Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

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

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54 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I n 1960, aircraft engineer Kelly Johnson is credited with in- troducing the "KISS princi- ple" to the United States Navy. KISS was the acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. It referred to some design principles, specifi- cally for spy planes. Later, Johnson would elimi- nate the comma to make it "Keep it simple stupid," in order to not imply that the engineers were ignorant. The premise was that any system of operation is most functional and effective when kept uncomplicated. Even the eminent Leonardo da Vinci stated, "Simplicity is the ulti- mate sophistication." Which brings us to Brian Van- Gorder 's two-plus seasons as Notre Dame's defensive coordi- nator before his firing after the 38-35 Duke debacle Sept. 24. The 57-year-old VanGorder is a man who knows his craft very well and will land on his feet, be it the NFL — which is probably more in his wheelhouse — or someplace else. I respected his knowledge and his candidness when asked about the complexities of his scheme with what he termed the "large inventory." Unfortunately, my first red flag about whether VanGorder was going to be the right fit came during a one- on-one interview after a 2014 game with then-sophomore linebacker Jay- lon Smith. He noted how VanGorder explained that a football player really doesn't fully understand the game until he is about 25, so there is a lot to process. In college football, you don't have until 25 to wait. In the case of Smith, he didn't even have until 21. Van- Gorder 's NFL approach eventually prompted a palpable pall that left players constricted while trying to find room to breathe, or end up "ro- botic" and "mechanical," as head coach Brian Kelly would later state. Defeat inevitably will prompt ques- tioning of any system. The 42-14 loss to Alabama in the 2013 BCS National Championship Game elicited criti- cism that previous Irish defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's (2010-13) at- tack was too simple and predictable — but it was good enough to truly carry a 12-0 regular season. When asked what "back to the ba- sics" meant during preparation for the Oct. 1 game versus Syracuse, Irish junior safety Drue Tranquill re- sponded: "A lot of guys are out there and they are just locked up and tight, just thinking about, 'Oh, I have to make this and that check.' "We want to pull out the talent that got guys here, we want to see that explosiveness of guys, we want to see guys just out there playing free … "We have different checks for dif- ferent formations — and we can just say, 'Screw it, we're playing this check regardless of the formation.' … We've shrunk down those checks." Will it reap better results? At this point, who is to say? Whatever works will be considered "the right way." Meanwhile, on offense, Kelly has had his own "paralysis by analysis" moments. His greatest success at Notre Dame has been with a freshman or sophomore at quarterback (who didn't play as a frosh), mainly because it "forces" him to simplify collectively. • After a 4-5 start in 2010 with vet- eran quarterback Dayne Crist, fresh- man Tommy Rees had to take over, and in a more elementary scheme the Irish flourished and finished 4-0. • Sophomore quarterback Everett Golson was asked to play within himself in 2012, and he was 10-0 as the starter during the regular season, with some assists from the game-managing Rees. • To snap a four-game slide in 2014, sophomore Malik Zaire was inserted as the starter against LSU in the bowl game, and the Irish were marvelous and team cohesive with a zone-read heavy scheme in a 31-28 upset win. • When sophomore DeShone Kizer was called on in an emer- gency by the second game in 2015, he helped the Irish to a 10-1 led- ger, and a 36-35 lead at Stanford with 25 seconds left in the game. See a pattern? Kelly has had his greatest success here when the offense was not as expansive. "When I'm forced to go back to what I believe are the tenets of our offense and defense, I revert back to those basics," Kelly admit- ted. "We need to get to those. Maybe we'll see those." "Forced" is the operative word. This year, much more was put on Kizer's plate so … "You can see that our running game has been not as consistent as I want it to be," Kelly acknowledged again a couple of days before the Syr- acuse game. "We've added a little bit too much — 'Check this, check that.' "Run the damn play!" That's not to say quarterbacks won't be asked to get them into the right looks against a particular de- fense. Just don't overanalyze. "We want to get out of bad looks," Kelly said of his QBs making checks before the snap. "I don't want nega- tive plays. But I want to be relatively correct, I don't want to be absolutely correct. "Sometimes relatively correct with good players is better than being ab- solutely correct and then really slow- ing down your team. That might've been the case a little bit." You must remember this: A KISS is still a KISS. ✦ A KISS Is Still A KISS THE FIFTH QUARTER LOU SOMOGYI Senior Editor Lou Somogyi has been at Blue & Gold Illustrated since July 1985. He can be reached at Both Brian VanGorder and Brian Kelly might have been caught up with some "paralysis by analysis" recently. PHOTO BY ANGELA DRISKELL

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