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Notre Dame Football

Mickens Seeing the Whole Picture with Expanded Role

April 5, 2024

There aren’t many position coaches in the country with credentials who can match Mike Mickens.

An All-American as a player, he developed future NFL Draft picks Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant as a coach at Cincinnati. Cam Hart will be his next pupil to be drafted and he will eventually be followed by others like future first round pick Ben Morrison.

Through his ability to evaluate and develop talent, he’s built Notre Dame’s cornerback room into one of the best in the country. It’s why other programs, including USC, were trying to poach him this offseason.

Mickens turned down any opportunities to stay at Notre Dame and there are several reasons why he made that choice.

“Well, the first thing is I love it here,” stated Mickens. “I love working for Coach Freeman, I love his culture. I love everything that he represents. I love Notre Dame. I love what Notre Dame represents. I love the kids that come here and the mentality that they have. So, that's a big piece of if anybody comes after me, I still always think about pros that are here that (inaudible).

“I tell guys I'm recruiting all the time. I'm not just jumping to jump to (another) job. I'm not that type of guy. It has to be the right fit, the right place for me to ever think about (inaudible).”

Fans are ecstatic that he’s still in South Bend. They know what they have in him as a cornerbacks coach and he could be a defensive coordinator for the Irish somewhere down the line. The next step in that process is already under way with Mickens being promoted to the Pat and Jana Eilers Defensive Backs coach in addition to continuing as Defensive Pass Game Coordinator.

With the departure of Chris O’Leary to the Los Angeles Chargers, Mickens is now in charge of the entire secondary. His room is now a lot more full with the added responsibility, but Mickens sees a lot of positives with the move for him and the players.

He mentioned after practice on Wednesday that his “philosophy is that guys gotta understand multiple positions” and it’s easier for that to happen with him communicating with everyone.

“I look at it as an advantage, right? The advantage of it is you hear one voice,” Mickens said. “Everybody's hearing the same thing, and the communication is always going to be there with it. So, everybody does that. Also, it grows the knowledge of everybody, right? So, now the safeties understand truly what that corner is doing and how he's playing his technique based off of what he's doing.

“And the same thing when the corner is playing his technique off of what the safety is doing. So, it grows the knowledge of football players as well, just being able to hear the whole philosophy, the whole backend, the system of it, not just only position-specific work.”

Mickens isn’t doing it all on his own. Special teams coach Marty Biagi has been a big help as well as defensive analyst Bryce McHugh and graduate assistant Bryce Dempsey. Al Golden is always there to help with the group too, so Mickens is getting plenty of assistance from others on the staff.

The staff is collaborating and the entire experience of working with the entire secondary is allowing Mickens to grow as a coach.

“It's great. You're in the run game, you're in the pass game, so you see the whole picture of it right there. Between the fits and, in the pass game, where we need to be at with it. So, that's the great part about it.”

So far, it’s leading to the group as a whole working better together.

“You talk all of that, you teach all that and then, now, some of those corners that may not have known all of that, now they hear what the safeties gotta do. And the same thing with the safeties hearing what the corners gotta do.”

Mickens already has the reputation as an elite cornerback coach. Adding this to his resume should continue to earn him even more recognition as one of the top assistants in the country.

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