LSU Football: Brian Kelly once demoted Tigers’ new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock

Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports /

LSU Football head coach Brian Kelly announced on Sunday that Mike Denbrock will serve as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator in 2022.

Denbrock had been the Cincinnati Bearcats’ offensive coordinator since 2017.

This past season, Denbrock helped lead Cincinnati to the No.11 scoring offense in the nation.

On paper, this hire makes a lot of sense. Denbrock and Kelly have worked together off and on for parts of three decades. They’re intimately familiar with each other. And Denbrock had quite a bit of success with the Bearcats over the last few seasons.

There’s one thing about this hire, however, that is a bit….strange.

Brian Kelly once demoted Mike Denbrock at Notre Dame

Denbrock joined Kelly’s staff at Notre Dame in 2010 as the Irish’s tight ends coach. In 2012, Denbrock moved to wide receivers. In 2014, Denbrock was promoted to offensive coordinator.

If you simply look at Denbrock’s Wikipedia resumé, it would appear that he was demoted after the 2014 season. Denbrock was listed as Notre Dame’s assistant head coach/wide receivers coach in 2015, while Mike Sanford Jr was listed as the offensive coordinator.

In reality, Kelly just wanted to bring another voice to the table. Sanford received the offensive coordinator title, but Denbrock still called plays.

“There has to be both of those guys (Sanford and Denbrock) working together, but Mike Denbrock was physically calling the plays,” said Kelly in 2016 (via

Denbrock wasn’t demoted after 2014. However, he was demoted after the 2016 season, in which Notre Dame went 4-8.

Kelly stripped Denbrock of his play-calling duties after 2016 (according to multiple reports), which led to Denbrock leaving Notre Dame to become the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati.

Obviously, the relationship between Denbrock and Kelly wasn’t fractured — otherwise, they wouldn’t be reuniting at LSU. But it’s still odd that Kelly hired an offensive coordinator that he once stripped of play-calling duties.

We’re definitely going to trust Kelly on this one — he’s a proven head coach that’s had a ridiculous amount of success in his career. But I’m still very interested to see how this hire plays out.

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Will Denbrock call plays this year at LSU? Or will Kelly help in that process as he often did at Notre Dame? Those are questions that I can’t wait to hear answered when LSU hits the field for spring practice in a couple of months.