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Notre Dame football: What to like about (likely) new special teams coach

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Reports surfaced Sunday that Notre Dame is already keying in on a replacement for brian mason as special teams coordinator.  Mason is leaving the Irish for the Indianapolis Colts where he’ll coach their special teams.  The search for Mason’s replacement reportedly won’t be a very long one.

According to Matt Fortuna of The Athletic, Notre Dame is headed to the SEC to fill their special teams vacancy.  Below is what Fortuna tweeted on Sunday afternoon:

Source: Notre Dame is expected to hire Ole Miss special teams coordinator Marty Biagi to the same position. Biagi, who served as a special teams analyst with the Irish in 2016, replaces Brian Mason, who left for the Indianapolis Colts.
– Matt Fortuna on Twitter

A quick look at the biography of Marty Biagi gives detail of his career’s work which suggests Notre Dame special teams should resemble more of what we saw in 2022 instead of what they were like for much of the last 12 previous seasons.

Former College Kicker and Punter

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Biagi played college football at Marshall from 2004-07 where he spent time both kicking and punting.  He totaled 78 punts during his career. For whatever its worth, he listed fishing, Play Station 2, and collecting baseball cards as his hobbies back in college.

Biagi’s Start in Coaching

 

From the Ole Miss website:

Biagi got his start in collegiate coaching as a graduate assistant at Arkansas and has served as the co-defensive coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2011) and special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Southern (2012-14).

In 2014, Southern returned four kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns, finishing the season ranked among the top teams in the Football Championship Subdivision in blocked kicks, blocked punts, kickoff returns, punt returns, punt return defense and net punting.

Previous Stop in South Bend

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Biagi spent time previously at Notre Dame as in 2016 he was a special teams analyst.  Despite the Irish being just 4-8 that season, they did average The 23.1 yards per kickoff return (27th nationally) and returned a pair of kicks for touchdowns.

Success at North Texas

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Biagi spent three seasons leading the special teams at North Texas (2017-19).  The Mean Green showed significant gains in return yardage both on kickoffs and on punts during Biagi’s time there.  However, the most telling numbers during his North Texas stint are summed up nicely in his biography on the Ole Miss website:

The Mean Green scored six special teams touchdowns, blocked nine punts, (and) four kicks (during Biagi’s time at North Texas)

Reading that certainly makes it feel like more of the same special teams philosophy is headed to Notre Dame.

2020-21 at Purdue

 Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

2020 highlights: T.J. Sheffield averaged 21.2 yards per return with a long of 41 yards. Kicker J.D. Dellinger finished his final season at Purdue by going 7 of 9 on field goal attempts with a long of 45 yards.

2021 highlights: Mitchell Fineran was 24-of-29 in field goal attempts, including a perfect 4-for-4 and the game-winner in the Boilermakers’ Music City Bowl win over Tennessee.

Most Recently at Ole Miss

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Biagi comes to Notre Dame after spending the 2022 season on Lane Kiffin’s coaching staff at Ole Miss.  Some special teams highlights from this past season:

  • 87.5 field goal percentage (T-17th nationally)
  • Rebels blocked 3 opponent kicks (T-19th)
  • Dayton Wade averaged 21.9 yards per kick return (56th)
  • Jordan Watkins averaged 5.3 yards per punt return (58th)

Philosophical Fit

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Brian Mason certainly met Marcus Freeman’s philosophy to “challenge everything”.  From a far it seems that Biagi fits this mold as well as his special teams units have regularly pressured opponents as the numbers indicate above.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone will have the same success Mason had at Notre Dame in 2022 and its unfair to set that as an expectation but it certainly seems that Biagi’s results stem from a philosophy that Mason and Freeman both saw regarding special teams in 2022.

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