Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Defense Has Much to Prove in 2015

Heading into this season, Notre Dame is expected to be a playoff contender. That is in spite having a brand new quarterback. But honestly, Malik Zaire is not one of the question marks I have. There are two that make me a little nervous about calling this team a contender. The first area of question I have is the offensive line. Last year, Everett Golson was given a lot of flack for the turnovers. But honestly, the offensive line did not help him very much at all. About half of his turnovers were due to break down in blocking. Hopefully, seniors Ronnie Stanley and Nick Martin can set leadership by example. Although the line is a concern, it is not even close to my biggest question mark.

Last season the defense gave up the most big plays in all of college football. Yes, there were a lot of injuries (13 in fact). And yes, the 5 suspended players didn't help. But looking at last season, the defense really only had three good games (Michigan, Syracuse, and Stanford) and they came early in the year before coaches had a lot of film on Brian VanGorder's blitzing defense.

It seemed that once the other teams figured it out, they couldn't stop anybody. That included Northwestern and Navy. Certainly Notre Dame has players on the defensive side of the ball. Jaylon Smith and Sheldon Day are potential All-Americans. KeVare Russell returning from suspension does give the Irish a much needed shutdown corner.

We as fans hope they will be better but we can't just assume they will be. I honestly am not a fan at all of blitzing non-stop. Yes, it is exciting to watch when we get a huge sack. But it is also disappointing to give up all those big plays.

When I think about the struggles of last season, it reminds me of a comment Manti Te'o made right after his great 2012 season. He gave a lot of credit to Coach Diaco for putting him in position to make plays. But when you nonstop blitz, you are not always putting your players in position to make plays. In fact, you are actually taking them out of position many times.

I just have two fundamental issues with VanGorder's style. One, I see a blitz as an element of surprise. But when the offense knows it is coming every play, it is easier to prepare for it. More importantly, a school like Notre Dame that gets top talent yearly should not have to sell out on every play. I could understand if it was Navy, but Notre Dame should have good enough talent to where they don't have to blitz on almost every play.

The defense definitely has the talent. I just hope that they are put in more positions to make plays rather than getting taking out of them.

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