A veteran coach whose upbeat de-meanor and attention to detail has proven to be a formula for success, running backs and special teams coach Buzz Preston is in his third season at Notre Dame.
During two seasons coaching the Fighting Irish running backs, Preston has molded a group that has produced 1,000-yard rushers in both seasons as Ryan Grant (1,085 yards in 2002) and Julius Jones (1,268 yards in 2003) compiled two of the top 10 rushing seasons in school history. Jones also rushed for more than 200 yards in a game three times in 2003, including a school-record 262-yard performance against Pittsburgh, 221 yards against Navy and 218 versus Stanford. In 2002, Grant gained 190 yards on the ground at Air Force. On special teams, the Fighting Irish have returned three punts and one kickoff for touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Preston made an immediate impact in both the running game and on special teams in when he joined the Irish in 2002. Notre Dame rushed for 1,821 yards that season and followed up with 1,887 rushing yards in 2003. Over the last two seasons, Irish running backs have accumulated a total of nine 100-yard rushing performances.
On special teams, the Irish have been explosive and opportunistic under Preston's direction, as they have created numerous scoring opportunities over the last two seasons.
The 2003 special teams were highlighted by pressure placekicking by Nicholas Setta and D.J. Fitzpatrick. Both kickers nailed pressure game-winning kicks to seal victories over Washington State and Navy, respectively. Setta capped a five-field goal outing with a 40-yarder to knock off WSU. Fitzpatrick, who took over for Setta in the season's fifth game because of an injury, made a 40-yarder as time expired to beat Navy and also made four field goals in a win over Brigham Young. The Irish also ranked 21st nationally in punt returns (12.23 avg.).
Preston's 2002 special teams unit was exceptional. Vontez Duff ranked eighth in the nation in kick returns (27.68) and returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns while kickers Nicholas Setta and Joey Hildbold were among the best at their respective positions. Setta set a Kickoff Classic and Notre Dame record with five field goals, including a 51-yarder, against Maryland, while Hildbold was a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award given to the nation's best punter.
Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Preston coached running backs for three seasons at Stanford under Tyrone Willingham from 1999-2001.
Preston led Stanford running game to new heights in 2001 as, for the first time in the history of the program, the Cardinal led the Pac-10 in rushing at 201.0 yards per game. The Cardinal rushed for 2,211 total yards and 27 touchdowns. The backfield of tailback Brian Allen (2,117 career yards), tailback Kerry Carter (1,515 yards) and fullback Casey Moore (613 yards) provided the Cardinal with the finest group in the Pac-10.
In its first season under Preston's direction, the Cardinal running game more than doubled its yardage output from the previous year. After rushing for 831 yards on 346 carries and averaging 2.4 yards a run in 1998, the Cardinal ground game amassed 1,690 yards on 480 carries and a 4.1 per carry average in 1999.
A native of Los Angeles, Preston was the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Nevada-Las Vegas in 1998 before heading to Stanford. While at UNLV, Preston helped develop the top two receivers in Rebels' history, while improving the team's rushing offense by 45 yards per game.
Prior to his stay at UNLV, he was the running backs coach at Washington State University from 1994-97. During his four-year stint at Washington State, Preston was part of a coaching staff that guided the Cougars to the Pac-10 Conference championship in 1997 and its first Rose Bowl appearance in 67 years. The Cougars offense broke the Pac-10 record for most total yards in a season. One of Preston's pupils, running back Mike Black, gained more than 1,100 yards rushing and was named to the all-Pac-10 team. The Cougars finished 10-2 overall and ranked ninth in the nation.
In his first season in Pullman in 1994, the Cougars went 8-4, defeated Baylor in the Alamo Bowl and finished ranked 19th in the nation.
Preston coached at his alma mater, Hawaii, from 1987-93. He coached special teams, receivers and defensive backs for the Rainbows. Preston's seven-year stay at Hawaii included leading the Rainbows to the first two bowl games in school history and the first Western Athletic Conference title ever for Hawaii. Preston's accomplishments included coaching two All-America kickoff return specialists in Jeff Sydner and Larry Kahu-Smith and three of the top six receivers in Hawaii history. In 1989, Hawaii participated in its first post-season bowl game, losing to Michigan State in the Aloha Bowl. The Rainbows won the WAC championship in 1992, going on to defeat Illinois in the Holiday Bowl.
After receiving a bachelor's degree in speech from Hawaii in 1982, and serving as a graduate assistant at Washington in 1983, Preston's first full-time coaching assignment came at Southern Illinois University where he coached receivers and the defensive backfield from 1984-86. During his three seasons in Carbondale, SIU's defense improved dramatically -- from eighth to second in the conference -- while nine of his players received all-conference recognition.
Preston was a graduate assistant at Hawaii in 1980-81 and a part-time coach with the Rainbows in 1982. During his career, Preston has been a guest coach for the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins.
A 1975 graduate of Banning High School in Los Angeles, Preston was a two-year letterman at Hawaii in 1978-79. Born Nov. 9, 1956, Preston and his wife, Audrey, have three children: Amber, Evan and Quinn. They reside in Granger.
|1983||Washington (Aloha Bowl)||Graduate Assistant|
|1984||Southern Illinois||Wide Receivers|
|1985||Southern Illinois||Wide Receivers|
|1986||Southern Illinois||Defensive Backs|
|1989||Hawaii (Aloha Bowl)||Special Teams/WRs/DBs|
|1992||Hawaii (Holiday Bowl)||Special Teams/WRs/DBs|
|1994||Washington State (Alamo Bowl)||Running Backs|
|1995||Washington State||Running Backs|
|1996||Washington State||Running Backs|
|1997||Washington State (Rose Bowl)||Running Backs|
|1998||UNLV||Assist. Head Coach/Offensive Coord./QBs|
|1999||Stanford (Rose Bowl)||Running Backs|
|2001||Stanford (Seattle Bowl)||Running Backs|
|2002||Notre Dame (Gator Bowl)||Running Backs|
|2003||Notre Dame||Running Backs|