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Notre Dame Football

Potential Defensive Line Coach Candidates at Notre Dame

January 13, 2022

It was a pretty good run for Mike Elston at Notre Dame. It didn’t look like it would be ending even after Brian Kelly elected to leave for LSU, but Elston is now headed back to coach at his alma mater.

Marcus Freeman now has to find a new defensive line coach. The good news is that he shouldn’t have any problems finding strong candidates. There are several good ones out there that Notre Dame can look at to fill the vacancy at the position that can make the position group one of the best in the country.

Al Washington - Former linebackers coach at Ohio State

Washington was the defensive line coach at Cincinnati during Freemans first season so there is a connection there and he coached defensive line at Boston College before that so this wouldn’t necessarily be a tough adjustment for him.

He was recently let go at Ohio State because Jim Knowles is taking over that position so he is available right now and he was an outstanding recruiter for the Buckeyes. From that perspective, this would be seen as a huge move with his track record there.

Greg Scruggs - Defensive line coach at Cincinnati

Scruggs worked with Freeman with the Bearcats so there’s that connection and Freeman wasn’t shy about poaching another former colleague in Brian Mason. I would think there would at least be some interest in bringing in Scruggs as well.

Prior to coaching the D-line he was the Director of Player development there so he’s technically worked with Freeman for multiple years. The Bearcats finished 11th in sack rate in 2021 and the defensive line was one of the best in the country.

Charlie Partridge - Assistant head coach/defensive line at Pitt

Partridge has experience coaching all over the country, but he’s taken the defensive line at Pitt to a different level. His ability to identify talent and develop his players into top pass rushers has been exceptional. Pitt has averaged 50 sacks a season over the last three years and it has all started with Partridge.

He has done a great job going into Florida and finding some gems down there. The Irish could certainly use some more defensive line talent from there. He’s been with Narduzzi since 2017 and he has that AHC title, but he’s one of the top D-line coaches in the country and it’s worth a call.

Larry Black - Defensive line coach at Vanderbilt

The former Notre Dame graduate assistant just left Toledo to take a job at Vanderbilt to work for Clark Lea, but I think he would come back to Notre Dame in a heartbeat if offered the gig. Many of the defensive ends at Notre Dame largely give credit to him for the work he did helping them evolve as pass rushers.

His defensive line at Toledo gave the Irish O-line all kinds of problem in this season's matchup and their defense finished 15th in the country in sack rate.

Dennis Johnson - Defensive line coach at Baylor

Johnson was previously at LSU with Dave Aranda so it may be tough to get him to leave his mentor, but anyone who watched his group at Baylor knows that the guy can coach. He has experience coaching both three and four down and is a strong recruiter.

Baylor finished 20th in the country in sack rate this past season.

Sean Spencer - Co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Duke

Spencer just took this job to work with his former colleague Mike Elko. He was most recently with the New York Giants. Perhaps Notre Dame can entice him back to a bigger stage in college football. He shined there when coaching the defensive line at Penn State. The list of guys he produced there speaks for itself and he recruited at a high level too.

The work he did with Giants didn’t go unnoticed either. His nickname is “Coach Chaos”. That’s what his D-line creates. It would probably take him getting a co-DC title as well to get him to leave.

Randall Joyner - Defensive line coach at Ole Miss

Joyner has been a rising star since his time helping the defensive line at Ohio State in 2016 and 2017. He then went on to SMU for three years before making the jump to the SEC with Lane Kiffin’s program. He has the reputation as a great recruiter and though there are other names on this list with more experience, Joyner would be a Chansi Stuckey type of move.

Chris Rumph - Defensive line coach with the Chicago Bears

Matt Nagy got let go so that likely means Rumph is looking for work. That could end up fortuitous for Notre Dame because there are exactly zero other coaches out there who can say they coached defensive line at Alabama, Clemson, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and in the NFL.

I don’t know if he wants to come back to the college game, but his resumé speaks for itself.

Andre Carter - Former defensive line coach at LSU

A former first round draft pick who was known as a technician in the NFL, Carter was at LSU for one season. Kelly came in and cleaned house so Carter is now available. He has previous experience coaching in the NFL with New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, but has only been in coaching since 2016.

His father is former defensive line coach Rubin Carter, who had his last coaching gig coaching the D-line at Purdue when Freeman was on staff.

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