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Minter sees big things for ND with Kelly, Diaco

Late last week, former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rich Minter spoke with the South Bend Tribune’s Eric Hansen and Darin Pritchett on WSBT 960 AM. They covered a variety of topics, and eventually got around to discussing Minter’s time at Notre Dame under both Lou Holtz and Charlie Weis, and his time working with new head coach Brian Kelly at Cincinnati, where Minter returned as an assistant to work under Kelly after being the head coach of the Bearcats from 1994 to 2003.

You can listen to the entire interview here (with the Notre Dame discussion starting around the 5:30 mark), but if his comments are any indication, Rick Minter is a gigantic Brian Kelly fan.

“I worked for Lou Holtz three times, and I really don’t think it’s going to talk long for people to start making some of these favorable comparisons, because I do think that BK is the right guy for the job at this time at Notre Dame,” Minter said.

While he spent a great deal of time complimenting Kelly as a head coach and a leader, Minter also had rave reviews for defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, who came to South Bend as a somewhat unproven coach.

Minter addressed that very issue with Kelly in the days before he decided to take the job in South Bend.

Minter told Kelly:

“I really think you should think hard about taking what people perceive as a young unproven defensive coordinator,” Minter recalled.

“When I think about Bobby, I really believe he’s a rising star in the business. He’s tremendously high character, he’s very well spoken, he’s a high intellect guy, a high energy guy, I’ve never worked with him personally, I’ve only gathered this in a few conversations and I know the people that he knows, and how high he’s held in their regard, I trust their opinion. I think he’s truly a young star on the rise.”

The hiring of Diaco reminded Minter of the decision Charlie Weis made when he decided to replace Minter and bring in a younger defensive coordinator who would install the 3-4 defense that Weis knew from his days in New England.

“What Charlie thought he was getting when he let me know, he really wanted a Bobby Diaco type guy. He didn’t get it, but that’s what he wanted. That’s what he tried to get when he hired Corwin. But Bob Diaco really is that guy. He came out of the pedigree of Belichick, Parcells, Al Groh... I just think the timing is right to come in an implement a 3-4 defense.”

On the subject of the 3-4 defense, Minter himself has come around on the scheme, having run only a 4-3 base for much of his career. He also thinks that a 3-4 will help Notre Dame when it comes to putting together a front-line defense.

“One of the toughest things to recruit is a true-SEC looking front-four. It’s not impossible, but you have to develop them. You rarely get the ready made 280 to 300 pound kid that can come in and make a difference in a 4-3 scheme. But I believe that Notre Dame is a perfect place to come in and run a 3-4 defense.

“I did not do that when I was there, my background was a 4-3. But I truly believe after
having evolved over the last three years into much more of a 3-4 guy. that those are the kind of players that you can indeed recruit nationwide at ND. It’s going to rely on length, strength development, on intelligence, on toughness, on being sound and very coachable high character kids. I’ve already noticed the kind of kids they signed this first class, the kids they’ve already got committed. Just look at the front-four, front-five type guys, they’re these 6-5 to 6-6 guys, that are 215 to 225, let Longo have them, develop them. Guys that can run, guys that are smart, that are hard nosed and will play with great leverage.”

It’s not hard to notice the strategy that Kelly and company took during his first recruiting campaign, where size and length were one of the most important characteristics when profiling an athlete. They’ve continued to go after rangy “big skill” athletes that can develop in a strength and conditioning program that Kelly truly values.

Really illuminating stuff from Minter, a guy who has seen a lot of football under three of the last five football coaches at Notre Dame.