Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 1, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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8 OCT. 1, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI D uring Notre Dame's 3-0 start, vet- eran linebackers Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney took every snap on defense (including penalty calls): 70 versus Michigan, 99 against Ball State and 73 versus Vanderbilt. At Wake Forest Sept. 22, they would face an offense that led the na- tion in plays run per game with 102. Come November, they will face two other teams in the top five nationally in that category. Syracuse, which led the nation last year in plays run per game, and Northwestern. How will they hold up? This is a fair inquiry to ponder be- cause the month of November has been a bugaboo for the Notre Dame team the last five years with a 9-12 record, including losses last year at Miami (41-8) and Stanford (38-20). Last year, head coach Brian Kelly was taken aback by the fatigue factor at the regular-season finish line. "It looked like they were in biology class," Kelly said later of preparing for Stanford in 2017. "… There was no juice, there was no excitement. And they were tired … It's a long year, and I've got to do a better job of pacing that out for them." The theme of "pace" comes in with Coney and Tranquill, one of the na- tion's top tandems at linebacker. However, they have been needed on the field every play for two reasons. First, all three games came down to the final possession, and the best players need to be out there. Second, no position on the group has a more conspicuous drop-off from starters to backups than linebacker. S o p h o m o re J o rd a n G e n m a r k Heath, Tranquill's backup at Buck linebacker, played safety last year and is adjusting, and so is freshman Shayne Simon, who is cross-training at rover. Another freshman, Bo Bauer, is behind Coney at Mike linebacker. For now, the risk of inserting green figures does not outweigh the reward or comfort level of keeping Coney and Tranquill in the action. "They get the rest of their career to rest," Kelly said. "They're young. I think we do a great job with tak- ing care of our players, making sure they're getting treatment. "We might be making a little bit too much of how many reps they're get- ting. They're in great shape physically. … It's football season. You gotta play. If we can find a couple plays off here or there, we'll try, but it's all hands on deck. I want to keep the good players on the field as long as I can." The famous old Fram oil filer com- mercial harped on the theme "you can pay me now, or you can pay me later" when it came to car engine breakdown in the long run if proper maintenance was not maintained in the short term. However, as a coaching staff, Kelly and company also go by the WIN acronym: What's Important Now. Tranquill said he relies heavily on ice and Epsom salt baths, rehab, sleep and even a new float tank installed to aid recovery. Plus, he and Coney — along with nose guard Jerry Tillery — already have their undergraduate degrees, so the class load is lighter. "Te'von and I both came back to win a national championship, and we real- ize that we have a lot of young guys behind us," Tranquill said. "If that means carrying the snap volume now while they learn, we've got to do that. "We'd rather be out there 100 plays than to lose football games." He believes last year's collapse was not so much about wear and tear. "It was probably guys losing focus, watching too much of the College Football Playoff prime-time show, see- ing us in the top four and just losing focus on the process and the things that have gotten us to where we're at," Tranquill said. "And that lack of focus and lack of humility, to be quite frank, lends itself to underperformance and not playing well on the road at Miami, on the road at Stanford. "It's just a matter of locking in for 12 weeks, not seven or eight. Every- one is sore in November. Miami was sore, Stanford was sore. Everyone has the accumulation effect. "I like to think it's an even playing field. I like to think the team that can focus in on their job is going to be the team that can execute." ✦ UNDER THE DOME ALL IN A DAY'S WORK Linebackers Drue Tranquill and Te'von Coney deal with high volume of snaps Tranquill and Coney played all 242 of Notre Dame's defensive snaps during the first three weeks of the season. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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