Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2014

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

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BY ANDREW OWENS A t times early in the spring, new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder 's booming voice would echo with a player 's number instead of a name when call‑ ing out directions. After all, he had only been on campus a few weeks before the Irish strapped on their helmets for the start of spring practice. While VanGorder knows everyone's name and jersey number now that he's more than seven months into the job, Irish fans might feel the same way this season as VanGorder did last spring. With few returning starters and plenty of substitution packages installed into the mix, it might take some time to as‑ sociate names with numbers. It's been more than 20 years since VanGorder and Brian Kelly worked to‑ gether, but the Notre Dame head coach said his assistant has remained the same in a number of ways. "We are certainly going to find our‑ selves in a position where we are go‑ ing to have to move more players onto the field," Kelly said. "You're going to see us playing multiple players, uti‑ lizing their strengths. And one of the things that Brian brings to the table is a great deal of experience in utilizing the strength of those singular players, those individual players. "What Brian does really well is he looks at a particular player and says, 'I'm going to put him in a position where he can use his specific ability' — and this is where Brian and I have always been on the same page. … For me, offensively, it's always been about the player, not the play — and it's the same thing for Brian. It's always about the player, not the front." That's a trait Notre Dame will need to take advantage of this fall. With de‑ fensive linemen Louis Nix III and Ste‑ phon Tuitt, outside linebacker Prince Shembo, cornerback Bennett Jackson and others having departed following last season, VanGorder's move to a 4‑3 ALL HANDS ON DECK With new faces, a new scheme and a new coach directing the unit, Notre Dame's defense is relying on a number of players to contribute this year

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