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Notre Dame Football

Mike Denbrock Ready for Notre Dame Part III

February 24, 2024

College football is a revolving door of change when it comes to coaches. You have head coaches leaving to be coordinators and coordinators leaving for lateral jobs - and then there is the jump to the NFL. 

For offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock, the move from LSU to Notre Dame is easily considered a lateral move, especially given the fact he ended up in Baton Rouge after a long run at Cincinnati. 

Yet, there are always priorities when it comes to where and who you work for in every profession. The decision to return to Notre Dame wasn’t an easy one for Denbrock, but it also was simple in some aspects. 

“Our family was happy there, great program, a lot of respect for Coach (Brian) Kelly, obviously, we’ve worked together on and off for over 30+ years,” stated Denbrock. “That was difficult. I wasn’t really looking for a new opportunity, but when Notre Dame called and we had a couple conversations, this is a place I’ve always felt my heart was. It’s where I’ve always wanted to be.

“The opportunity to come back here presented itself and it was a difficult decision, but the right decision for a number of reasons.” 

Denbrock grew up less than two hours away from Notre Dame in Homer, Mich. and then spent several years 90 minutes up the road at Grand Valley State, so the opportunity to work closer to home was a priority. 

“Being closer to family,” said Denbrock. “I grew up in Michigan. My wife is from Buffalo (N.Y.). An opportunity to get back closer to family was a factor in it.” 

The other piece to the puzzle was an opportunity to work with Marcus Freeman. The two were coordinators at Cincinnati, which allowed Denbrock to see Freeman’s day-to-day work ethic up close and personal. 

And it appears Freeman left a lasting impression on Denbrock. 

“An opportunity to come back and work with Marcus Freeman, who I have an unbelievable amount of respect for,” Denbrock said of why he returned to Notre Dame. “We worked together at Cincinnati. Watching him and his leadership ability and the way he inspires people around him to be better at what they’re doing was something I felt like I wanted to be a part of.” 

There have been plenty of changes to Notre Dame and South Bend since Denbrock last had residency in the Michiana area, but one thing has remained the same. The players, which also speaks volumes considering he coached the Heisman Trophy winner in 2023. 

”The players have been fantastic,” explained Denbrock. “They have done everything we’ve asked them to do. They continue to do that. They’re incredibly smart and pick things up really fast. They’ve been really excited and the coaches have been really excited as well.” 

In addition to the players, Denbrock is also excited to work opposite defensive coordinator Al Golden. Notre Dame’s defense has been good dating back to 2017 and Denbrock is well aware of what that can do for an offense. 

“I can say at this moment, I know we have an unbelievable top five defense,” said Denbrock. “Being the offensive coordinator, when you know you’ve got that sort of ability on the other side of the ball, does make your life a little easier and calms your nerves a little bit.

“With that said, that’s our goal is to get to the level of how the defense plays. We can be a top five offense just like they can be a top five defense. Coach Golden is remarkable at what he does and how he does it. I love the scheme that they use and how multiple it is. We’re going to implement something very similar on the offensive side of the ball.” 

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