January 17, 2009

ND hires Frank Verducci as the o-line coach

Welcome aboard Frank Verducci. The o-line has been a disaster for the last couple years, so just about anybody would have been an upgrade to the position.

Some positives.

1) It seems like he really wants to be at ND -

"I'm very excited for this opportunity and am grateful to Coach Weis," Verducci said in the statement. "Notre Dame is the one college job I pursued and is the only school I considered leaving the NFL for."

That's a good sign if you ask me. Maybe he's just saying that at the press conference, but at least he gives the impression that he really wanted the job. I was a little worried that this guy was just going to be a space filler for Weis, but I do get the impression that he's excited to be in South Bend.

2) O-line experience in college - I'm not even going to pretend that I know anything about his o-lines at Iowa, but I'm encouraged that he was the o-line coach for 10 years at Iowa. Anybody who coaches at Iowa has to understand the importance of being a tough, physical unit that can man up and run the football and be physical at the point of attack. The Big 10 was a three yards and a cloud of dust league in the 90s (and still is in some ways), so you had to be able to run the football if you wanted to be successful in that league. I hope that he brings that type of mentality and attitude to our o-line. We should be able to physically dominate almost everyone on our schedule, but we need to become more physical to accomplish that goal.

I'm glad to see that we hired a guy with an understanding of Midwest football. I would like to see ND get back to playing good, solid, fundamentally sound Midwestern football as a foundation to go with our highly-touted skill players. I hope our new d-line coach has simliar ties.

3) NFL experience - Verducci has a good reputation as a recruiter, and it never hurts to have an NFL guy around who can tell recruits what it takes to get to the league.

Verducci was rated as one of the top 10 recruiters in the country at several points during the 90s, so I definitely think he'll bring something to the table in the recruiting department. He specializes in Jersey recruits, which has become a critical recruiting area for the Irish.

Some negatives:

1) Serial job jumper - Why is this guy seemingly in a new job every single year?? Has he just been incredibly unlucky in the jobs that he has picked?? It just seems like he had become a space filler in the NFL. If you needed to add someone to the staff, he was always available. I don't know that it's necessarily a bad thing, but I wonder how much this guy was valued around the NFL. He apparently coached with the Bengals, but I don't remember much about him. Between Buffalo and Cleveland and Cincy and a pre-Parcells Dallas, he wasn't exactly a guy who was a hot commodity with any of the good teams in the NFL. It seemed like he just floated from one bad NFL job to another.

2) Demoted in Cleveland?? -- According to the press release, here were his duties in Cleveland.

Verducci's duties in Cleveland included "assisting the offensive coordinator in framing the run game, presenting the weekly opponent scouting report to the offense and installing Friday's game plan for the offensive unit. Verducci assisted the play caller on game days with situational offense and was responsible for clock management."

Was he even really the o-line coach in Cleveland?? It looks like he was basically the "get back coach" with a couple extra duties. If he was responsible for clock management with the Browns, that's a red flag right there.

Call me crazy, but it's a little concerning that he's basically been out of favor as an o-line coach for a number of years. I was sort of hoping that we'd hire a young stud o-line coach either from college or the NFL who could bring some intensity and toughness to our lines.

3) Iowa fans are not real big on this guy - The biggest positive on Verducci's resume was his 10 year stint at Iowa, so I was curious to see what Iowa fans thought of this guy. The impression that I'm getting from the Iowa fanbase was that Verducci was not a popular o-line coach at all. Apparently Kirk Ferentz was the o-line coach in the 80s and had built up some great o-line units. Verducci took over for Ferentz and the o-line steadily declined during his tenure. He coached under Hayden Fry, and Fry stuck with him out of loyalty. When Ferentz became the head coach in 1999, Verducci was promptly booted from his job.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the guy. Maybe Verducci took some unfair blame during a time when Hayden Fry was losing control of his program, but it is a little concerning that Iowa fans aren't all that high on Verducci. I was hoping to get a little more positive reaction from the Iowa fans.

Should be interesting to see how the hire turns out. I think Weis has been hamstrung by the fact that his job is perceived to be in jeopardy, so Verducci might have been the best he could do. Verducci is a proponent of the zone blocking scheme that Weis wants to run at ND, so maybe he'll be more on the same page with Weis than Latina was. It certainly was strange that our o-line never seemed to be in sync. The rest of our team steadily has gotten better since 2007, but the o-line got worse. Maybe Verducci will get this group back on track. I certainly hope so.

All in all, not a bad hire considering the circumstances. With all the young skill talent that we have assembled, all it would take is an adequate line to make this offense pretty potent next year. That's a pretty low bar for Verducci. I hope he can get it done.

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