Tag Archives: Stephon Tuitt

Worried about the Irish defense? NOT SO FAST!

-Sgt Shamrock

Even before the recent investigation into possible academic dishonestly that led to four Irish players being removed from team activities, the major concern of Irish fans headed into the 2014 was on the defensive side of the ball. With the losses of Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, Prince Shembo, and Bennett Jackson to the NFL draft and Carlo Calebrese, Dan Fox, and Kona Schwenke graduating, Notre Dame is only returning five starters from last years team. And due to the academic investigation KeiVarae Russell and Ishaq Williams future for the season is in doubt and Brian Kelly announced today at his weekly press conference that all of the “suspended” players would be missing the Rice game as the investigation continues. So that leaves the Notre Dame defense with just THREW returning starters in Jaylon Smith, Sheldon Day, and Austin Collinsworth. That is enough to make Irish fans everywhere have very large doubts in just how the defense will perform this season. While it is very easy based on all the losses  on the defensive side of the ball to worry about the defense, all hope is not loss. Recently there was another team that faced this very same dilemma. What team is that you ask? Well its none other than the 2009 Cincinnati Bearcats coached by Brian Kelly.

In 2008 Brian Kelly led the Cincinnati Bearcats to an 11-3 overall record, a Big East Championship, and an Orange Bowl appearance that ultimately concluded in a 20-7 loss to Virginia Tech. A BCS bowl for Cincinnati got the Bearcats and Brian Kelly national recognition that was the start of a long series of events that led to Kelly being hired by Notre Dame in 2010. However headed into the 2009 season, there was doubt across the nation whether Brian Kelly and Cincinnati could replicate the success from 2008. The Bearcats defense lost Big East sack leader Connor Barwin, All American defensive tackle Terrill Bryd, Mike Mickens, DeAngelo Smith, and Brandon Underwood to the NFL draft. They also lost five other defensive starters from 2008 due to graduation. That left ONE returning starter on defense. Cincinnati was introducing a new defensive scheme brought in by new defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. And to make matters worse, the Bearcats were forced to start a former quarterback at linebacker. Does the name Demetrius Jones sound familiar? Well it should. He started the first game of the 2007 season at quarterback for Notre Dame. After Charlie Weis handed Jimmy Clausen the reigns following the season opener, Jones didn’t want to stick around and transferred to Cincinnati. After sitting out for a season, Brian Kelly than moved Jones to linebacker for the 2009 season.

Now all of that sounds pretty doom and gloom for the prospects of the 2009 season for Cincinnati right? Well I have always been a pretty good proponent of the “Numbers don’t lie” line of thinking so lets compare the defensive stats from the 2008 Bearcats team to the 2009 team. In 2008 the Cincinnati defense allowed an average of 206.9 yards through the air, 115 yards per game on the ground, and an average of 321.9 yards of total offense per game. The following season the 2009 squad, that only had one returning starter from 2008, allowed an average of 230.2 yards through the air per game, 143.8 yards per game on the ground, and 374 yards of total offense per game. So basically the 2009 Cincinnati defense gave up roughly 25 more yards per game through the air, 30 more yards per game on the ground, and roughly 55 more yards of total offense per game. However looking at yards allowed is only one piece of the pie. Another really important stat to look at is sacks. In 2008 Cincinnati’s defense had 40 sacks as a team. In 2009 Cincinnati’s defense had 35 sacks. I don’t know about you but if a Notre Dame team only returned one starter on defense and only gave up slightly more offensive yards per game the following season and only had five less sacks than I would be pretty damn thrilled.

This years Notre Dame defense has a lot in common with Brian Kelly’s 2009 Cincinnati defense that should give everyone a little bit of hope that the defense may not be as big of an issue as you might think. Both the 2009 Cincinnati team and this years Notre Dame team lost big time defenders to the NFL draft and both teams also are returning very few starters from the previous season. Also both the 2009 Bearcats and this years Irish team are under the first year of a new defensive coordinator (Bob Diaco for Cincinnati and Brian VanGorder for Notre Dame) that brings a new scheme.

While there are a ton of similarities between the two teams there is one key difference that can not be overstated. Notre Dame has hands down better defensive players on the roster than Cincinnati had on its 2009 roster. Notre Dame recruits better and attracts better athletes on defense. Notre Dame is also returning two bona fide stars in Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day (it would be three but as well all know Russell’s status is up in the air), something that Cincinnati did not have in 2009.

