Charley Molnar was the wide receivers coach under Brian Kelly at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati, where he helped develop some of the most prolific passing attacks in the nation. Now he's the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, where he's helping Kelly transform the Irish into a spread offense.
I caught up with Molnar earlier this week to see how the installation of that system is going:
MolnarHow are the players adjusting to the new offense?
Charley Molnar: The first six days were spotty. We could see that if they were concentrating on the fundamentals we taught them, they were forgetting the plays. And if they were concentrating on the plays and trying to execute them perfectly, their fundamentals weren't very good. But the last two practices, they've really started to do what we've asked of them from a fundamentals standpoint and also getting a command of the offense.
Is this a normal timetable for getting this stuff down? Was it similar at Cincinnati?
CM: At Cincinnati we had the advantage of having the bowl game [Kelly's staff took over before the 2007 International Bowl], so that gave us 10 extra practices before we started spring ball to really learn our offensive system and fundamentals. Here, the first day we came out to spring ball, they were a total blank slate from the standpoint of really knowing what our expectations were. But these guys try so hard, and we have so many guys who are real pleasers on the football team and guys who will do anything you ask. So we're really on course to have our offense in by the time summer camp ends.
How much different is it from going to a pro style offense to your spread system?
CM: The biggest difference right now is just learning a whole new set of terminology and whole new mindset in the way we attack a defense. And also fundamentally we do things quite differently than the previous staff did. So these guys really have a lot of learning to do. Nevertheless, it's not that we're so drastically different that they can't get it. I would say for the most part, especially the last couple of practices, they're really settling into the offense and into the speed we work in practice. That may have been the biggest adjustment for them -- how fast we work in practice.
This offense had quite a bit of success under the previous coaching staff. Have you kept any of the old plays that worked well or is it just all totally your stuff?
CM: We didn't keep anything. We didn't even ask what the previous staff did. We're putting in our system. And of course with coach Kelly, we're always looking to evolve the offense based on our personnel and based on things that occurred to us the previous season, and we're always adjusting. The 2010 Notre Dame offense will not look like the 2009 Cincinnati offense. There will be some evolving going on here.
How is Dayne Crist coming along?
CM: He's got a strong arm, and he seems to be poised in the pocket. He really is a very diligent student of the game. He spends a lot of time watching video, asking good questions. We can't see Dayne run around because of the knee, but we've also not allowed Dayne to use his knee as a crutch or an excuse not to run the offense.
So can you fully evaluate him yet?
CM: I don't think we can get a full evaluation of him until summer camp, until he can run around a little bit. As far as reading coverages and making the right checks, he shows he can do that. Now, it's a lot easier when you know you're not going to get hit and you can just sit in the pocket and go through your reads. It's totally different when you're live. On the other hand, we probably wouldn't want our quarterbacks to get hit too much in the spring anyway.
You worked with some excellent receivers at Cincinnati. How do the ones at Notre Dame compare? And how is Theo Riddick's transition to receiver going?
CM: Michael Floyd is a special player and very, very similar to Armon Binns, who we had at Cincinnati. Both are big, physical players who can go up over a DB to get the football. So he's a lot of fun to work with. Theo is going to be an outstanding talent. Right now, I'm coming off a shoulder injury so he's a little bit limited in what he can do. But every once in a while you get a glimpse of how good he could be. He's got speed and he really possesses good hands for a guy who spent most of his life playing running back.
We have probably eight or nine guys still fighting for a seat on bus. Shaq Evans has been highly competitive, along with John Goodman, Roby Toma, Barry Gallup -- they're all fighting to win a spot, either as a starter or a key backup. I think the competition will go all the way through to the summer, I really do.
How about running back? Is Armando Allen the No. 1 guy there?
CM: Possession is nine-tenths of the law, and he's been in that spot. He's been a tried and true performer for Notre Dame, so he's doing a very good job. But so is Robert Hughes, and Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood. Any of those guys could potentially be our starting running back and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. I think have good depth and a highly competitive group.
Just for you personally, what's it like to be the offensive coordinator now at Notre Dame?
CM: I really feel like I've got the best assistant's job in the country.