led all Football Bowl Subdivision tight ends in receptions and receiving yards. He also set Notre Dame single-season records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. Eifert was selected to the 2011 Walter Camp Football Foundation All-America first team. He became Notre Dame’s first tight end named first-team All-American since Derek Brown in 1991.
Denbrock was selected one of Tom Lemming’s Assistant Coaches of the Year in 2011. He was also named one of the top-25 recruiters by Rivals.com (2012) and selected one of top-50 recruiters by 247Sports.com following the ‘12 signing day.
Denbrock transitioned to coach the outside wide receivers and served as passing game coordinator in 2012 and 2013. He played a critical role in the improvement of wideout TJ Jones, who developed into one of the most productive receivers in school history.
Jones led the Irish in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in 2013. He was the seventh wide out in school history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. His 70 catches, 1,108 yards and nine touchdown catches rank seventh, seventh and tied for ninth, respectively, in single-season school history. Jones recorded 100-yard receiving games on five different occasions in 2013 - tied for the fourth-most in school history. He also registered a touchdown grab in seven consecutive games during one stretch of the season, which is the second-longest streak in school history.
Jones finished his career with 181 catches for 2,429 yards and 19 touchdowns, which ranks second, sixth and tied for sixth, respectively, in school history. He ended his career as one of six wideouts in school history with at least 150 receptions, 2,000 receiving yards and 15 touchdown grabs.
Denbrock previously coached Notre Dame’s offensive tackles and tight ends from 2002-04. Earlier in his career he spent a combined eight seasons with Kelly at Grand Valley State. Kelly served as the Lakers’ head coach and Denbrock was on his coaching staff from 1992-98. The two were graduate assistants together at Grand Valley State in 1987.
Denbrock spent the 2009 season as the associate head coach at Indiana State. With the Sycamores, he was the special teams coordinator and also coached the linebackers. Denbrock helped turn redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Archie into an all-conference player in his first season of collegiate football. Archie paced the Sycamores with 117 tackles and his 10.6 tackles per game average ranked 12th in the nation. He was named a second-team performer in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and was a member of the league’s all-newcomer team.
Denbrock also coordinated the special teams at Indiana State and helped junior return-specialist Darrius Gates earn honorable mention accolades in 2009 from the MVC. Gates led the league and ranked fifth nationally by averaging 27.1 yards per kickoff return. He returned 19 kickoffs for 514 yards and had a long return of 57 yards against Eastern Illinois.
Prior to Indiana State, Denbrock served as the offensive line coach at the University of Washington from 2005-08. In 2007, the Husky line helped running back Louis Rankin become the first 1,000-yard rusher at Washington since 1997. Quarterback Jake Locker also nearly eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in 2007 as he gained 986 yards on the ground. Center Juan Garcia earned second-team all-Pacific-10 honors that season.
During his first stint at Notre Dame, Denbrock’s offensive tackles and tight ends were big factors as the Irish produced 1,000-yard rushers in 2002 (Ryan Grant) and 2003 (Julius Jones). He also coached several players who became NFL Draft selections, including offensive tackles Ryan Harris (2007, third round, Denver Broncos), Jim Molinaro (2004, seventh round, Washington Redskins), Jordan Black (2003, fifth round, Kansas City Chiefs) and Brennan Curtin (2003, sixth round, Green Bay Packers) plus tight ends John Carlson (2008, second round, Seattle Seahawks), Anthony Fasano (2006, second round, Dallas Cowboys) and Jerome Collins (2005, fifth round, St. Louis Rams).
Notre Dame’s offensive tackles and tight ends helped the Irish average 218.1 passing yards per game in 2004. At the time, that was the fourth-highest average in school history.
In 2003, Jones rushed for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns to become the eighth 1,000-yard rusher in school history. Jones’ rushing total remains tied for the fourth-best in Notre Dame history. Jones eclipsed 200 rushing yards in a game three times including a school-record 262 yards against Pittsburgh. He also totaled 221 yards against Navy and 218 versus Stanford.
In his first season at Notre Dame, Denbrock’s tackles and tight ends helped Grant garner the 14th-best single-season rushing performance in school history with 1,085 yards. Grant’s season was highlighted by the 16th-best single-game rushing day when he gained 190 rushing yards at Air Force.
Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Denbrock worked in a similar capacity with the offensive tackles and tight ends at Stanford. His line helped lead the way for a Stanford rushing attack which ranked 23rd in the nation, averaging more than 200 yards per game and scoring 27 touchdowns.
Before arriving at Stanford, Denbrock was the assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and offensive and defensive line coach for the Buffalo Destroyers of the Arena Football League in 1999-2000. In his second season, Denbrock helped the Destroyers land a playoff berth. His 1999 defense finished third in the league in both scoring and total defense.
Prior to his two years in Buffalo, Denbrock returned to his alma mater, Grand Valley State, where he coached with Kelly. Denbrock served as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach from 1996-98 and his defensive unit ranked among the nation’s top 30 in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense each season. His 1996 defense led the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference and was 11th nationally in scoring defense while also leading the conference in total defense.
As the offensive coordinator, Denbrock’s squad was first in the MIFC in both total and scoring offense from 1992-94. In 1995, his offense ranked eighth in the nation in scoring and 12th in total offense. Eight of his players earned first-team All-America honors during his seven years at Grand Valley State.
Denbrock’s first full-time coaching assignment came in 1990-91 as the tackles and tight ends coach at Illinois State. He focused on the offensive line as a graduate assistant on the 1989 Michigan State team that played in the Aloha Bowl and helped with the quarterbacks and receivers on the 1988 Spartan squad that was selected for the Gator Bowl. He broke into coaching as a graduate assistant from 1986-87 at Grand Valley State where he worked with the offensive tackles and tight ends. Kelly worked with the defensive backs in his first season as a graduate assistant with the Lakers in 1987.
A 1987 graduate of Grand Valley State, Denbrock holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. As a member of Grand Valley State’s football team from 1982-85, he won the Phillip Shultz Award for attitude and commitment to the football program.
Born in Albion, Mich., Denbrock is married to the former Dianne Swanson. The couple has a two-year old son, Chance.