Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 17, 2016

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

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Page 17 of 55

18 OCT. 17, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY LOU SOMOGYI W hat was first thought to be the impossible for Notre Dame's 2016 secondary has become the necessity. While preparing for the Sept. 24 game versus Syracuse, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly vowed he would utilize more players on de- fense, but at the same time realized he would need to spoon feed some of the youngsters. "We have to be careful," Kelly said. "You can't take somebody that's had no reps and give them 70 on Satur- day. That's impossible." Maybe that's why he gave freshman cornerback Troy Pride Jr., who hadn't seen one snap through the first four games, unofficially "only" 60 snaps. Meanwhile, another freshman cor- nerback, Donte Vaughn, went from zero snaps in the 36-28 loss to Michi- gan State Sept. 17 to nine the next week in the 38-35 defeat to Duke (one of them an interception near the goal line) to 79 versus Syracuse, the most among any Irish defender. His snap count went up 70 from one week to the next. Finally, the third freshman corner, Julian Love, has become a consistent mainstay since the season-opening 50-47 double-overtime setback at Texas. Love saw 33 snaps, mainly at nickel, in his debut in Austin, followed by 19 versus Nevada, 27 against Michigan State, 59 versus Duke and 46 more against Syracuse. Against the Orange, Love and Vaughn both received the nod as the starting outside corners, while se- nior Cole Luke with his savvy and experience was shifted inside to the more complicated nickel role. It was the first time Notre Dame started two freshman cornerbacks in a game since 1979, when future NFL star Dave Duerson started seven times and Rod Bone twice. Add in freshman free safety Devin Studstill, an early enrollee last spring, and the Fighting Irish started an un- precedented three freshmen on the back end of their defense. In taking over the reconfiguration and implementation of the defense in place of deposed coordinator Brian VanGorder after the Duke debacle, Kelly said his mandate was to make players like the three frosh corners feel "they're part of the solution here." The Time Is Now Three true freshmen have had to take on major roles at cornerback for the Irish Freshman cornerback Donte Vaughn made an immediate impact upon being inserted into the lineup, notching his first career interception against Duke while tallying eight tackles in his first three outings. PHOTO BY RICK KIMBALL

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