Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Analyze This

January 25, 2017
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In the spring of 2009, Nick Saban walked into a meeting room full of newly hired football coaches specifically hired for the newly created positions of analyst. There were 8 coaches in total, one who would eventually become Defensive Coordinator for Saban in 2016. As Saban walked in he was followed by a GA holding a box, with the gesture of a hand the GA dumped the box and its contents on the table. Video and tape of game footage covered the table top. Saban waited for a moment then allegedly calmly said: ‘Gentlemen, I brought you here to help me figure out the spread offense and how to stop it, now go do your damn job and don’t leave this complex until you have me something.’

The 2008 season had been a successful one for Alabama, except for the way the season had ended. Two loses. One to Florida and one to Utah. Both teams featured variations of the spread offense and were causing problems, especially Urban Meyer’s offense, for Saban.  It was new in its concept and not what he was used to seeing. The high schools in the southern part of the country had starting running the spread in droves.  As a result of the frustrating ending to the 2008 season, and Saban being smart enough to look at what was going on around him, he went out and brought in 8 coaches, mainly from the high school ranks, to help work in the background to provide insight on what they were seeing and what could be done in an effort to slow this new offense down. That was the reason for the hires on the surface. Underneath was a new concept to get as many people involved in your football program as possible to take on responsibilities and duties that would lighten the load on the primary assistant coaching staff. It was the start of the age of the analyst.
Rick Kimball/ISD


When you look at the running of a successful program you have to look closely at how it is designed and run. All the teams right now who are in constant discussion of national prominence are not only being coached affectively, but are being managed affectively as well. In researching three programs out of that group right now and how their staffs are put together, some interesting numbers appear. Alabama, as well documented, has currently 28 people working under the roof of the Football staff. Clemson is even larger with 30, Ohio State is sitting at 24 members. Large numbers to be sure when the NCAA (assuming the vote goes through) allows for 10 Assistant Coaches and 4 GA’s on staff. What is open game is the number of people you hire under the title of analyst, quality control or player development. People pretty much in charge of taking over the small detailed jobs and providing research to the core staff in its efforts to coach and evaluate talent.

In speaking with an assistant coach in the SEC he mentioned how important these analysts positions are, mainly it allows the assistant coaches to go out during the offseason while the specialists stay on campus and breakdown film for the upcoming seasons opponents in situational areas. Example: last spring one specific assignment given to a defensive analyst at Alabama was to chart all 3rd down plays, specific to 5-yard increments in need to get a first down, and chart the play call in that situation by every upcoming opponent. This attention to preparation and purpose allows a coaching staff to see tendencies and have a good idea of what to expect from team to team. This kind of work makes Saban look like a genius, when in reality it is having done the study of an opponent to where it is stripped down to just knowing to what to look for.

This allows the practice time to be used effectively on the stuff that is concrete, not wasting time on prepping for everything.   When the assistants are home looking at film doing prep work, the analysts begin looking at prospective athletes for the recruiting class. In the recruiting aspect they are invaluable. Most of the evaluations done are by the support staff who report back to the assistant in charge of a specific area that they are recruiting.

They carefully analyze film looking for small details that might be the difference in how a recruit is valued and possibly offered. It provides tons of feedback to give the football staff all the info they need to figure out who they want. Once this part of the process starts, the support staff maintains constant contact with the recruits, always being in the prospects field of vision. They will also monitor social media to find out other small details about the prospects life and where his thinking may be leaning.

This is kind of akin to always having your ear to the ground, allowing the assistant coaches to worry about the coaching aspect and will alert them if they need to touch base with a prospect they are high on to give them some attention if another school is gaining traction. One often overlooked part of all of this; and was stressed by the coach I spoke with, is the analysts and quality control folks will attend the mandatory academic meetings and progress appointments so as to stay on top of the athlete’s progress in the classroom. Again, freeing up the assistants on the main staff to work on the coaching aspect of their job more and not have to handle the day-to-day operations that consist of a lot of paperwork and follow-up.

It’s like having GA’s for your GA’s. A constant that is found in all of them, is the high standard held to all of these coaches and personnel when it comes to what they produce and how effective their analysis is. All roles are clearly defined and no lapse in communication is allowed.  With all this work and organization within these programs it’s easy to see why they are successful and will continue to be listed among the top programs in the country.

Now to the Notre Dame issue. While looking and counting up the members listed as falling under the roof of the football coaching staff and support staff, the number, compared to the above programs, was vastly different. There are currently 20 people working inside and for the football program in an assistant coaching position, GA position or analyst. But the thing to look closely at is that of that number for Notre Dame, 7 people are fulfilling the true analyst role. Four of which are interns. Interns means "low pay" in college football.  Compare that to the teams above, Alabama has 16 analysts, Clemson 16 and Ohio State 10. None of those 3 schools have analysts with the intern label attached. That is a big difference in role defined, pay and experience.

