We now know who will be taking the reins of the Cincinnati Bearcats offense next season. Sure, those reins are pretty threadbare and filled with bowl weevils after the disaster of 2016, but they can become the finely crafted ones they once were and Mike Denbrock will be the man who will try to begin that process.
Reports surfaced last week that Denbrock was going to be brought in as offensive coordinator under new head coach Luke Fickell and although a formal announcement has not been made by UC, its all but a done deal now as it looks like Notre Dame is already replacing Denbrock with Memphis’ Chip Long.
So now its time to get to know the next offensive coordinator of the Bearcats and in doing so, hopefully find out that he is not just Zac Taylor in disguise.
Denbrock first got into the college coaching world as a graduate assistant at his Alma mater, Grand Valley State, where he played tight end from 1982 to 1985. After a year with GVS, he became a graduate assistant at Michigan State before taking over his first positional group as offensive tackles/tight ends coach at Illinois State in 1990.
He would return to GVS from 1992 to 1998 where he served as offensive coordinator for three years and defensive coordinator for the other three.
He transitioned out of the college ranks and was an assistant head coach/defensive coordinator in the Arena Football League for the Buffalo Destroyers from 1999 to 2000.
The dip into professional football didn’t last long as by 2001 he took a job at Stanford coaching offensive tackles and tight ends. He would fill the same role at Notre Dame from 2002 to 2004 and then head out West to coach Washington State’s offensive line from 2005 to 2008.
A quick stop at Indiana State as an associate head coach was his final gig before he took hold as a permanent member of Brian Kelly’s staff at Notre Dame. He started as tight ends coach, then passing game coordinator until becoming offensive coordinator and associate head coach.
As the primary play caller for the Irish’s offense the last few seasons, Denbrock has overseen a group that has averaged roughly 443 yards and 34 points per game. The Irish have also been ranked No. 20 (2014), No. 7 (2015) and No. 35 (2016) in offensive S&P+ rating during the last three years. This past season, as Notre Dame suffered through a 4-8 campaign (sound familiar?), it still managed to average 417.6 yards and 30.9 points per game. Replicating that at UC would be an incredible jump from 2016 when the Bearcats set lowly standards offensively, scoring 19.3 points per game while accumulating 374.1 yards on average.
On an individual basis, Denbrock has coached some rather impressive offensive playmakers, including wide receiver Will Fuller as well as tight ends Tyler Eifert and Kyle Rudolph. Seeing what he can do with Kahlil Lewis and Devin Gray is something to look forward to.
In all, Denbrock is a proven offensive mind that has been able to produce success in South Bend. He will have his work cut out for him at UC, but the fact that the Bearcats lured him from ND must mean he saw enough of a framework to rebuild.