NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL: Kelly discusses offensive plans for bowl game

Notre Dame sophomore Braden Lenzy, 25, gets behind Navy freshman Vincent Thomas Jr. for a touchdown in Notre Dame’s 52-20 victory over Navy on Nov. 16.

SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football head coach Brian Kelly confirmed Saturday what had already been reported by multiple media outlets — Chip Long is no longer the offensive coordinator for the Fighting Irish.

“As you probably know, the worst-kept secret here at Notre Dame — and now through the country — is that I made a change on the staff on the offensive side of the ball, which I felt was in the best interest of our program,” Kelly said. “Subsequently, we’ve organized the staff to reflect those changes.”

That re-organizing involves two of the offensive position coaches, running backs coach Lance Taylor and quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees, coordinating the Fighting Irish’s running and passing games, respectively, against Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28.

“Collaboration requires guys to pick up additional roles,” Kelly said. “Lance Taylor will handle the run game coordination, Tommy Rees will handle the pass game and, as it relates to play calling, we’re still sorting that out.”

Kelly was definitive on one person who won’t be calling plays, though: himself.

“I’m not calling plays,” Kelly said. “I will not call plays. That’s not my role. I’ve moved past that role. I will certainly be much more involved in the organization of the offense … but this will be a collaborative effort, with the lead coming from Lance and coming from Tom.”

Long was let go after just three seasons as the Irish’s offensive coordinator. Notre Dame put up a program record 445 points in 2019, scoring 30 or more points in nine of 12 games.

While some of Long’s play calling had been criticized by fans throughout the last three years, the Fighting Irish’s offense was producing points on the field. The high success rate in production wasn’t enough for Long to keep his job, though.

“Anytime that you’re scoring points at the level that we were, you’re pleased in that respect,” Kelly said. “There were some other things that, certainly, I wasn’t as pleased with. Overall, this is not an offense that lagged in the back half of many categories. It was in the top half or top third of many. Is that the only way you judge an offense? Probably not. … By and large, the product and what it resulted was pretty darn good.”

As to why now was the right time to let Long go, Kelly declined to go into specifics. The 10th-year head coach said it was important to let Long go now instead of later into bowl preparations.

“We’ve got a very limited opportunity to get into a schedule for preparation, so it’s important that our guys are focused and locked in,” Kelly said. “That’s why it was important to get rolling with this re-organization of our staff. We were able to do that and had a great practice.”

Kelly didn’t go into too many specifics about the long-term answer at offensive coordinator. There have been rumors Rees is in line to take over OC duties, but Kelly denied Rees or anyone currently on the staff has already been given the role.

“Certainly, there is a lot of interest in the position, as you can imagine,” Kelly said. “I know there’s speculation that one of the coaches has already been named (offensive coordinator) — that’s unfounded. That’s simply not true. We’re going to do a thorough evaluation and search and find, what I would consider, the best coach that fits Notre Dame.”

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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