When looking deeper there are other issues that are causing a huge gap in production: in the coaching backgrounds of the majority of Notre Dame’s analyst staff you will find a very low number of years spent in the high school ranks. All the power 3 schools above had a support staff compiled of mainly old high school coaches who have spent the majority of their careers on that level or were coming straight from finishing their own playing careers. This is hugely important on two levels: One, the guys with the high school backgrounds are very familiar with the recruiting process and can in many ways evaluate talent better. This comes from years of being around kids of that developmental stage and can often tell when you have a true 5-star verses a 3-star playing poor competition. They will also recognize a kids production level at crucial times in a game opposed to one in which the prospect is building stats in a game that has been decided. Basically identifying your playmakers. This can only come with hands on experience.

Secondly, these coaches have relationships with other high school coaches who can get them close to a prospect, or better yet, give them a heads up on a hidden gem, or if other schools are snooping around one that has committed to you. Now just because you don’t have a bunch of high school coaches in your support group, that doesn’t mean it will doom the process. Overall, you have to stock it with people who are diligent and have a great attention to detail. High energy guys.  If you look at the number of people Notre Dame has on staff to do all of these tasks, it just does not contain enough of a work force to be as effective as the other schools.

I believe in the new hires that Notre Dame has brought in, that they owe it to them to form a good support group to help them do their job more effectively. This is a young new staff.  One with an awful lot of energy and passion for their job. If you’re not careful you can run any group of aggressive, confident coaches into the ground with a work load that is too much to carry with them being pulled in too many directions.

The reasons the very successful programs are successful is more than just having smart coaches and good recruiters. They have the resources to help do their jobs more effectively and not waste energy on tasks that spend time rather than save it. This is a pivotal time for Notre Dame in that it is truly a transitional year, the changes made were needed and even more adjustments are necessary. When we talk about changing the culture of Notre Dame it is more than just getting more out of our strength and conditioning programs or nutrition and training,( which I will address in an article later this week), it is setting up our coaching staff with the best means to be successful and smart enough to realize that more has to be done in this realm to allow the football program to move forward. Your analyst and quality control people will always feed off the emotion and energy of the assistants. The assistants, likewise from the head coach. Movement is life, as they say, it’s time to join the elite programs and not be left behind. I’ve seen a lot of “Tic-Toc” references lately… the clock is most definitely ticking.
Discussion from...

Analyze This

sneakypete74
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I have every confidence that Kelly and the powers that be at the university will "screw the pooch....again" and ND football will be left playing catch up.
jzappitelli
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I can't help but think this is a thing we will never go all in on. A lot of people say this is ruining the game but there is no rules against it and so you better do it or you will be behind. I sure hope we maximize every advantage possible and don't see why we shouldn't. Having 25 or 30 analysts does not go against the mission of the university. If it helps you win then do it in my opinion.
Ulsterman
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This is Nick...not sure if my username has changed yet lol. I can say your absolutely correct in we need growth in staff to help with all these issues. I will say, with the new hires there was some discussion in dealing with this and hopefully growing some of the scouting positions. Who knows if it will happen. If it doesn't, I guarantee the next guy will demand it ...
jzappitelli
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Awesome stuff! Thanks!
RB
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Do we know if Kelly has sought more staff? Does he have an optimal number?
jbachman
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Really nice work on this - well done.
llcoolq22
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Great Article ... I always wonder why Notre Dame never hired more fomer alums as analyst ... Always had my eyes on former QB Steve Belles who is head coach at Hamiliton h.s. out in Arizona and former OL Tim Gruhard who was head coach but now Offensive Line coach Bishop Meige h.s. out in Kansas. Both been in the high school ranks for awhile and both won state titles.
Ulsterman
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The main reason for the slow progress on this is ND's reluctance to spend much more in terms of finances because of the perception that other programs in the athletic department are more successful and lacking for the most basic necessities. The pressure here is why back a losing sport when other are winning and need the upgrades more desperately. Problem is football is your cash cow and if it's successful then others will prosper. That's the message that should be sent out and you might find less kickback from the other groups. You just have to win...baby. And win quickly.
OrlandoDomer76
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One new analyst I'd really love to see hired is a senior coach who has a history of working with QBs, and hopefully as a good to decent recruiter that could work one on one with Tom Rees to teach and train him.
Ulsterman
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Part of the beauty of this is by providing all the extra help in both areas of coaching and recruiting you can designate it position by position...allowing for specialized growth for each group
ndman
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sneakypete74 said:

I have every confidence that Kelly and the powers that be at the university will "screw the pooch....again" and ND football will be left playing catch up.

Yes Pete, I'm sure Kelly is lobbying for less analysts and less assistants to the powers that be because he wants to screw the program over.
ndman
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Nick you might want to e-mail that to Swarbrick and CC Kelly on it.
ratdiggler
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Excellent write up, very well done. I think this should be printed and hand delivered to Kelly so maybe he gets a clue...
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