Notre Dame Football

Quick Thoughts on Mike Mickens

February 13, 2020

Notre Dame fans might not have liked waiting for a new defensive backs coach to be hired, but the most important thing was for Brian Kelly and the program to make the right hire.

Truthfully, I’m not sure there was a wrong hire out of any of the candidates under consideration. They were all very qualified and the choice, former Cincinnati cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, is one that I believe Irish fans should be excited about.

The obvious connection is that he played for Kelly at Cincinnati and was a great player for him there. Working under Kerry Coombs, we was a 2nd team All-American one season and consistent All-Big East presence over his four year career.

A knee-injury cratered his draft stock as a senior and he ended up as a 7th round pick in the NFL Draft. He ended up in coaching shortly after.

He was hired at Bowling Green under Dino Babers and worked there from 2014-2017. He was brought back to Cincinnati to coach the last couple of seasons under Luke Fickell and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman.

The thing that stands out about Mickens credentials for the job is the instant impact he made at Cincinnati. The defense finished 113th in pass efficiency defense the season before and were losing their three top cornerbacks when he took over. They finished 13th and 15th in pass efficiency defense in 2018 and 2019 with Mickens’ corners playing a huge part in that.

They produced 77.5 Havoc (pass breakups, interceptions, forced fumbles, and tackles for loss) plays the last two seasons with the defense finishing in the top-20 in passes defended. Even with Julian Love having an All-American season, Notre Dame’s corners produced 64.5 Havoc plays over that same span.

Mickens has been able to get young players to play well very early in their careers, which is something that he’ll have to do with the young corners he’ll be coaching in 2020.

UC true freshman Ahmad Gardner was the 6th highest grade corner in the country in 2019. He didn’t allow a single touchdown and was 1st team All-AAC despite being ranked as the 1672nd player nationally according to the 247sports composite rankings.

There is no doubt Mickens can coach and he’s done well as a recruiter too. His recruiting areas with Cincinnati were the I-75 stretch from Dayton to Detroit, along with secondary pockets in Atlanta and the Washington, D.C. area.

During his time at UC he brought in their top two rated recruits from the Dayton area. In this most recent cycle he landed the top cornerback prospect out of Ohio, cornerback Sammy Anderson. Anderson had 16 Power 5 offers.

Recruiting to a place like Notre Dame is different than most places, but this message from Mickens when he was hired at Bowling Green is something that should resonate with the players the Irish routinely target.

As told to Bowling Green’s athletic website:

“I always tell kids all the time that football can end at any time. It happened to me in the 10th game of my senior year, I tore my knee up and my career was never the same from there on, but I had a degree to fall back on.”

He’s a former 2-star recruit who turned himself into an All-American at the college level. He’s proven he can coach players to play far beyond their recruiting ranking as well. He should be able to help recruiting efforts in his home state of Ohio and fitting into the staff should not be an issue.

Kelly just hired a rising star in the coaching ranks, who happened to have played for him in college. Even without that connection, this should be seen as a very strong hire. Sometimes things just work out even if the path isn’t clear at the start and I think this may end up as the story here with Notre Dame settling on Mickens to coach cornerbacks.

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