Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

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

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12 OCT. 17, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED UNDER THE DOME BRIAN KELLY IN DEFENSE MODE Whatever future alignment Notre Dame's de- fense takes, Irish head coach Brian Kelly wants at least one cardinal rule in place: "It's really about the players, not the particular scheme. We're fit- ting the players to the scheme, not the scheme to the players." It 's a major reason why an unprecedented change for Notre Dame at defensive coordina- tor was made at the one-third mark of the 2016 season. As the campaign progresses, Kelly said the bulk of his day will be spent with the defense. "I'm going to be there quite a bit, and I would think that's going to be the case most of the year," Kelly said Oct. 4. "There's just a lot of decisions that still need to be made, and I need to continue to just see the overall workings of the defense and the personalities and the players. "We're playing a lot of players that I want to continue to evaluate." Although Kelly has been mainly recognized as an "offensive coach" because he has been the play caller most of his career and often thrived with his spread principles, he was a linebacker at Assump- tion College and began his career as a defensive coordinator. It was after his second year as the head coach at Grand Valley State in 1992 that he began to assess that he needed to spend his time more on offense because it was "responsible for the football." "There were too many decisions that happen during the game that he needs to be responsible for, and you become a bit detached sometimes when you're on defense," Kelly said. "Timeouts, fourth-down decisions, field position … it's hard to do that if you're not responsible for the foot- ball and more focused on the defense than the offense." — Lou Somogyi NICK WATKINS RULED OUT FOR 2016 SEASON Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has confirmed that junior cornerback Nick Watkins will take a medical redshirt season in 2016. Projected as a starter in the preseason after making his career start in the Fiesta Bowl versus Ohio State, Watkins had surgery April 2 for a broken left humerus. He reinjured it and was sidelined this August before the Notre Dame medical staff had him go through an aggressive treatment to help stimulate bone growth. An examination the day before the Syracuse game Oct. 1 revealed that the bone had not grown to satisfaction, and more surgery would be required. Watkins will be eligible to use his final two seasons in 2017 and 2018. Watkins is the third projected starter in this year's secondary who is unable to play. The other two were senior free safety Max Redfield (dismissed from the team) and sophomore nickel/cornerback Shaun Crawford (season-ending Achilles tear in Nevada game Sept. 10). — Lou Somogyi Speed On The Edge Ask any Notre Dame follower what the single most missing element on the Fighting Irish football team has been for at least a decade, and the an- swer might be universal: an explosive speed rusher off the edge. Freshmen defensive ends Daelin Hayes and Julian Okwara are the next hopes to cure that void. Listed at 6-3½, 250 pounds, Hayes arrived with the most fanfare as a five-star prospect, but a his- tory of shoulder problems helped limit him to play- ing about seven high school games the past three seasons. Hayes unofficially took 32 and 49 snaps in the consecutive losses to Michigan State and Duke. Then against Syracuse, Kelly employed more of a three-man front that allowed junior Jay Hayes (no relation) to play more, while the younger Hayes and junior Andrew Trumbetti tag-teamed. All three were unofficially credited with 23 snaps. "I've always liked the balance of the three-man front," Kelly said. "It will be part of what we do — but it won't be all of what we do." And therein is where the versatility of the fresh- man Hayes and freshman Julian Okwara — also listed at end despite his relatively light 6-3½, 228-pound frame — will be needed. They can be outside linebackers in a three-man front or ends in a more even front while not getting pigeonholed into one defined role. "They're going to be hybrid players," Kelly said. "They're guys that are going to eventually be big enough to do both. They'll be that speed end and that rush player that will be able to do both for us. "They're athletic enough to get in space, they can put their hand down and come off the edge, and they can take a tackle on and not get reached. They've got some unique skills that we like and the abil- ity to play three down and four down." Hayes is a rangier version of 2010-13 end/linebacker Prince Shembo, who was 6-1½, 258. Okwara is a little lighter than older brother Romeo was at Notre Dame from 2012-15 — and now with the New York Giants — when he enrolled at 6-4, 240 as an outside linebacker before growing to 270. Hayes might fit the latter role better than Okwara down the road, at least from how it appears in the present. "He's a solid 245 right now, and he didn't lift at all because of his shoulder," Kelly said of Hayes. "He's going to be a 260-pound guy playing next year, easily. So I could see him being in the 270 range. He's going to be a big hybrid." A third freshman, Jamir Jones, is grooming to be captain James Onwualu's replacement at Sam next season. At 6-2½, 225 pounds, Jones' frame won't reach the girth of older brother and fifth-year senior nose guard Jarron, but he could down the road also become a hybrid figure. "He's skilled enough to play Sam, and you should see them run down the field on the kickoff team," Kelly said of Jones and Okwara. "They're down there. It's pretty fun to watch those guys." — Lou Somogyi Freshman Daelin Hayes is projected to become a hybrid end/outside linebacker in a three-man defensive front. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL Brian Kelly said most of his attention in practices the rest of the 2016 season likely be on defense while helping the transition. PHOTO BY BILL PANZICA

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