Blue and Gold Illustrated

Preseason 2016

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

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Page 32 of 99 PRESEASON 2016 33 Love is expected to back up sopho- more Shaun Crawford at nickel back, and Lyght is excited about his "reactive athleticism," a trait that helped earn him a four-star rating by Rivals out of Westchester (Ill.) Nazareth Academy. Pride Jr., meanwhile, has the pure speed — he's been clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash — to get him on the field as a freshman. DEFENSIVE LINE WILL BE A STRENGTH Notre Dame continues to seek sta- bility at all positions on defense, par- ticularly the front. Line coach Keith Gilmore spoke at media day about how his group has developed depth. "We've got quite a few guys on scholarship that have learned the system," Gilmore said. "They all bring a different skill set, and on the defensive front you're going to need everybody at some point. "It's good that we've got those numbers. Hopefully guys continue to develop, and whenever their number is called, they're ready to produce." The Irish have some big-name talent on their defensive line — particularly senior Isaac Rochell and fifth-year se- nior Jarron Jones. The hope is that those veterans, along with newcomers like former five-star prospect Daelin Hayes, can push the unit to the next level. That starts with improving each individual player, Gilmore said. "The offensive linemen are too good these days," Gilmore said. "Very few guys can just run around somebody and get a sack. They have to be technique conscientious. "Some offensive linemen are a lit- tle more explosive in their normal movements and have more of an ad- vantage. We have to do things from a schematic standpoint to keep those guys off-balance." BALL CARRIERS ARE BONDING While becoming Notre Dame's all- time leading rusher during his play- ing career from 1995-98, Autry Den- son was an elusive, instinctive runner who got the most out of his ability. Now an assistant coach in charge of perhaps the team's deepest posi- tion group, the 39-year-old is putting his own mark on the current crop of Irish ball carriers. Denson does much of that work away from the football field. "The biggest strides we take aren't on the field — they're off the field," Denson said at media day. "They spend time at my house, they spend time bowling … we spend a lot of time together. "My family and my work life are one in the same. The more time they can spend with me, seeing me as a father, a husband and all of the dif- ferent areas, the football is going to take care of itself." That formula has been effective in Denson's short time as a Notre Dame assistant. In his first year leading the running backs (2015), Denson helped guide C.J. Prosise to a breakout sea- son. Prosise finished with 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns on 156 carries, while also reeling in 28 receptions for 308 yards and one score. Sophomore Josh Adams returns after he broke a Notre Dame fresh- man record, racking up 835 rushing yards. Add senior Tarean Folston — who missed all of 2015 with a knee injury — sophomore Dexter Williams and freshman Tony Jones Jr., and the Irish have plenty of options in the backfield stable. "Our goal is the power of our unit, from the top down," explained Den- son. "Everybody has a skill set, and everybody brings value." Folston, Jones, Williams and a second freshman, Deon McIntosh, all hail from Florida, the state Den- son grew up in and now handles in recruiting. Building those relation- ships and sharing similar experiences makes coaching easier, he said. "They know me as a person, I know them, and it allows me to coach them more specifically," Denson said. "So many times, they're just seen as athletes, and they know I see them for who they are as young men. I spend just as much time building them up as young men ." ✦ • Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford on Notre Dame's plan to use two quarterbacks against Texas in the opener: "I'll be drinking a lot of coffee for the next few weeks and through the season, but you definitely spend a little more time individually with each player. Not solely from a preparation and a football standpoint, but also working through the newness of this decision and how that's going to play out. "The thing that really holds true and we remind them on a daily basis is, 'This is what's best for Notre Dame football.' We need to push forward in that, and it's supported by the fact that when both players throughout camp have been at their best, it's actually brought out the better version of the other guys, which has been fun. That's not always the case." • Associate head coach and wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock, a former defensive coordinator at Grand Valley State and Buffalo, on how opposing defenses will scheme against Notre Dame's two quarterbacks: "They've got their hands full. The similarities make them maybe similar to game plan toward, but when you break it down to the differences, you've got someone [Zaire] who's tremendous when things don't go according to plan, when things are off schedule, getting into the open field and using his legs... "Then you've got a guy [Kizer] who even if you blitz him he's going to have really nice poise in the pocket and sit in there and let things develop. Those two different styles are enough to drive you crazy." • Linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston on how Notre Dame's recruiting philosophy has changed in recent years: "It took us a while to figure out who we were, who Notre Dame was. The moment we realized that, we stopped apologizing for who we were — we're different. I'm not saying we're better than you, we're just different. Once we realized that and started to recruit that way and make decisions that way, obviously from Brian Kelly down, then that's what you've seen as a change." • Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder on teaching players how to learn the game: "It's difficult for the players to learn how to best study and learn the game, and on the flip side of it, all players learn different. Part of the coaching job is finding out what's best for a player." • Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore on freshman defensive end Daelin Hayes, a former Rivals five-star recruit: "He's more physical than I antici- pated him being. We were concerned about him when he came in having a little bit of the shoulder injury and his surgeries, but he has not let it affect him at all. "He's been very physical at the point, and that's surprised me a little bit more than I anticipated." • Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand on freshman Tommy Kraemer: "You can see so much potential in him. You just see him move and go. The thing that you can never anticipate is how he'll learn to do all the things that we're asking him to do. "Right now he's in information overload stage. He went from looking really good to struggling, just because he's thinking too much." • Tight ends coach Scott Booker on junior Tyler Luatua, who left Notre Dame in the spring but elected to return: "Tyler is a really passionate and really conscientious kid. He loves Notre Dame, and he figured in the spring how much he loved it. I'm excited about the things he's doing." — Matt Jones Quoting The Assistant Coaches

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