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Report: Mike Denbrock headed to Cincinnati as OC

Denbrock Kelly

Mike Denbrock is on the move. Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel is reporting that Notre Dame’s associate head coach and play-caller will join new Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell’s coaching staff.

It’s a huge move that removes one more trusted insider from Brian Kelly’s coaching staff. Yet it’s also not surprising, and fits into some of the information that has been coming out of South Bend, as Denbrock was likely to lose play-calling duties after a disappointing 2016 season.

Brian Kelly has been interviewing a wide array of offensive coordinator candidates, with Irish Illustrated reporting that Kelly talked with former Pitt OC Matt Canada before he took the same job at LSU under Ed Orgeron. Kelly’s also been linked to conversations with former Baylor assistant Kendall Briles and former Michigan and Auburn offensive coordinator Al Borges, coaches with very diverse offensive backgrounds.

The move of Denbrock and the reports of national interviews suggest that Kelly plans to hire someone from outside the program, not simply plug back in Denbrock or former coordinator Jeff Quinn, who is expected to take over as tight ends coach. It also looks less likely that Kelly will hire a quarterback coach like he did with Matt LaFleur, rather look to find someone who’ll handle the quarterbacks and the coordinator role.

Notre Dame has already announced the hiring of new defensive coordinator Mike Elko, who coached his final game on Tuesday with Wake Forest, a dominant performance in an upset win over Temple. Brian Polian’s return to South Bend was made official today as well, hired to coordinate the special teams.

Thamel’s report is the first on the potential move and hasn’t been confirmed by anyone at Cincinnati or Notre Dame. The Bearcats finished 4-8 in the American Conference, firing Tommy Tuberville and hiring the former Ohio State defensive coordinator in mid-December.

Denbrock has had two stints in South Bend, coaching 10 total seasons at Notre Dame under Ty Willingham and Kelly, who he first worked with at Grand Valley State.