Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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6 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI U pon firing third-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder the morning after Notre Dame's 38-35 loss to Duke at home Sept. 24, head coach Brian Kelly became the de facto figure in that role. While defensive analyst Greg Hud- son, hired this summer, has been is- sued the defensive coordinator title, it is Kelly who will be implementing the blueprint of what he wants. Kelly's objectives are three-fold. One is to better streamline the de- fense into a more basic, settled look, not relying on "exotics" or multiple personnel packages and paralysis by analysis. Two is to play less constricted and with greater passion, energy and en- thusiasm, which ties in with the "pa- ralysis by analysis" theme. This is what he wants Hudson to elicit from the troops. Kelly indicated shortly after VanGorder 's ousting that the athletes on defense were too "me- chanical" and "robotic." Finally, to tie together elements Nos. 1 and 2, Kelly believes it is nec- essary to get many more players in- volved in the defensive rotation. Under VanGorder, player rotation along the front seven was limited. This can lead to more fatigue as the game and season progresses, which in turn results in more missed tackles and lessened overall production. "You're going to see a lot more players playing," Kelly said in his meeting with the media four days prior to the Oct. 1 contest on the road versus Syracuse. "There is going to be some depth, some camaraderie. "We need to get that morale up on defense, and we will do that with a lot more players involved in what we're doing on a day-to-day basis." A prime example of the depth chart disparity came last season when fifth-year senior captain Joe Schmidt — despite playing in much pain (shoulder, plus major ankle sur- gery) that diminished his production — still played 827 snaps, the most on the defense, and an average of 64 per game. Meanwhile, his backup, Nyles Morgan, who earned some Freshman All-America notice the previous year, had only 41 defensive snaps. The ba- sic reason was Morgan didn't under- stand the large inventory of defense like Schmidt, which required him to take virtually every snap. This pattern continued during this year's 1-3 start with different person- nel. Kelly believed it was unaccept- able that junior defensive lineman Jay Hayes and sophomore linebacker Asmar Bilal, both of who had strong springs, played zero snaps versus Duke. Hayes had played only 24 snaps (six per game) all season and Bilal 23 (5.7 per game). In the season opener against Texas, a 50-47 double-overtime loss, senior de- fensive lineman Isaac Rochell played 83 snaps, sophomore Jerry Tillery 78 and junior Andrew Trumbetti 60. Irish defensive line coach Keith Gilmore said this spring that the threshold per game for a defensive lineman would be about 50, and getting to 60 prob- ably is a bit too much. For Kelly, it's a slap in the face to team depth. "It then becomes a one-dimensional football team — the haves and haves not, and that does not do well with morale," Kelly said. "That does not do well with ownership for every- body and attitude. We've got to build a better base there, and that starts with me making sure that happens." However, that doesn't mean insert- ing players indiscriminately or for the sake of just rotating bodies. Play- ing time must still be earned. "I'm not saying everybody's has to play and we all have to go have a big, group hug at the end of practice," Kelly said. "It's merit based, too. But there are too many good football players that haven't been playing, in my estimation, and I'm making the calls on both sides here and they have to get in the game." This applies to the offense, too. Sophomore running back Josh Ad- ams had 54 snaps against Duke, while classmate Dexter Williams — who was singled out by the head coach as the lone player who per- formed with consistent passion against the Blue Devils — had 10. "That's too stark of a cliff right there," Kelly pointed out. "Josh Ad- ams is one heck of a good player … but we've got to do a better job there, and that's one example. "You can't take somebody that's had no reps and give them 70 on Sat- urday. That's impossible. But what we can start to do is put a depth chart together that gives a young man a look at saying, 'I got a shot. I'm part of the solution.' "I want guys to feel like they're part UNDER THE DOME OVEREXPOSURE Brian Kelly admits there has been too much disparity in playing time among numerous players Linebacker Asmar Bilal (22) and defensive end Daelin Hayes (9) might start seeing more action. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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