In his quest to revamp Notre Dame's offense, Brian Kelly had options. There was Charley Molnar, who spent six seasons under Kelly at Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame before taking the Massachusetts head job in 2012. After two seasons in Amherst, Molnar is now the wide receivers coach at Idaho. There's also Jeff Quinn, whose history with Kelly goes back even further, all the way to 1989 at Grand Valley State. Quinn never worked at Notre Dame, taking the Buffalo head job at the same time his boss left Cincinnati for South Bend, but he owns two solid decades in the Kelly system.
If Kelly wanted to his new quarterbacks coach to hit the ground in a dead sprint, options were plenty. Except Notre Dame's head coach didn't want to do that. In fact, he was looking for the exact opposite.
"(Mike Denbrock and I) agreed at the end that what we were looking for was somebody that could turn the room upside down," Kelly told Blue and Gold Illustrated. "We didn't want somebody to be equal. We wanted somebody that was going to turn that room upside down, that was that good. We weren't going to settle for somebody that was on the same plane. We wanted somebody that was going to challenge us on a day-to-day basis. (Sanford) does that."
Sanford will be tasked with shaping the considerable talents of quarterbacks Everett Golson and Malik Zaire. Golson led Notre Dame to a national championship appearance in 2012 but displayed a penchant for turning the ball over in 2014, including a five turnover meltdown in a blowout loss to Arizona State. Zaire led the Irish to a win over LSU in the Music City Bowl but lacks experience.
However, Sanford has one of the most impressive assistant coaching resumes in college football. The son of a coach (who, incidentally, spent two years as a teenager in South Bend), Sanford spent three seasons at Stanford and one at Boise State. He has a personal record of 46-9 with three conference championships and four BCS/New Year's Six bowls over the past four seasons.
"When I first heard about it, I had a different reaction because it's Notre Dame. I think knowing that this place stands for something I want to be a part of: elite academics, the chance to explore from a spiritual standpoint, which is very important to me in my life and also, this is the mecca of college football," Sanford said. "I really was excited quite frankly when the Notre Dame opportunity came about. I was fired up. There was something inside of me that felt different than any other job that had been out there in this offseason."