All those stats and information tell a good bit of the story but there is one key piece that I left for last. That is WINS! And in 2009 Cincinnati had a whole lot of them. Twelve wins to be exact. Cincinnati finished the regular season 12-0 before losing to Florida in the Sugar Bowl 51-24.

So basically my whole point here is this. If Brian Kelly could lead Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season in 2009 while only returning ONE starter on defense, than there is no reason to think that Brian Kelly can do something very similar with this years Notre Dame defense that only returns two starters but has WAY MORE talent on the entire defense than Cincinnati did. Now am I saying that we should expect Kelly to lead Notre Dame to an undefeated season like he did in 2009 at Cincinnati? No of course not. As much as we would all love that it is probably not going to happen. The schedule that Notre Dame is playing this season is much more difficult than what Cincinnati played in 2009 and thinking that the Irish should win every game is just not smart. But what I am saying is that before you start pulling your hair out over the thought of a young and inexperienced defense, it still has the potential to be a very good defense. Brian Kelly said himself that this defense is, “Both the most inexperienced as well as the most athletic defense” he had ever coached. Brian Kelly has shown that he can work magic with a young group of players and I don’t think its crazy to think he can do it again.

Notre Dame Fall Camp Primer

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-Sgt Shamrock

Fall camp starts next week. Damn it felt good to type that. After an off season filled with fans arguing over the tradition of grass, complaining about the size of an Under Armour logo on team travel bags, and the always pleasant and completely idiotic comments on the Notre Dame Football Facebook page, it is time for some actual football. I have always likened the start of fall camp every year to Opening Day in baseball. Each year on Opening Day, every teams fan base starts the long baseball season filled with excitement, hope, and optimism that this was their year to make the playoffs and win the World Series. Well except for the Cubs, who are eliminated from playoff contention as soon as the season starts. Sorry Cubs fans I had to.

The same feelings felt on Opening day by baseball fans are felt by Irish fans everywhere as Fall Camp of the 2014 season gets ready to begin at Culver Academy next week. There is an abundance of story lines headed into camp this year and how these story lines play out will most likely determine whether the 2014 campaign will be full of promise and success or disappointment and defeat. Will Everett Golson return better than when he left? How will Brian Van Gorder’s defensive scheme work at Notre Dame? Who will step up on defense now that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt have left for the NFL? Ill do my best to answer those questions along with many many more. First up. The Offense

Offense

As we enter year five with Brian Kelly as the head coach I think it is safe to say that the offensive output over the last few years hasn’t been what everyone expected when Kelly came over from Cincinnati. Now there are a couple factors that have not helped matters. Having your starting quarterback from a team that made it to the National Championship game get suspended for a season due to “academic dishonesty” is definitely not going to help the offense improve. And having a quarterback that seemingly had cement in his shoes that also had the ability to fumble the football without even being touched REALLY doesnt help (Yes I still have not and probably will never forget or get over the game against Michigan in 2011). Previous years offenses have been different than the offense we will probably see this season and to be honest its a very good thing. Most of the previous seasons the offense had one “go to guy” such as Michael Floyd or Tyler Eiffert and the rest were role player types like Robby Toma. Last year TJ Jones was the main go to guy but we finally started seeing the ball being distributed to more and more receivers who while may not be as experienced as previous seasons receivers, are equally or even more talented than previous years. This goes for the running back corps as well. Lots and lots of talent.

Position Battles:

Quarterback- Im going to come right out and say this. Regardless what Brian Kelly says about Malik Zaire being able to compete for the starting job, Everett Golson will be the starting quarterback for the entire 2014 football season. While Malik Zaire is a very good quarterback, Everett Golson is just the flat out better quarterback. After spending the his time away from Notre Dame with George Witfield, Golson should be better than ever and I expect a big season out of him.

Wide Receiver- Its time to see if Davaris Daniels can finally have a season of consistent production. He has all the physical tools to be a star receiver however consistency has always been his major issue. The remainder of the receiving corps is very young but very talented. Daniels, Brown, Robinson, Fuller, and incoming freshman Justin Brent have loads of potential and talent.

