Notre Dame football: 9 potential candidates to replace Tommy Rees
Just a year after declaring he wanted to stay and fight for Notre Dame, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees is off to Tuscaloosa to join Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama. Rees took over as Notre Dame’s play-caller in 2020 and showed signs of stardom. He also made a few decisions that left Notre Dame fans rather frustrated.
The new offensive coordinator will be tasked with some difficult things. Notably, Rees raised the level of talent in the quarterback room significantly. When you look at what Notre Dame had at the position on their roster from 2017-2022 and look at the projected depth charts in coming years you can’t help seeing a significant step in the right direction.
But who will replace Rees?
This will be a massive test for Marcus Freeman early in his head coaching career because the hiring of quality assistants is a must for any sustained success. Here are nine names he would be wise to at least look at to replace Rees.
Phil Longo - Wisconsin
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Longo is a prime example of why the timing of this situation stings so badly for Notre Dame. Longo led a Mississippi State offense that averaged over 500 yards per game before heading to North Carolina and helping develop Sam Howell and Drake Maye into collegiate stars. Longo already signed a deal this offseason though, leaving Chapel Hill for Wisconsin. Freeman’s call would likely fall on deaf ears.
Ryan Grubb - Washington
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A huge reason Washington turned things around so greatly in just one season was its improvement on offense. Talent obviously helped: Look no further than quarterback Michael Penix who transferred in. Grubb clearly played a big role in that as well as Washington totaled the second-most yards in the Football Bowl Subdivision this past season. Grubb was Nick Saban’s first choice at Alabama before turning down the Tide, but perhaps he’d be more interested in returning to the Midwest seeing as he grew up and went to college in Iowa?
Andy Ludwig - Utah
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If a balanced offense is what you’re looking for then Ludwig would be a guy you’d want. He’s helped Utah’s offense rank among the best in the Pac-12 while being able to both run and throw with regular success. Ludwig would be a big step up in age compared to Rees, but if he were to mirror the success he’s shown at Utah since 2019 then it certainly wouldn’t matter.
Clint Trickett - Marshall
Sept. 10, 2022; South Bend, Indiana; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Khalan Laborn (8) dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
It was only a few short months ago that Notre Dame had no answer for Marshall’s flat-out nasty rushing attack on a day the Thundering Herd shocked the Irish. The offensive coordinator for Marshall that day? Clint Trickett.
Trickett was a college quarterback at Florida State before transferring to West Virginia. He has limited skins on the wall but was responsible for calling the plays that led to Marshall averaging more than 205 rushing yards per game this past season. He’s a name to stay alert for in coming years.
Mike Shanahan - James Madison
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No, not that Mike Shanahan.
James Madison was new to FBS in 2022, but you couldn’t tell by watching its offense. Its 34.4 points and 451.5 yards per game averages ranked in the top 25 nationally. They also averaged nearly 6 yards per play. Like Trickett, it’s still early in Shanahan’s coaching career, but he clearly seems to know how to run an offense.
Charlie Weis, Jr. - Ole Miss
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Want to feel old? Charlie Weis, Jr., the kid that used to listen on the headset as his father called plays on Notre Dame’s sideline, is an SEC offensive coordinator. And a good one at that.
Ole Miss averaged 496.4 yards per game this past season, good for the eighth best total in all of FBS. It wasn’t done how you’d normally expect a Lane Kiffin team to do it however. The Rebels’ 3,336 rushing yards trailed only Air Force and Army in college football last year. That seems like a blueprint that would be appreciated in South Bend.
Joe Brady - Buffalo Bills
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Joe Brady was one of the hottest names in coaching following the 2019 season when he helped guide LSU’s offense to historic heights and the Tigers to a national championship. Was it as much Brady as he got credit for? Or perhaps Joe Burrow, Ja’marr Chase, and Jordan Jefferson would look good with you or I coaching them.
Regardless, Brady left to coach in the NFL. He lasted just a year in Carolina before being hired by the Bills. He’s currently the quarterback coach there.
Byron Leftwich - Unemployed
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I didn’t go into this list thinking I’d have two Marshall connections but here we are. The former Thundering Herd star was recently fired as Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator after a rough showing in 2022. His three previous seasons were mighty impressive in terms of scoring, however.
Year – NFL Rank in Scoring
’19 3rd (no Tom Brady that year)
Would he be interested in the college game and putting the work in on the recruiting trail? It’d certainly be worth a call to find out.
Jeff Lebby - Oklahoma
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Jeff Lebby has become a star coordinator in the college ranks and may soon be headed toward his own head coaching job. Lebby preceeded Weis, Jr. at Ole Miss where he was highly successful before taking the job in Oklahoma last offseason. If you want Notre Dame to have a high-scoring, fast-paced offense unlike what we’re usually used to seeing, Lebby certainly fits that mold. However, poaching a coach from Oklahoma for a lateral move professionally wouldn’t be easy.