By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND -- Jon Tenuta, defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech the past six seasons, joined Notre Dame's staff Thursday as assistant head coach for defense.
Tenuta, who replaces Bill Lewis, will work with defensive coordinator Corwin Brown to try to improve a Notre Dame unit that finished 39th in the nation in total defense, giving up 357 yards a game as the Irish finished 3-9. It was the best performance by the Irish defense since 2003.
"Corwin and Jon had numerous conversations on how they would work together and they both agreed this would be a great fit," Irish coach Charlie Weis said in a statement released Thursday evening.
Georgia Tech finished 20th in the nation in defense last season, giving up 330 yards a game. The Yellow Jackets led the nation in sacks with 48, including nine in a season-opening 33-3 win over Notre Dame. It was the worst season-opening loss in Notre Dame history as the Yellow Jackets forced three fumbles, six three-and-outs and held the Irish to 122 yards total offense.
Tenuta's defenses are known for their aggressive, blitzing style, and Weis had talked each of the past two seasons before Notre Dame's games against Georgia Tech about how much he admired Tenuta.
"Jon's track record speaks for itself. He is a coach with an immense amount of defensive knowledge and will undoubtedly help our program," Weis said.
Tenuta said he was looking forward to working with Weis and Brown.
"It's an opportunity to coach at one of the greatest traditional powerhouse programs in college football and to work with one of the brightest minds in the game," he said. "I love coaching defense and Corwin is a very bright young coach who has a bright future ahead of him. He's a great guy who I'm looking forward to working closely with daily. My main goal is to do whatever I can to help the defense become the best in the country and help return Notre Dame to where it belongs."
Tenuta had been a candidate to replace Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech after he was fired, but left the school after Paul Johnson was hired as coach. Tenuta served as interim coach for Georgia Tech in a 40-28 loss to Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Tenuta, who starts Feb. 18, replaces Lewis, who will have one hip replaced on Feb. 8 and the other in May. Lewis said he initially planned to try to stay on as coach, "the more I thought about it, though, I thought this was a selfish plan."
Lewis was an assistant head coach for defense at Notre Dame the past three years as well as defensive backs coach. He will remain at Notre Dame as manager of athletics community relations.
Weis had initially said he would not announce any coaching changes until after signing day Wednesday for high school recruits, but announced the move Thursday.
"Due to rumors swirling around, we felt it was best to address this right now," he said.
Weis plans to talk about his staff at a news conference Feb. 8.