Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 23, 2015 Issue

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

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Page 34 of 113

CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL defensive lineman is responsible for one gap. In a traditional 3‑4, the three down linemen are responsible for two gaps, which is meant to occupy blockers while freeing up the linebackers. Notre Dame wants to do the same with its own linebackers, but it does so in a dif‑ ferent fashion. The Irish defense will ask its defensive linemen to slant into a gap. Although making plays in the backfield is always encouraged, the linemen are not neces‑ sarily trying to penetrate and get up the field. Each lineman is responsible for getting into the gap while also maintain‑ ing gap integrity, which prevents him from getting moved out of the run lane by an offensive line. That often happens when a defensive lineman is too focused on penetration. The objective out of these looks is to occupy all the gaps, push the of‑ fensive line backwards and leave the running back with no open lanes to run through. Key to success out of this look are the linebackers making proper reads inside and for the deep safeties to aggressively fit down into the box to clean up the back should he get past the front players. ZONE PRESSURE Notre Dame likes to bring zone pres‑ sures from its three‑down looks. Zone pressure means a defense is able to bring five pass rushers while maintaining the ability to play zone defense in the back, instead of utilizing a more aggressive man coverage. When Notre Dame lines up it has seven defenders close to the box (four defensive linemen and three lineback‑ ers). From that look the defense will rush up to five players, but the combi‑ nation of which players come changes, depending on the call. At times all three linemen, the standup end and one of the inside line‑ backers will blitz. At other times the standup end will drop into coverage, or a defensive end will drop into coverage, and an additional linebacker or a safety will blitz. At the snap, the defensive linemen will slant or twist in a way to free up one of the blitzing linebackers. In a zone blitz — at least the way Notre Dame runs this type of pressure — the linemen are often not responsible for actually pressuring the quarterback. Their first objective is to occupy blockers in hopes of creating a run‑through lane for a line‑ backer or safety. This season, the linebacker most of‑ ten used in these pressures has been the Mike, which is the position cur‑ rently manned by fifth‑year senior Joe Schmidt. The linemen will continue to power their way into the backfield, but their pressure often comes later in the play. VanGorder prefers to mix up the sec‑ ondary looks as well. His goal is to dis‑ guise whether his defense is playing man or zone coverage, which in theory makes it difficult for the offense to assess whether a zone pressure is coming or if a base four‑man pressure is coming. ✦ Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at

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