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Martin, Diaco build their staffs (and rosters)

NCAA Football: Notre Dame-National Championship Media Day

Matt Cashore - USA Today Sports

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As Brian Kelly gets closer to finalizing his coaching staff moves, his former coordinators Chuck Martin and Bob Diaco have started to fill up their respective staffs as well. As you’d expect, both ex-Irish coaches have taken some pieces from Notre Dame with them.

Before we get to coaching staffs, it looks like some Irish seniors will have a place to play football next season. Brian Hamilton, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, tweeted that he expects Alex Welch, Lo Wood and quarterback Andrew Hendrix to play next season for Martin at Miami. While Welch and Wood were already decided, Hendrix’s decision to head to Miami signals that he thinks the starting quarterback job is there for the taking, as he’ll battle Ohio natives Drew Kummer and Austin Gearing.

Right now, the only official hires made by either Diaco or Martin have come in Miami, where Martin has reached back to his Grand Valley days for his co-offensive coordinators and the Irish staff for his first position coach. Martin has tapped George Barnett and Eric Koehler as his co-offensive coordinators, with Barnett coaching the offensive line and Koehler in charge of the quarterbacks.

Koehler was Martin’s offensive coordinator at Grand Valley after being the head coach at Wartburg College, staying with the program until last season, when he coached quarterbacks at Illinois State. Barnett is a graduate and four-year letter winner at Martin’s alma mater, Millikin. He spent two years as the Grand Valley offensive line coach before moving on to Illinois State in 2010, where he was the run game coordinator and offensive line coach. He was promoted to offensive coordinator last season in addition to his offensive line duties at Illinois State.

Martin reached into the Notre Dame graduate assistant pool for his first position coach hire. Pat Welsh spent the last two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant for the Irish, working primarily with Harry Hiestand. Welsh’s connections with Martin go back to Grand Valley as well, where Welsh served as a student assistant to Martin for two seasons before being hired as a defensive assistant in 2010. He coached quarterbacks at Wittenberg College before coming to South Bend. is reporting that fellow Irish grad assistant Corey Brown is joining the defensive staff at Miami. Brown played defensive line at Iowa from 1995-99, at the same time as Bob Diaco and Kerry Cooks. After playing arena football professionally and working at the junior college level as a coach in Iowa, Brown finished his degree from Iowa in 2005 and has been assisting Mike Elston on the defensive line the past two seasons. He’ll reportedly coach the defensive line for Martin. Martin will also reportedly hire Citadel assistant John Hauser as his defensive backs coach.

While it isn’t official, reports that Martin will bring in another guy with ties to the Notre Dame program, with career rushing leader Autry Denson joining the staff as the running backs coach. Denson has been coaching at Bethune-Cookman. also has updates on Diaco’s progress filling out his staff. While there have been no official announcements yet, the biggest news is that he’ll reportedly be taking Ernest Jones with him to UConn, where Jones will get back into the coaching ranks as the Huskies’ running backs coach. Jones has served as the director of player development and engagement the past two seasons at Notre Dame. He served as the head coach at Alcorn State, his alma mater, for a season and worked with Diaco at Cincinnati and Central Michigan as an assistant.

Diaco will also reportedly take with him to UConn Josh Reardon. A defensive graduate assistant the past two seasons, Reardon was the interim linebackers coach during bowl preparation after working primarily with Diaco the past two years. Reardon played his football at Central Michigan under Kelly and Diaco, before becoming a student assistant with the Chippewas.

Expect more hiring news to become official before the recruiting dead period ends January 3rd.

While Diaco and Martin are no longer a part of Notre Dame’s staff, it’s interesting to look at how they reach into their network of assistants to build their own programs. While most only look at Brian Kelly’s coaching tree through big time hires like Jeff Quinn, Charley Molnar (now out at UMass after two seasons), Martin and Diaco, the promotion of graduate assistants to full-time position coaches at programs like Miami and UConn show another extension of Kelly (and Notre Dame’s) growing footprint in college football.