By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND -- Notre Dame tried Wednesday to improve its dismal running game, hiring former Cleveland Browns offensive assistant coach Frank Verducci as offensive line coach.
Verducci has 19 years of coaching experience in college football, spent two seasons as an assistant with the Browns. He also has coached with Cincinnati (1999-2001, tight ends), Dallas (2002, offensive line) and Buffalo (2004-05, offensive line) in the NFL. He was offensive line coach at Iowa from 1989-98.
The 51-year-old Verducci replaces John Latina, who for the past four years was Notre Dame's assistant head coach for offense and offensive line coach.
"Frank provides an excellent background on both the offensive line and run game in general from two perspectives, having coached several years in professional football and at the Division I level -- predominantly in the Big Ten," Irish coach Charlie Weis said.
Notre Dame has posted its three worst rushing seasons in school history under Weis, rushing for a record-low 75 yards a game in 2007, 110 yards a game this past season and 126 yards a game in 2006. The previous record low was 127 yards a game in 2004, the year before Weis arrived.
The Irish went 7-6 this past season, rushing for at least 100 yards in five of their seven wins.
Notre Dame also has had problems protecting the quarterback. In 2007, the Irish gave up an NCAA-record 58 sacks. This past season they ranked 45th, giving up 22 sacks in 13 games.
Verducci said he is looking forward to returning to college football.
"The difference between the pro and college levels is the development you are able to see as they transform from young men when they enter to mature men when they graduate. I can't wait to get started," he said.
Weis still has two coaching vacancies to fill. Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood became head coach at Miami of Ohio and defensive line coach Jappy Oliver left last week.