Notre Dame may have a new hire, George Atkinson's future is a little foggy and Stephon Tuitt has a big decision to make.
NEW YORK — During its brief stint in New York, Notre Dame may have come away with a new defensive coordinator.
According to multiple national media outlets — including ESPN and CBSSports — Notre Dame has hired New York Jets linebackers coach Brian VanGorder as its new defensive coordinator.
Head coach Brian Kelly said that he had already made a hire following the team’s win over Rutgers on Saturday, Dec. 28. Kelly said he that he couldn’t make it public yet because Notre Dame was “still in the process of finalizing contracts and things of that nature.”
Word of VanGorder as Bob Diaco’s replacement leaked later that night. VanGorder is in his first year with the Jets after going 3-8 (and 0-8 in Southeastern Conference play) as Auburn’s defensive coordinator a year earlier.
VanGorder, 54, coached with Kelly at Grand Valley State from 1989-91. In 2003, he won the Broyles’ Award for nation’s top assistant coach for his work as Georgia’s defensive coordinator.
TUITT FACES BIG DECISION
Kelly said he expects defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt to make a decision “very, very soon” on whether to enter the NFL Draft in May.
On Tuesday, Kelly said Tuitt received a second-to-third round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board.
“He’ll now focus on making that decision,” Kelly said. “We’ve had a couple of conversations, and he knows all of the information. My job is to provide him with all the information about the decision that he’s about to make.”
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has ranked Tuitt in the Top 10 on his “Big Board” throughout the season, most recently placing Tuitt at No. 8.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the NFL Draft.
ATKINSONS’S FUTURE AT ND UNCERTAIN
What first looked like a one-game suspension may, in fact, be something slightly more complicated.
Notre Dame announced Saturday morning that running back George Atkinson III and cornerback Jalen Brown would not play in the Pinstripe Bowl following a violation of team rules. Earlier that morning, Atkinson had Tweeted: “For those of you who are wondering I was suspended from today’s game for texting friends and family during team meal, as I did all season.”
He later deleted the Tweet.
Kelly didn’t offer much information on the matter either. When asked if Atkinson’s suspension will affect his future with the team, Kelly simply said: “I haven’t made that decision yet.”
Atkinson, who is Notre Dame’s second leading rusher with 93 carries, 555 yards and three touchdowns, has been slowly replaced by freshman Tarean Folston and junior Cam McDaniel during the course of the season.
Atkinson requested an evaluation from the NFL Draft Advisory Board earlier in December.
ND RECLAIMS ALL-TIME WINNINGEST TITLE
Saturday brought more than a Pinstripe Bowl win for Notre Dame.
With Michigan’s 31-14 loss to Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Notre Dame reclaimed its spot as the all-time winningest football program (by percentage).
The Irish are now 874-305-42 (.733006), while Michigan is 910-321-36 (.73244).