Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2016 Issue

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

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Page 57 of 133

BY LOU SOMOGYI T he overall performance of the 2015 Notre Dame defense did not live up to anyone's expec- tations within the operation. Especially frustrating in that was sel- dom does a team have such a veteran look. Defensive coordinator Brian Van- Gorder 's unit last year featured mainly senior and junior starters at every position other than nose guard, which rotated freshman Jerry Tillery and sophomore Daniel Cage. This year the Irish have more youth and "developmental" players along the two deep, including Tillery shift- ing to graduated All-American Shel- don Day's three-technique position, and sophomore Asmar Bilal moving from Sam to Will linebacker in an effort to fill the void left by Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith turning pro. Even early enrollee freshman Devin Studstill took most of the reps with the first team at free safety over senior Max Redfield. Still, VanGorder believes the combination of players who have learned his system the past three years and the influx of some rising youth could collectively enhance the defense that lost six of the 11 starters from 2015. "We may be a little bit more devel- opmental, but you can't forget that in that first year we were taking Jaylon Smith and moving him from Sam to Will, and he was very uncomfortable there in the beginning," VanGorder said. "We're much further ahead than we were two years ago relative to our depth, relative to snaps and experience with some guys, and ob- viously the experience in the system should help." DEFENSIVE LINE Top Story: Coaches always speak about the hope of building a legit eight- to 10-man rotation, and it could SPRING SUMMARY & OVERVIEW: DEFENSE The unit trades experience in 2015 for more depth in 2016

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