Running Back- The duo of Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston has me more excited than just about any other position group on the team this season. Bryant and Folston are the clear 1A and 1B and they will carry the majority of the load. Cam McDaniel will still get his carries however if Bryant and Folston play to the level that I believe they will, his carries will drop off significantly from last season. With all of the Irish running backs running behind a strong and steady offensive line, the potential for a big season for the Irish running attack is there

 

Tight End- Ben Koyack will be the number one tight end. He showed flashes of brilliance last season playing behind Troy Niklas and there are already many NFL Draft analysts that believe Koyack could be one of the first tight ends taken in the 2015 draft. While Koyack will be the starting tight end, keep an eye out for Durham Smythe. He will contribute early and often this season as Brian Kelly loves to use a two Tight end set.

Offensive Line- Losing a starter like Zach Martin is never easy to replace but if any team can do it its Notre Dame. The recruiting of offensive lineman has been outstanding the last few years and Ronnie Stanley, Steve Elmer, John Montelus, and Hunter Bivin will all get playing time this season along with Connor Hanratty and Matt Hegarty.

Defense

Its a whole new year for the Irish defense and its going to look a whole lot different than it has the past few years. Its time to see life after the Nix and Tuitt combo on the defensive line. The last few seasons the front seven of the Irish defense has been the anchor of the defense while the back end has been a weak point (Gary Gray, Bennett Jackson). However it seems like that will all be changing this year. The front seven has transformed from the rock of the defense to a bunch of question marks. Sheldon Day will be the marque player on the defensive line while Jarron Jones and incoming Freshman Jay Hayes. The linebacking corps is very suspect except for superstar Jaylon Smith, who was moved to inside linebacker this off season. Meanwhile the defensive backfield looks to be very solid. Kavairee Russell is a bona fide stud who will be in the running for the Thorpe award this season. Cole Luke, and 5th year transfer from Florida Cody Riggs will all be difference makers on the edges while Max Redfield, Austin Collinsworth and Elijah Shumate look to be solid in the back end. All of this with a new defensive coordinator who brings a completely new defensive scheme to South Bend that calls for alot of aggression and placing corners on an Island.

Position Battles:

Defensive Line- The bottom line here is that almost every scholarship player on the defensive line will play due to very thin depth. Recruiting along the defensive line has hit a few bumps in the road over the last few years and the depth on the roster shows it. Sheldon Day and Jarron Jones are the marquee players within the group however with Ishaq Williams being moved into a defensive end position within Van Gorders new 4-3 scheme he also has the potential to FINALLY play to his potential.

Linebackers- The only non question mark here is Jaylon Smith who everyone by now knows is a superstar. Beyond that are a lot of questions. It is still unclear if Jarrett Grace will be ready to go week one due to injury and the depth on the roster is thin. Michael Deeb should get a few looks this season and by all accounts he is a hard hitter. Of the entire team, the linebacker position is my biggest concern this season. Jaylon Smith cant cover the entire field himself.

Secondary- Russell has his spot at corner locked up as his is by far the best corner on the team as well as one of the best corners in the nation. Beyond that Mathias Farley, Cody Riggs, and Cole Luke will be fighting for the other corner position however depending on the package on the field they may all be on the field at the same time. Austin Collinsworth and Max Redfield seem to be the favorites at the two safety positions while Elijah Shumate still is fighting to stay on the field.

Fall camp starts next week. Down the Tunnel will have all the Fall camp coverage so stay tuned for updates as the the 2014 season gets underway. Get excited everyone. Football is back.       

5 HOT (and Quick) Takes from Blue/Gold Game

Spring practice is in the books!  Can I use the terms/phrases “practice” and “in the books” for employees? Kidding, kidding…put the pitch forks away. I’ll give you plenty better opportunities to skewer me. While the Sarge continues to lead the DTT Spring game experience on-site, thought I’d provide a few quick observations from the Blue/Gold Game. For full disclosure, I am not of the opinion that a lot can be gleaned from what amounts to a glorified practice. It’s far more special and relevant for those able to make the trip than those of us looking to extrapolate what it means going forward. Nonetheless, people LOVE to extrapolate (even when they don’t know what that word means), so let’s get down to business:

1. QB “Battle”: Unquestionably, the number one “thing to watch” for today was the quarterback position. The return of the prodigal son, Everett Golson vs. the self-confident Malik Zaire. Twitter and Mike Mayock have declared the big winner of the day to be Zaire. I’m critical of Mayock’s analysis though because he did not tell me Zaire’s height and weight. Mayock, when in full lather over a particular player always tells you the size measurements while wiping some drool from the corner of his mouth. He did it for Golson pre-game. He did it for Jaylon Smith. Perhaps I just missed it.

