Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2014 Issue

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

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Page 53 of 119

BY DAN MURPHY A slimmer Notre Dame defense took the field during the first week of March to start a new era under coordinator Brian VanGorder. The Irish coaching staff spent their first four years in South Bend building their foundation with a big, strong and deep defensive front. Under VanGorder, the scales of focus are beginning to tip toward the players further from the ball. For the first time since head coach Brian Kelly's first season with the Irish, his team will have more star power in the secondary than in the trenches. The loss of potential first- round NFL Draft picks Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III puts a dent in size and depth on the defensive line. College football's general evolution toward speed has changed the way Notre Dame thinks about the person- nel it is putting on the field. Both be- cause it has to and because it wants to, Notre Dame's priorities on defense this spring are shifting to the back. "Our corners, our safeties, all of them will be very much involved in what we do defensively," Kelly said. "Not that they are not involved in ev- ery defense, but they will be very ac- tive in what we do defensively." Notre Dame has stockpiled bodies in its secondary during the past cou- ple recruiting classes. It has more than enough capable bodies to stay busy and stay fresh. Kelly said Notre Dame plans on rotating as many four corner- backs through its lineup on a regular basis and at least that many at safety. Junior KeiVarae Russell, the team's most experienced starter and a poten- BACK HEAVY Notre Dame's new defense will shift its focus to the secondary Cornerback Cole Luke played in 13 games as a freshman last season and will see the field often in 2014 as part of a deep Notre Dame secondary. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME MEDIA RELATIONS

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