SOUTH BEND -- Thank George O’Leary, sort of, for the awkward trickle of additions to new Notre Dame head football coach Brian Kelly’s staff. O’Leary’s tenure as Notre Dame’s head football coach was truncated after five days in December of 2004 when some inaccuracies were discovered on his résumé/biographical information. So now coaches are hired, often are out recruiting, and sometimes even have put a bid on a house before they’re announced to the general public. The vetting by the human resources department at ND is that protracted and perhaps even overly thorough. In any case, on Tuesday tight ends coach Mike Denbrock, defensive line coach Mike Elston and defensive backs coach Chuck Martin joined Charlie Weis Era holdover and running backs coach Tony Alford as former rumors who had finally become reality. For Denbrock, it’s the second tour of duty at Notre Dame. He was tackles/tight ends coach under Tyrone Willingham from 2002 to 2004, then followed Willingham to Washington when the deposed coach landed in Seattle. “I’m excited to welcome Mike Denbrock, Mike Elston and Chuck Martin to the Notre Dame coaching staff,” Kelly said in a statement. “Because these guys have worked with me in the past, all three guys understand the importance of player development and we share the same philosophies for making our team better. “They each will be valuable recruiters as we put together a staff that will be able to cover the country and attract some of the best talent available.” Elston will join Alford in Florida as one of his prime recruiting territories. Martin, a Chicago-area, product, will handle Chicago recruiting, and Denbrock draws the tough West Coast assignment. Denbrock’s job got a little tougher when Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh recently hired Weis staff castoff Brian Polian to be his special teams coach. “Not retaining Brian Polian could end up coming back to bite Brian Kelly,” CBS College Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “He recruited big-time players on the West Coast, like Jimmy Clausen, Dayne Crist, Shaquelle Evans and Manti Te’o. “That’s what Mike Denbrock is going to have to deal with. And he has to deal with (USC’s) Pete Carroll and his staff.” Kelly will also have to deal with ND linebacker/defensive end commit Blake Lueders suddenly scheduling an official visit to Stanford in a week and a half - hardly an unexpected development during a coaching transition. “It’s all about reassuring these guys and letting them get to know the assistant coaches,” Lemming said. “Lueders is a pretty good defensive player, and Notre Dame can’t afford to lose any defensive players. But I’m sure Brian Kelly will be on top of it.” Of the five yet-to-be announced assistants, Wisconsin import Kerry Cooks is viewed by Lemming as potentially the strongest recruiter. “From what I understand, he’s responsible for 11 (of the 23) commitments in Wisconsin’s class,” Lemming said. “I believe he’ll recruit Texas (Cooks’ home state) for the Irish.” Cooks and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Bob Diaco are expected to be named in the coming days to Kelly’s defensive staff. Former Kansas offensive coordinator Ed Warinner and UC assistants Charley Molnar and Tim Hinton will join Alford and Denbrock on the offensive side of the ball. Of the three who were named Tuesday, both Denbrock and Elston have coaching experience on both sides of the ball. Martin, meanwhile, is one of the most successful head coaches in NCAA Division II history (74-7, .914) with two national titles (2005, 2006) and a runner-up finish (2009) at Grand Valley (Mich.) State in six seasons since succeeding Kelly there. “It’s a dream come true,” Martin said of landing at ND after turning down Kelly earlier when the coach moved to Central Michigan, then Cincinnati. “I grew up as a South Side of Chicago Irish Catholic, and Notre Dame football and basketball was my life growing up. “I’d go out in the backyard or the driveway, pretending to be one of Notre Dame’s great players in either sport, so from that standpoint, it’s probably beyond a dream. I don’t know if I ever would have dreamed to be coaching at Notre Dame coming from my background. It’s certainly an unbelievable opportunity and one I am very excited about.” Denbrock and Kelly have an interesting history. They first met as graduate assistants at Grand Valley State in 1987. “We developed a good relationship, and even lived together for a little bit during our early years,” Denbrock said. “As you might expect, when you are not making a lot of money, you have to have close friendships to lean on and we grew close at that time and have stayed close over the years.” During Kelly’s run as head coach at Grand Valley State, Denbrock served as his offensive coordinator for four seasons and defensive coordinator for three. “He and I helped build that program,” Denbrock said, “and we enjoyed a lot of success together and our relationship continues to this day. Now I have the unique opportunity to help Coach Kelly put Notre Dame back on top of the college football world and I look forward to that challenge.”
- Two of the biggest standouts during practices this week for Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio have been big men in the trenches - one who has already committed to Notre Dame and one whom Kelly hopes to add as his first seismic signing. Christian Lombard, the first player to commit to Weis in this class, has been dominating from his offensive tackle position for the East squad. “One of the recruiting services that had him ranked low is really eating crow right now,” Lemming said of the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder from Palatine, Ill. “He is looking fantastic.” Lombard is one of three committed ND recruits playing in the game, along with Lueders and defensive back Austin Collinsworth of Fort Thomas, Ky. Uncommitted offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson of St. Paul, Minn., remains ND’s top target - and everyone else’s. “He is 6-8 and 350 pounds with ballet-like feet,” Lemming said. “His strength and ability to move are incredible. If the Irish pick him up, their days of worrying about protecting the quarterback are over.”
- Notre Dame defensive end/linebacker commit Prince Shembo remains committed to the Irish, his high school coach said Monday. Marty Woolbright, the head coach at Ardrey Kell High in Charlotte, N.C., said that Shembo has had interest from other schools but as far as he knew, Shembo had no other visits planned. Shembo, who played in Saturday's Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Myrtle Beach, S.C., told the Myrtle Beach Sun News last week that he planned to take a visit to Miami. Woolbright said new Irish coach Kelly and Shembo have talked two to three times and that Kelly is scheduled to watch Shembo play basketball on Thursday. "He's still excited about Notre Dame and the direction they're going," Woolbright said. "I think he's excited about coach Kelly and excited about Notre Dame."