Irish expected to tab Parker as OC, sources say

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Notre Dame is expected to promote tight ends coach Gerad Parker to offensive coordinator, sources confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday, ending a roller-coaster search that initially targeted outside candidates to replace Tommy Rees, who was hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

After talks with Kansas State offensive coordinator Collin Klein and Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig fizzled, the Irish turned to Parker, who spent two seasons as West Virginia’s offensive coordinator (2020-21) and was Purdue’s interim head coach in 2016. Parker had a formal interview on Tuesday with head coach Marcus Freeman that pushed him to the top of the list of candidates, sources said. first reported the hire is expected.

Wisconsin assistant Gino Guidugli is expected to be the next quarterbacks coach at Notre Dame, a source told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Guidugli spent the past two seasons as the playcaller at Cincinnati and was Desmond Ridder’s primary coach. Guidugli followed new Badgers head coach Luke Fickell from Cincinnati to Wisconsin in December.

That leaves one offensive staff position for the Irish to fill, as offensive line coach Harry Hiestand announced his retirement on Sunday.

Sources indicated that Freeman, who is entering his second season with the Irish, wanted to hire a coordinator who would continue to run a pro-style offense that features their tight ends. Klein and Ludwig were brought to campus over the past week for in-person interviews because their offenses were similar. Klein, the Wildcats’ 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist, ultimately decided it was too difficult to leave his alma mater and the players behind.

While Ludwig’s buyout of at least $2 million was at the heart of negotiations, and certainly caused some sticker shock this past weekend, Notre Dame sources told ESPN that the Irish communicated they were willing to pay it. By that point, Ludwig had already flown back to Utah and had conversations that influenced his decision to stay there.

With spring practices about a month away, Notre Dame placed an emphasis on finding a candidate who could quickly install a system and teach it to the staff and players. While Parker’s obvious familiarity with the players and system was a part of the decision, sources said Parker also impressed Freeman during his interview with ideas of how to make the offense better and possible wrinkles to add. Notre Dame was No. 98 in the country last season in passing yards per game (207.1) and average in most other offensive categories.

Parker, a former wide receiver at Kentucky (2000-04), is entering his second season with the Irish after leading the West Virginia offense for two seasons. In 2020, West Virginia was one of the more improved offenses in the country in terms of total yards, with gains of more than 60 rushing yards per game, almost 30 passing yards per game, more than 90 yards of total offense and almost seven more points per game.

Prior to that, Parker was Penn State’s passing game coordinator and receivers coach for one season (2019). The Nittany Lions’ offense averaged 35.8 points per game, ranking No. 15 nationally.

Parker and Guidugli will have to navigate a quarterback competition after last season’s starter, Drew Pyne, transferred to Arizona State. That opened the door for sophomore Tyler Buchner to compete with veteran Wake Forest transfer Sam Hartman.

While many outside the program believe Hartman will ultimately earn the starting job, the Notre Dame staff is approaching it as a fresh start this spring between Hartman and Buchner. Hartman, who has thrown for nearly 13,000 yards with 110 touchdowns in five seasons with Wake Forest, is far more experienced.

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