Notre Dame offensive coordinator search: Report on vetted candidates

The question surrounding Notre Dame football this offseason went from “how will the offense look with an elite quarterback?” to “who is going to call plays for this offense?” in no time.

Tommy Rees took an offer to be the offensive coordinator at Alabama last week, and, according to Football Scoop, Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame have targeted some of the biggest-names among position coaches in the NFL and offensive play-callers in college.

Here is an update on who Notre Dame has reached out to and where things seemingly stand on each candidate according to the Football Scoop report.

Freeman's Right-Hand Man

April 23, 2022; Notre Dame, Indiana; Notre Dame Associate Athletics Director Ron Powlus shown in the fourth quarter of the Blue-Gold Game at Notre Dame Stadium. Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Freeman is obviously in charge of his coaching staff, but who is he leaning on the most to help find Notre Dame’s next offensive coordinator?  That would be [autotag]Ron Powlus[/autotag], Notre Dame’s senior associate athletic director for football.

From Football Scoop:

Freeman and Ron Powlus are running point on the search, which is unfolding concurrent with the Notre Dame men’s basketball program’s search for its next head coach and also as venerable Irish athletics director Jack Swarbrick continues working toward the school’s next broadcast-rights deal with NBC and also fulfills his roles within the ACC and working on the future landscape of name, image and likeness.

Byron Leftwich - Former Buccaneers OC

Jan. 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) talks with offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich before playing the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Scoop report confirms Notre Dame and [autotag]Byron Leftwich[/autotag] have spoken about the job. However, the report states: “Sources confirmed any preliminary talks between the Irish and Leftwich have minimal depth.” It would appear Leftwich will not be happening.

Learn more about Byron Leftwich with his candidate profile here

Brian Johnson - Eagles QB Coach

Jan. 29, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) celebrates his touchdown with offensive tackle Lane Johnson (65) against the San Francisco 49ers during the third quarter in the NFC Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field. Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Current Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach [autotag]Brian Johnson[/autotag] has been vetted by Notre Dame as well. Johnson, a former Utah Utes quarterback, has coaching experience at Utah, Mississippi State, Houston and Florida collegiately. Jalen Hurts had a breakout season this year with Johnson coaching the Eagles quarterbacks. Don’t get too excited though, Irish fans. Football Scoop doesn’t hear good things about Notre Dame’s chances here, either:

“Johnson … is expected to potentially be in demand for multiple NFL openings. Also, if Eagles current offensive coordinator Shane Steichen nabs one of the final head coaching vacancies in the NFL, Johnson is expected to be a top — if not the top — candidate to become Philadelphia’s next offensive coordinator.”

Johnson, obviously, has a pretty big event coming up on Sunday.

NFL to Notre Dame seems unlikely

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it’s Leftwich, Johnson or any other current NFL coaching staff member, life is better for coaches in the NFL today than it is in the college ranks according to one source Football Scoop spoke to:

“Quality of life is so much better now in the NFL,” one coach said. “You think guys WANT to deal with NIL and the (NCAA Transfer) portal and the recruiting calendar?”

Jason Candle - Head Coach, Toledo

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Toledo head coach Jason Candle is a hot commodity, and Notre Dame is one of those in pursuit. However, so is Miami, and Football Scoop reports that Mario Cristobal and the Hurricanes have gone as far as to extend an offer to Candle to be their offensive coordinator.

Sean Lewis - Offensive Coordinator, Colorado

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

“We comin'” – Marcus Freeman to Coach Prime, Deion Sanders (possibly, anyway)

New offensive coordinator splash hire at Colorado, Sean Lewis has been vetted by Notre Dame. The report goes as far as saying “Lewis is seen as a potentially top-priority target for the Irish.” Lewis has a connection to Powlus: Lewis was a graduate assistant at Kent State when Powlus coached their quarterbacks just over a decade ago.

Get a better idea of Lewis and his football resume here

Ryan Grubb - Offensive Coordinator, Washington

According to the Football Scoop report, Notre Dame vetted the interest of Ryan Grubb, Washington’s offensive coordinator who was also a top target of Nick Saban just over a week ago. Grubb, however, remained committed to Washington and the $2 million annual salary he’ll now receive.

Andy Ludwig - Offensive Coordinator, Utah

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Scoop report goes as far as calling Andy Ludwig a “sourced candidate” for the Notre Dame opening but gives no detail to the mutual interest relative to what they said in regards to the others.

“A former Ludwig colleague at one of his Power Five stops raved about the potential of a Ludwig hire for Notre Dame, calling it ‘potentially a home run.’ ”

The lack of information beyond vetting here speaks louder than anything else in the report to me. Based off the wording and way it’s presented, I get the feeling the interest here is strong on both sides and nobody wants to say anything and risk messing it up.

Mystery Candidate?


The report goes as far as to give the names of the six coaches listed above and some detail on the likelihood they end up at Notre Dame. They are not the only six candidates in the report, however.

“Per sources, the Fighting Irish’s candidate pool at the collegiate level has seen the school vetting Utah’s Andy Ludwig, Washington’s Ryan Grubb, Toledo’s Jason Candle, Colorado’s Sean Lewis and at least one other high-level Power Five offensive coordinator.”

Let the guessing games begin!

Again – check out the full report on Football Scoop.

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire