Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2014 Edition

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

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Page 63 of 126

BY DAN MURPHY C hange occurred at every level of Notre Dame's defense this spring — from the man running it to the basic warm-up drills he uses to start practice each day. New personnel shifted into new positions. Some little-used veterans were given a new chance to make an impact. And all of them crammed to learn as much of their NFL-sized playbook as pos- sible in 15 spring practices. If there's one theme that covers the large volume of change that occurred on the Irish defense this spring it is the move from size to speed. Notre Dame's depth chart has slimmed down at virtually every position on the field from where it was in 2013. In some cases the shrinking is out of necessity. In others it is by design, to try to keep up with the accelerating offenses growing more common on Notre Dame's schedule. For one rea- son or another, change is happening fast. "You never can be big enough and fast enough. You start there," defen- sive coordinator Brian VanGorder said. "That's the easy way to say it. But players come in different profiles. If they have explosion and suddenness and speed, they can play this game." THE MAINSTAYS The participation list for Irish games this fall figures to be longer than nor- mal. Notre Dame's new scheme on defense will get more players involved in more places than any group during head coach Brian Kelly's first four sea- sons in South Bend. There are at least two players, though, that were almost always in the lineup during spring drills. For very different reasons, line- backers Joe Schmidt and Jaylon Smith can't come off the field. "Joe Schmidt is the leader on our defense. There's no one probably that has the kind of leadership and un- derstanding of our defense than Joe has right now," Kelly said following the Blue-Gold Game. "His knowledge base in terms of getting people lined up and having them execute what we YOUNG AND RESTLESS A youthful Notre Dame defense has made a bevy of changes during this year's spring practices

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