Mike Denbrock, who helped lead the University of Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the College Football Playoffs this year, has been named LSU’s offensive coordinator, head coach Brian Kelly announced on Sunday.
Denbrock’s arrival at LSU will be a reunion of sorts with Kelly as the two have coached together for 14 years, winning 115 games during that span. Denbrock spent seven years (1992-98) on Kelly’s staff at Grand Valley State, followed by seven seasons (2010-16) at Notre Dame.
“I’ve coached with Mike for many years. He’s one of the best offensive minds in the game, and we share an established trust, respect, and understanding that will help us maximize the talent of our players immediately,” Kelly said. “His offenses have maintained a consistent level of excellence throughout his entire career, and he understands how to develop players at every position. I’m excited for him to join our staff and elevate our program.”
In five years as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator, Denbrock was part of 48 wins, four bowl appearances, including the 2021 CFP Semifinals, and two American Athletic Conference Championships.
He also developed Desmond Ridder, the two-time AAC Offensive Player of the Year, into one of the top quarterbacks in college football history. In four years, Ridder accounted for over 12,000 yards and 116 TDs and ranks third all-time in college football history with 44 wins as a starting quarterback.
A veteran of 30-plus years in the coaching profession, Denbrock has worked as both an offensive and defensive coordinator and coached every position on the offensive side of the ball.
In 2021, he was named a semifinalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, as Cincinnati went 13-0 in the regular season for the first time in school history, won its second straight American Athletic Conference Championship and advanced to the College Football Playoffs Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.
Denbrock’s 2021 offense set school records for touchdowns (70) and points scored (516), and the Bearcats led the AAC and ranked among the nation’s leaders in points per game (36.9) and yards per play (6.7).
Along with Ridder, other 2021 offensive standouts for Cincinnati included all-conference running back Jerome Ford, who was joined on the All-AAC First Team by a trio of offensive linemen – Dylan O’Quinn, Lorenz Metz and Jake Renfro.
Ridder developed into the school’s all-time leader in yards and touchdown passes under Denbrock, finishing his Cincinnati career as the all-time leader in total touchdowns (116 TDs – 87 passing, 28 rushing, one receiving) and total offensive yards (12,427) in the AAC.
Ridder had one of the finest seasons ever by a Bearcat in 2021, passing for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns, while Ford proved to be one of the nation’s top running backs as he rushed for 1,319 yards and a school-record-tying 19 touchdowns.
In 2020, Denbrock had five offensive players collect All-AAC honors. The team ranked 19th in total offense, 18th in team passing efficiency and 15th in scoring offense.
Before coming to UC, Denbrock worked under Kelly at Notre Dame from 2010-16 in a variety of roles. He coached tight ends (2010-11), outside receivers and was the passing game coordinator (2012-13), served as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach (2014) and was the associate head coach and wide receivers coach (2015-16). During his second stint with the Fighting Irish, Denbrock coached in six bowl games, including the 2012 BCS National Championship.
Known as a dynamic recruiter, Denbrock is a strong offensive mind who had success as the Irish’s primary play caller for two seasons. The offense averaged 443 yards per game and close to seven yards per play over a 25-game span.
He acted as Notre Dame offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in 2014, with the Irish scoring at least 27 points a school-record 11 times in 2014 and averaging 33.0 points and 444.6 yards per game.
He coached 2011 Mackey Award finalist and first-team All-American Tyler Eifert to one of the best seasons ever by a Notre Dame tight end. Eifert, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection who played eight seasons in the NFL with the Bengals and Jaguars, ranked second on the Irish with 63 receptions for 803 yards and five TDs in 2011. Those marks were Notre Dame single-season records for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end and led all FBS tight ends in 2011 in both receptions and receiving yards.
Denbrock mentored at Notre Dame in 2010 future two-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph, who collected 28 receptions for 328 yards and three touchdowns in six games for the Irish before a hamstring injury ended his season. Rudolph has enjoyed an 11-season professional career with the Vikings and Giants.
Before his time at Notre Dame, Denbrock spent the 2009 season as the associate head coach at Indiana State, and he was the offensive line coach at Washington from 2005-08.
He coached offensive tackles and tight ends during his first stint at Notre Dame from 2002-04 – the Irish offense produced 1,000-yard rushers in 2002 (Ryan Grant) and 2003 (Julius Jones) – and he worked with offensive tackles and tight ends at Stanford in 2001, developing Kwame Harris (2003 first-round NFL Draft pick) into one of the top offensive tackles in the Pac-10.
Denbrock was an assistant under Kelly at Grand Valley State from 1992-98, coaching the quarterbacks (1992-95) before moving to the defensive side of the ball as coordinator and linebackers coach (1996-98).
Between 1992-95, Grand Valley State’s offense rated first in the Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference in both total and scoring offense each season. He guided a GVSU defensive unit that ranked among the nation’s top 30 in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense each season.
Denbrock’s first full-time coaching assignment came in 1990-91 as the tackles and tight ends coach at Illinois State after working as a graduate assistant at Michigan State for two years, working with quarterbacks and receivers in 1988 and offensive line in 1989.
He broke into coaching as a graduate assistant with the offensive tackles and tight ends from 1986-87 at his alma mater, Grand Valley State. Denbrock was a tight end at GVSU from 1982-85, earning a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1987.
Denbrock and his wife Dianne have a son, Chance.