Now to the game. I would *generally* agree that Zaire had the better performance. The stats bear that out. His reads came out quicker, he was more accurate, and most importantly to me….he looked like he wanted to compete for the starting gig. Golson was perhaps most disappointing with his reluctance to cut the ball loose. This issue plagued him at times during 2012, and I think many hoped he’d display a greater command of progressions after a one year quarterback boot camp. It’s important to remember a few things though: 1) This is but one practice. Folks need to realize Brian Kelly will not be making any final decisions based upon this one game. However, that Zaire looked ready to compete may create some intrigue for the inter web-professional-football-analysis-society from the summer months. 2) When you have 2 mobile quarterbacks battling in a “game” where they can’t be hit, it’s difficult to assess their true effectiveness. The refs were generally willing to let the QB’s continue to run around (and eventually throw) in situations where they will not be as fortunate in game situations. Golson’s rushing TD was a clear example. He scored. In a game, he’d have been pancaked between two rather large defensive players. To go along with this: Why in the WORLD was a screen pass run????? It happened early, but just seemed ludicrous to me. QB can’t be touched (and knows it), line comes flying through…Well executed(?) I suppose.

My more general take: First of all, I wet myself just a bit (it was early) to see both of our QB’s scramble, look elusive, and demonstrate plus arm-strength on the run. The Tommy Rees era is over, and I for one (all) couldn’t be happier to have it reaffirmed that it is possible to both run and throw the ball. Both quarterbacks exhibited the arm strength necessary to take advantage of the team’s speed and depth at the wide receiver position. While a function of the flag football game atmosphere, there were many deep attempts and routes down field suggesting a perhaps more vertical passing game while utilizing the TE and RB positions as safety valves.

2. FIELD TURF!!!! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG: In a super fun troll job by the ND administration, Jack Swarbrick confirmed once and for all that field turf is a-coming to Notre Dame following Spring commencement ceremonies. So many words and blood have been spilled over this topic over the past few years that there’s no need to re-hash it. It’s a business decision, it’s a completely reasonable decision, and it will not impact game play for the negative in any material respect. Something I’ve harped on in the past is that something is not tradition just because it’s been done for a while. Rockne’s teams played on grass because that was more desirable to playing on dirt. ND never jumped the gun to install the horrendous astro-turf surfaces that led to many an injury in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. However, field turf’s come a long way. It’s not tradition to embrace a technological advancement that is more economical, provides greater reliability of playing surface, and doesn’t impact injury concerns. Get with it folks, or tell me why I’m wrong in the comments without mentioning the word “tradition.” I *might* listen then.

3. Hello Running backs: Greg Bryant did Greg Bryant things the way we’d all been Greg Bryant’ing he’d do. See what I did there? I used his name like the word “Smurf” was used back in the day. Bryant, of course, is not smurf. Rather, his speed and agility are more reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog coming out of a 360 degree loop and catapulting up into the atmosphere to claim rings and decimate all obstacles in his way. Take the spring game for what it is: confirmation that all angst associated with the unsubstantiated rumors of Bryant’s transfer were well deserved. I look forward to seeing him decimate all obstacles in his way in an effort to claim another type of ring.

In the meantime, Tarean Folston was quite active catching passes. Again, there’s a limit to attempting to extrapolate that this is a new trend, but he demonstrated good hands and improvisation as a safety-valve pass catching option. This facet was missing from ND’s offense last year. However, with a return to a more free flowing mobile quarterback style, a good pass catching option coming out of the backfield should not be under-appreciated. Theo Riddick was good at this in 2012 when, you might remember, good things happen for the team at large. I like to see things that *could* convert to a new offensive wrinkle in the season to come, and this fits the bill quite nicely.

