Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 9, 2013 Issue

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

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Page 32 of 104

A Chorus Of Voices Notre Dame's defense will take on a different tone without a singular leader this season A By Dan Murphy t the start of each Notre Dame practice the team gathers as a group near midfield. Head coach Brian Kelly selects one player to stand at the center of the tightly packed circle and get his teammates ready for practice. Orchestrating the crescendo of the team "breakdown" is a reward for a player's hard work or energy or leadership, and the honors typically go to a different guy each day. This August, Kelly had no shortage of options from which to choose. The year's version of the Irish, especially on defense, is missing a torchbearer. There is no singular "man out front," as Kelly likes to say. There is no lone lightning rod for media attention or an answer man who provides advice for all of his teammates. The 2013 defense will look different than the group that finished second nationally in points allowed a year ago, but Notre Dame's coaches and players don't think that means they'll look worse. Kelly made that clear in his official introduction of this year's team. "You'll see a team that has a different personality than last year," he said in his opening statement at media day Aug. 22, the date that more or less marks the end of fall camp and the beginning of regular-season preparation. It's impossible to talk about last season's Irish defense without mentioning Manti Te'o. His inspired, unprecedented, dramatically fueled senior season became the overwhelming identity of the unit when the parallel ascents of Te'o and Notre Dame started to capture national headlines in the fall. Coaches described Te'o's personality and leadership style as bold and dominant. He was a star, and his teammates were happy to play their roles. "We don't have that superstar so to speak, that vocal leader," assistant coach Kerry Cooks said. "Those guys are rare. We were fortunate to have one for a while. I think now that that voice is not there, you can see some of those other guys that will step up and be vocal." Leadership needs to be groomed. It

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