Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 19, 2016

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

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 20 of 55 SEPT. 19, 2016 21 N otre Dame's secondary was one of the major question marks en- tering the 2016 season, and the dismissal of starting free safety Max Redfield Aug. 21 only created more uncertainty. Despite the concerns, hope re- mained that the inexperienced sec- ondary could get the job done. In the season-opening loss to Texas, though, the Irish defensive backs struggled mightily against both the run and pass. Notre Dame allowed a 72-yard scoring reception to the Longhorns, and a blown coverage led to a 68- yard gain that set up another touch- down. If Notre Dame wants to get back on track defensively, the sec- ondary must provide more produc- tion and consistent play. BACK TO BASICS For all of the handwringing about the defensive schemes employed by coordinator Brian VanGorder, it was the "little things" that proved most costly against Texas. Junior safety Drue Tranquill made a basic coverage mistake that simply cannot happen. Sophomore corner- back Nick Crawford did not employ the footwork he was taught, and that allowed Texas sophomore wide re- ceiver John Burt to run by him for the 72-yard touchdown. Sixth-year senior safety Avery Sebastian was out of position far too often and his tackling was poor. The newcomers were not the only culprits. On Texas' first touchdown, senior and 27-game starter Cole Luke lost Texas wide receiver Jacorey War- rick when he looked back to find the football. Luke did not locate the ball, and when he turned back he allowed Warrick to fade to the football. If the Notre Dame secondary play- ers can simply tackle well and ex- ecute basic assignments quick im- provements will be made. GET DEVIN STUDSTILL INTO THE LINEUP Sebastian had a rough game against Texas, missing a number of key tackles and struggling in cover- age. He is still showing the effects of two season-ending lower body inju- ries that sapped him of much of his athleticism and speed. Sebastian got the start largely due to his experience and grasp of the Irish defense. In order to get better production from the position, Notre Dame needs to find a way to get freshman Devin Studstill into the lineup. Studstill made his first career start against Nevada. He is a far supe- rior athlete to Sebastian, showing off more range in the run game and bet- ter coverage skills. With Studstill in the lineup, Notre Dame will have a defensive back more capable of mak- ing impact plays on the back end, giving VanGorder more coverage flexibility. RETURN OF NICK WATKINS Not having junior cornerback Nick Watkins for the matchup with Texas proved costly. Watkins was expected to start at left cornerback, but with him out sophomore Shaun Crawford was thrust into the lineup. Crawford is also the team's nickel back. When Crawford moved inside to the nickel position, sophomore corner Nick Coleman stepped into the lineup. Coleman began fall camp as the team's fourth corner, but he was often matched up against Texas' top receiver Burt. When Coleman struggled against Texas, the Irish were forced to bump Crawford back outside, inserting freshman Julian Love into the nickel position. Ideally, Notre Dame would like to get better cornerback production so that it can keep Crawford inside. Watkins is expected to return from his arm injury very soon, and his presence in the lineup would allow Crawford to stay inside at nickel. It also gives Notre Dame a corner better suited for its aggressive press coverages. FRESHMEN NEED TO GET CAUGHT UP Texas gave Notre Dame a lot of problems with its speed. Looking down the road, teams like Michigan State, Syracuse, North Carolina State, Stanford, Virginia Tech and USC could present similar issues for the Irish. Adding more speed and play- making ability into the secondary would provide a major boost for the Irish defense. Notre Dame's freshman class is loaded with talented players that fit that bill. Studstill has already stepped into the lineup, and Love has already made his presence felt. Getting other members of the freshman class involved could help alleviate some of the speed concerns Notre Dame could face against the better opponents. Safety Jalen Elliott is a highly ath- letic and has already emerged as a two-deep player for the Irish. Cor- nerbacks Donte Vaughn and Troy Pride Jr. are also athletic, and Pride might be Notre Dame's fastest de- fensive back. The sooner Notre Dame can work them into the lineup, the better its secondary will be moving forward. ✦ Secondary Improvements Are Needed CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Getting freshman safety Devin Studstill into the lineup will help improve the Fighting Irish defen- sive backfield. PHOTO BY ANDREW IVINS

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Blue and Gold Illustrated - Sept. 19, 2016