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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Defensive Coordinator Al Golden Extended

February 16, 2024

Notre Dame and Marcus Freeman have put together a big offseason with key additions, personnel moves and the retention of key figures within the program over the last two months. 

A new deal for defensive coordinator Al Golden was likely at the top of the list as the Irish finished No. 5 in total defense in 2023 giving up just 276.3 yards per game. 

ISD can confirm a report by Football Scoop’s John Brice that Al Golden has signed a new four-year deal, which was signed about a month ago, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. 

Notre Dame will enter the 2024 season with two of the nation’s top coordinators as Golden will pair with offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, who is fresh off two years at LSU, including calling plays for Heisman winner Jayden Daniels.  

Golden, who also had hip replacement surgery in January, is set to enter year three at Notre Dame and expectations are at an all-time high. In 2023, Notre Dame not only had a Top 5 finish in total defense, but the Irish led the nation in passing efficiency defense and No. 2 in red zone defense while also ending the year No. 13 in turnovers forced. 

In 2024, Notre Dame will return two All-Americans in the secondary in cornerback Benjamin Morrison and safety Xavier Watts, who also won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2023, which goes to the top defensive player in college football. Morrison and Watt have combined for 16 interceptions in Golden’s defense over the last two seasons. 

Up front, Notre Dame will also have return Howard Cross III, Rylie Mills, Jordan Botelho and have a new addition in Duke grad transfer RJ Oben. Cross is coming off an almost unheard-of season where he finished No. 2 on the team in tackles with 66 stops.

Golden will have some key turnover at linebacker with two starters off to the NFL. Jack Kiser is the only returning backer with extended game experience, but there appears to be an uptick in athleticism and speed at the second level despite the departures. 

Notre Dame’s defensive staff could have been decimated, but at the end of the day, it appears to be intact as the only departure at this point will be safeties coach Chris O’Leary. Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, who was heavily courted by USC, is expected to slide over to coach the entire secondary and Max Bullough is expected to be named linebackers coach after receiving interest from schools around the country. Defensive line coach Al Washington was fully immersed in the Boston College head coaching search and is expected to remain with the Irish. 

On the offensive side, Gerad Parker did leave for Troy and Freeman parted ways with Chansi Stuckey. Quarterbacks coach Gino Guidugli and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph will be back for year two, while Deland McCullough returns for year three as Notre Dame’s running backs coach and will also be associate head coach. 

The Irish will start spring practice on March 7th before playing its annual Blue-Gold Game on April 20th.

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