FootballScoop is proud to announce that Mike Sanford is the 2015 FootballScoop Quarterbacks Coach of the Year presented by ProGrass.
In his first season as Notre Dame's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Sanford focused the majority of his efforts on preparing Malik Zaire to play and play well as the Irish's starting quarterback. And he did -- for a game and a half.
Zaire played like a Heisman candidate, hitting 26-of-40 throws for 428 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding 19 rushes for 103 yards, until suffering a season-ending broken ankle in Notre Dame's visit to Virginia on Sept. 12.
Then Sanford unwrapped redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer, and Notre Dame hardly skipped a single beat.
In his first significant college action, Kizer nailed 8-of-12 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns -- including a 39-yard heave to Will Fuller with 12 seconds left in the game, allowing Notre Dame to escape with a 34-27 win.
Kizer played like a veteran over his ensuing 10 starts, finishing the regular season by hitting 188-of-297 attempts (63.3 percent) for 2,596 yards (8.7 yards per attempt) with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, plus 119 carries for 499 yards and nine additional scores. His 151.77 quarterback rating was 22nd nationally and second among all first-year passers.
He even played well in Notre Dame's two losses, throwing for 321 yards and two touchdowns with one interception while rushing for 55 yards and a score in a 24-22 setback at No. 1 Clemson, and accumulating 234 passing yards and 128 rushing yards with two scores and no picks in a 38-36 setback at No. 6 Stanford.
Play of Notre Dame's quarterbacks allowed the Irish to finish 10-2 in the regular season, winning a spot opposite Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
"(Mike) is very special. His ability to communicate, his ability to coach is some of the best I've been able to experience," Kizer said of Sanford earlier this fall. "He takes college football and does it right. There's not a lot of gray area with us. There's always an answer for everything. Being a guy who's stepping into a new role the way I am, he's allowed things to be simplified. He's taken situations in which we didn't necessarily have an answer to and gives me a clear and concise answer that allows me to understand a situation a lot better... He's a guy who understands the quarterback position really well and understands football really well, and he just does a really good job conveying that to his quarterbacks."
Originally intended to be Notre Dame's quarterbacks coach, Kelly was so impressed with Sanford's abilities he also named him his offensive coordinator -- the first in Kelly's near quarter-century head coaching experience to not have prior experience with Kelly.
Said Kelly: “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. Mike does that."
Sanford arrived in South Bend after one season as Boise State's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, helping the Broncos to a Mountain West title and a Fiesta Bowl victory. Prior to that, he spent three seasons in a variety of roles at Stanford, a season apiece at Western Kentucky and Yale, two seasons as an offensive assistant with quarterbacks at Stanford, and two seasons as a graduate assistant on his father Mike's staff at UNLV. Sanford played quarterback at Boise State from 2000-04.
The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Kendal Briles [Baylor], Darin Hinshaw [Cincinnati], Sean Lewis [Bowling Green], Brandon Streeter [Clemson], Lincoln Riley [Oklahoma] and Sanford) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year's winner.
Sanford will receive his award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.
Previous winners of the Quarterbacks Coach of the Year award are Josh Heupel (Oklahoma, 2008), Tom Rossley (Texas A&M, 2009), Mark Helfrich (Oregon, 2010 and 2012), Philip Montgomery (Baylor, 2011), Randy Sanders (Florida State, 2013) and Kevin McGiven (Utah State, 2014).
21st Nationally - Passing Efficiency
5th Nationally - Yards Per Play
2nd Nationally - QB rating among 1st year players
31st Nationally - Scoring Offense
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