SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — New Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock believes the Fighting Irish finally have the personnel to run the offense coach Brian Kelly likes to run.
Denbrock, whose promotion from passing game coordinator was announced Thursday, said Friday that after four years of adapting to the personnel, the Irish have the personnel to make Kelly's up-tempo offense work.
"He likes to go fast. He likes to keep the defense on their heels. He likes to be very aggressive with what he does," he said.
Kelly used a no-huddle, hurry-up spread attack at Cincinnati that in 2009 finished fourth in the nation in scoring at 38.6 points a game, eighth in passing offense at 309 yards a game and 11th in total offense at 447 yards a game. In four years at Notre Dame, the Irish have ranked in the top 50 in total offense only once, ranking 35th in 2011. The highest they ranked in scoring offense was 49th that same year at 29.2 points a game.
The biggest difference? The Irish will have a mobile quarterback, with Everett Golson and Malik Zaire expected to compete for the starter's job. Golson returns after missing last season while serving a semester-long suspension for academic impropriety.
Kelly said most people, including many Irish players, assume Golson will start after leading the Irish to the national championship game in 2012, but he said Zaire, who didn't play as a freshman last season, will compete for the job.
Kelly also said he will resume play calling next season because the Irish will be going back to the style of offense he is accustomed to running after changing things for Tommy Rees, who was too slow to use for running plays.
"I think it's important to really get that philosophy and influence back into the offense, and I know it the best," Kelly said. "I think it's important that if I want that offense to have the look, it's important that I have the influence in some fashion and this is the best way to do it."
And that starts at quarterback. Everyone knows about Golson, but Kelly said Zaire was at his best in game-like situations during practice.
"At practice sometimes he tends to be a little mechanical and makes some mistakes that you wished he didn't make. But when he gets into competitive situations, he makes plays. You love your quarterback to be a playmaker," he said. "He has all the intangibles. He has a strong arm. He's physically gifted."
Kelly said the Irish will be more dynamic with a mobile quarterback.
"I think what I'm looking for in particular is somebody that can make some things happen outside the pocket," he said. "We have been driven behind the tackles for the last couple of years. We would like to be a little bit more dynamic outside the pocket."
Golson and Zaire will be under the direction of new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who also was at the news conference. LaFleur had been the quarterbacks coach the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins, working with Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. He talked about the challenge of coaching players with natural instincts.
"It's a fine line because as a coach, especially with the quarterback position, everything is based on timing and rhythm. There is a fine line that you can't be too strict in your teachings to take that playmaker ability out of that quarterback," he said.