4. The Defense…Lost? Okay…what does that mean? I have a difficult time really grading anything that occurs on the defensive side of the ball. The inability to hit/sack the quarterback is such an impediment that it’s difficult to consider the defense’s effectiveness.  Add that to the team still learning a new defensive-system and philosophy and the always straight-forward vanilla game plan, and you aren’t left with too many takeaways. I thought Cole Luke looked generally good and made some great plays on the ball in difficult situations. I thought Austin Collinsworth looked severely under-sized and slow attempting to cover the wide receivers, but I’m not going to read too much into that. Perhaps more telling, Brian Kelly during a second half interview explained that he asked BVG to dial back some of the pressure schemes so the offense could get the “looks” it wanted to run plays. Does that mean the line is better than expected? Does it mean the offensive line is a little bit worse? Perhaps a mixture? Yeah….I’ll go with mixture for the day.

5. The BVG: Finally, the most legit thing I saw all day was in fact VanGorder stomping around the sideline. He’s intense, rocks as legit a ‘stache as any in the business, and I give him bonus points for his 1970’s hair dew. I think fans are going to be pleasantly surprised in the short-term with VanGorder’s increased aggression. He comes into a great situation where the experience of the secondary may let him get more exotic up front to compensate for the losses of Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. We’ve been down the road of a hyper aggressive defensive coordinator trying to make something out of nothing (I’m looking at you Jon Tenuta), but the caliber of athlete BVG has available is superior to what Tenuta dealt with, and the secondary is an entirely different animal. Perhaps grasping at straws, I also enjoyed seeing BVG on the sidelines. Being cerebral and up in the booth fit Bobby Diaco quite well. The same holds true for seeing VanGorder stalk the sidelines.

We now enter the dark days where there won’t be much to report or look forward to for several months. Share your comments or thoughts and feelings about the B/G Game and what you’re looking forward to for 2014 in the comments below. I’m sure Sarge will be back sooner rather than later to fill you in on the Down the Tunnel Tailgate and the reception to our sponsors the Indiana Whiskey Company being gracious enough to come on out this morning.

Cheers!

– Moons

Taking a Look at the Spring Game

-Sgt Shamrock

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Its finally here. The 2014 football season begins this Saturday with the 85th Annual Blue Gold game. Its that time of year where the fan base is actually optimistic for a change. Well at least most of the fan base. There are always those outliers who always want to complain about something or another. But I digress. Saturday will be our first glimpse at the 2014 version of the Irish football squad. Now while the spring game is nothing more than a glorified scrimmage and we as fans are not going to see to much of anything in terms of scheme and the playbook, it is a good opportunity to see how some of the individual players have progressed through spring practice and to get an idea of who might be ready to contribute on the field this fall. And almost even more importantly, it will give anyone who is coming to town to watch the game a chance to come by the first ever Down the Tunnel Tailgate with our partners at Indiana Whiskey. So along with meeting good people and enjoying some great whiskey, here are some things to watch for on Saturday.

What to Watch For:

Receiving corps- With Davaris Daniels suspended for the spring and TJ Jones and Troy Niklas headed to the NFL, the Irish receiving corps is going to look very different this spring than what we have grown accustomed to over the last couple years. While some of the young receivers did get playing time last season, Tommy Rees was the one throwing them the ball. In fact only one receiver who is on the roster for the spring game has actually caught a pass from Everett Golson; Chris Brown. While the amount of talent in the receiving corps is not argued, it will be interesting to see how the connection between Golson and receivers like Corey Robinson, Will Fuller, and Justin Brent will look after being away from the team for over a year.

Everett Golson- Speaking of Golson, this will be the first opportunity for Irish fans to see him on the field since he was dismissed from the university last spring. During his time away, Golson worked with renowned quarterback guru George Whitfield and so far the reports out of practice paint Golson as a “Bigger, stronger, and faster” version than before. Yes it is just the spring game, but this will give everyone an opportunity to see how Golson has improved in his year away from the program.

