Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 8, 2014 Issue

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

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Page 33 of 108

BY ANDREW OWENS W h e n N o t re D a m e c o m - menced fall practice in Au- gust, a number of noticeable differences in its defensive approach emerged under new coor- dinator Brian VanGorder, but perhaps none more than the secondary's new- found aggressive style. Irish defensive backs are playing closer to the line of scrimmage and utilizing press coverage to a degree not seen in South Bend for years. Con- tact between cornerbacks and wide receivers is inevitable. "The system right now allows these guys to be flexible and be more ag- gressive, which I think young kids by nature is part of their mentality," said defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, who was quick to note the merits of the previous system as well. "Being able to get up into a wide receiver 's face and challenge them in press cov- erage is something these young guys enjoy and like. "The system is about pressure. It's not just pressure from the corners be- ing up in man-to-man in press. The whole system is aggressive in how we play it." Even without lockdown junior cor- nerback KeiVarae Russell — out since Aug. 15 due to the academic fraud investigation — Cooks said Notre Dame is deeper at the position now than in any of his previous four years in South Bend. With the addition of Florida transfer Cody Riggs — a "free agent" pickup as Cooks likes to say — along with talented sophomores Cole Luke and Devin Butler, freshman Nick Watkins and improved performance from senior Josh Atkinson, the Irish should be well equipped against most receiving corps they face. "I think [the system fits the person- nel]," Cooks said. "I think we've got corners that are aggressive. We've got PRESSURE POINTS New defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder's approach has created a more physical, aggressive style of attack

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