Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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Page 20 of 55 OCT. 10, 2016 21 N otre Dame head coach Brian Kelly decided after the team's 38‑35 loss to Duke that defen‑ sive coordinator Brian VanGorder was no longer the man to fix the fail‑ ing defense. VanGorder was fired the morning after the Duke loss, and re‑ placed by former defensive analyst Greg Hudson. Kelly said that replacing Van‑ Gorder will not be the only change on defense. "We've made the changes that I felt were appropriate to start to move us in that direction," Kelly said, referring to his team's need to start winning. "We will continue to make the appropriate changes necessary to get this football team to the point where it needs to be relative to success on the field." Kelly did not go into specific changes, but did mention there would be personnel changes, scheme tweaks and some package alterations. In the absence of specifics from the head coach, allow me to offer some suggestions regarding what the staff can do to get the defense back on track. PERSONNEL CHANGES T h e re a re s e v e r a l p e r s o n n e l changes that could help the defense make quick improvements. 1. Move Isaac Rochell To Defen- sive Tackle: Notre Dame has failed to control the middle of the line of scrimmage, and its lack of depth in‑ side has been a major concern. Sophomore tackle Jerry Tillery is averaging 66.3 snaps per game against Notre Dame's Power Five opponents, and Rochell is averaging 77.3 snaps. Those numbers are un‑ sustainable for an entire season. Moving Rochell inside gives Notre Dame a strong four‑man rotation, along with fifth‑year senior nose guard Jarron Jones and junior Daniel Cage. 2. Move Jay Hayes To Strongside End To Fix That Rotation: If Rochell moves, a hole opens up at strongside end. The most obvious replacement is 285‑pound junior Jay Hayes, who is incredibly miscast on the weakside. A move to the strongside would put Hayes in position where his tal‑ ents would be best served. He has a good burst off the line and should be able to provide a pass rushing im‑ provement over Rochell, who has just 3.5 sacks in 30 career starts. Junior Jonathan Bonner would need to play more, as would devel‑ oping freshman Khalid Kareem, an early entrant this spring. The rookie is the most natural pass rusher among all the strongside ends on the roster, and that trait could provide a boost. 3. Set The Weakside End Rotation: Junior Andrew Trumbetti needs to be given an opportunity to play the game in a way that properly utilizes his skills, something that did not happen under VanGorder. Freshman Daelin Hayes also needs to play more and be allowed to attack opponents. Hayes is the best athlete up front, and finding a role for him each week is a must. There is also a role to be had for Julian Okwara, another skilled freshman that could upgrade Notre Dame's struggling pass rush. 4. Find A Role For Asmar Bilal: There is a weapon sitting on the bench that could help the defense. Sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal is too athletic to not have a role. Getting Bilal onto the field in the Nickel package and in passing situa‑ tions would be a great start. If Notre Dame can get Bilal, Daelin Hayes, Okwara and Mike linebacker Nyles Morgan onto the field at the same time it would dramatically improve the overall speed of the defense. SCHEME CHANGES 1. No More Catching — Use the D-Line To Attack: Notre Dame's de‑ fensive line spends too much time eating up blocks and not enough time getting a push. Hudson has a history of being aggressive with his defensive line. Notre Dame does not have any vet‑ eran pass rushers, but it does have the size, strength and ability to be far more disruptive with its front, espe‑ cially against the run. Pivotal to a turnaround will be us‑ ing the defensive line to fire off the line, to get a push and fight more bat‑ tles on the offensive side of the ball. 2. Get The Linebackers Playing Downhill: Much like the line, Notre Dame's linebackers were not ag‑ gressive enough. There was way too much reading going on under Van‑ Gorder. Notre Dame's linebackers are too athletic to play that slow. Morgan and Will linebacker Te'von Coney have to become more aggres‑ sive and more productive. This re‑ quires the coaches to simplify their responsibilities and give them the opportunity to explode downhill. Developing and calling more ag‑ gressive run stunts with the lineback‑ ers would also help. 3. More Disruptive Pressure: Un‑ der VanGorder, Notre Dame's pres‑ sures were often just three‑ or four‑ man looks. It was far too easy for teams to handle the pressures, and it had nothing to do with Notre Dame not having good players. Developing and calling a few well‑ called pressures from the secondary would also be helpful. Notre Dame has to find ways to make offenses un‑ comfortable, something VanGorder rarely did. ✦ Changes Are Coming CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Getting young players like sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal (above) and freshman defensive end Daelin Hayes onto the field could provide a boost to the Irish defense. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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