The defensive line- After losing Louis Nix, Stephon Tuitt, and Kona Schwenke to the NFL the defensive line is a bit too thin for my liking. Sheldon Day, who has shown flashes of brilliance so far in his career, is going to have to be the leader in the group and we all expect Ishaq Williams, who was moved to defensive end from OLB this spring, to finally start living up the hype he received when he signed with Notre Dame. Now the defensive line we see Saturday will most likely not include everyone who will receive playing time next season, as incoming freshman like Jay Hayes will almost certainly be among the rotation if not only due to the lack of depth at the positions. Don’t expect to see any new wrinkles in the new defensive scheme that Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder has brought with him to South Bend just yet. Coaches don’t normally do anything but run a plain base defense in a spring game. But it will be nice to see the individual players along the D-line and be able to see who has stepped up to fill in some large voids

It’s good to finally have football back, if only for a short while. The Spring game is always a fun event that helps bring excitement to a new season of Notre Dame football. So if you are in town to attend the game, enjoy the great experience and make sure to stop by the Down the Tunnel tailgate. Indiana Whiskey will be there along with a lot of other delicious beverages, tasty foods, and good people. I have the final details and information for everyone tomorrow so stay tuned. Its going to be a fun weekend. If you are watching from home, just kick back have a drink and enjoy the first glimpse of 2014 Notre Dame Football.  

 

Troy Niklas declares for NFL Draft

Troy Niklas Pinstripe

-Sgt Shamrock

Bad news continues to roll in for Irish fans early in 2014. Sports illustrated is reporting that Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas will forgo his final year of eligibility and declare for the 2014 NFL Draft. This news comes on the same day that news broke that Davaris Daniels had been suspended for the Spring semester for academic reasons and less than a week after Stephon Tuitt also declared for the draft. This move by Niklas is very surprising to Irish fans, as he told reporters following the Pinstripe Bowl that he would be returning for his senior season.

With Niklas declaring for the draft, it will be interesting to see where he may land. His size and catching ability will surely catch the attention of NFL teams and I have no doubt he will continue the tradition of Irish tight ends succeeding in the NFL. I really think another year of college ball could have made him a 1st round draft pick next season but even so he should still be taken somewhere in the 2nd to 3rd round area. If I had to guess he will be anywhere from the 2nd to the 4th tight end taken. Eric Ebron from North Carolina will most likely be the first. Niklas finishes he career at Notre Dame with 573 yards receiving and 6 touchdowns.

George Atkinson III declares for the NFL Draft

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– Sgt Shamrock

Junior running back George Atkinson has declared for the 2014 NFL draft and will join Stephon Tuitt as the Irish players who will forego their senior seasons. This should not come as a surprise for Irish fans. Atkinson saw his carries diminish later in the season as Tarean Folston became the feature back in the Irish offense. Add in the very public distain that Atkinson’s father had for the way that Brian Kelly used his son, and it seemed very clear that this was the route that GA3 was going to take.

George Atkinson received a late round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, but I would be very surprised if he is drafted. While he does have the speed that we all have seen during his Irish career, he has shown the inability to break tackles, and tended to run more east and west instead of north and south. At best he will be a late 3rd day pick but will most likely get picked up as an undrafted free agent. Atkinson finishes his Notre Dame career with 943 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns along with 2 kick returns for touchdowns. 

Stephon Tuitt to enter the 2014 NFL Draft

– Sgt Shamrock

 
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Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated is reporting that Notre Dame’s star defensive end Stephon Tuitt will forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NFL Draft. It was reported last month that Tuitt received a second round grade from the  NFL advisory board but most believe he will be a first round draft pick along with fellow defensive lineman Louis Nix. Tuitt, who was a first team All American in 2012, finishes his career at Notre Dame with 20 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as well as an interception returned for a touchdown against Navy last season.
 
With Tuitt gone, it will be interesting to see what the Irish defense looks like next season when they open the season against Rice. The Irish have been recruiting the defensive side of the ball very well however star defensive lineman are hard to come by and with Eddie Vanderdoes leaving Notre Dame at the alter post signing day last season, the Irish are a bit thin on the defensive line. Sheldon Day has shown he can play very well but next season will be his first season playing without Nix and Tuitt next to him. While the defensive line may not have the star power it has had the last few seasons, the future of the defense is still very bright. Jaylon Smith was one of the best freshman in the country this season and he will only get better. While Irish fans have gotten used to the defensive line being the strength of the defense, I really feel that that strength will begin to shift to the secondary next season. Notre Dame has recruited some very good defensive backs in the past few years and Irish fans should be very excited to see them on the field.
With Brian Van Gorder as the new defensive coordinator, I am very excited to see how he is able to use the young talented players on the defensive side of the ball that we were able to get a glimpse of this season. Obviously it would be nice if Tuitt returned, however the defense is still full of talent and I have a feeling we will see it on the field next fall.