SportsCrack Blog

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


If you are a Notre Dame fan then this new NBC trailer for the upcoming season should get your heart pumping. New head coach Brian Kelly will win at least 9 games this season. Mark it down. Of course Ty Willingham and Charlie Weis both won big in their first season under the Golden Dome so what does Kelly need to change to make sure he doesn't "fail" like his predecessors?

Passion and defense. It's been awhile since Notre Dame came out and actually punished people. Their defense has been "soft" for over a decade. Will it change this year? Hard to say.

The strength of the defense should no doubt be the linebackers. Inside guys Manti Te'o and Anthony McDonald are two extremely athletic linebackers with a nose for the football. Te'o will be an All-American. The guy is a freak of nature warrior who not only tackles people but takes their souls.

Te'o returns as an experienced sophomore who got plenty of pops in his freshman season. McDonald on the other hand is a junior who saw limited action last year after redshirting his freshman season. McDonald has been nothing short of reliable so far in camp and appears to have beaten out Carlo Calabrese (the Italian Stallion) for co-head hunter with the Hawaiian Hitman. Both Te'o and McDonald should be a joy for ND fans to watch this year. Think of Stonebreaker, Stams, and Pritchett and how they swarmed and killed people back in the late 80's. That is what Te'o and McDonald have to do to put the fear back into the opposition.

The outside linebackers consist of returning starter Brian Smith (prediction: honorable All-American for the 4 year starter), rising junior Steve Filer (the Freak), Darius Fleming (8 plus sacks this season), and senior Kerry Neal. All 4 of these guys were highly touted 4 star prospects coming out of high school and for the most part have not lived up to their billing. I wouldn't so much as blame on them as I would the old staff. Under Jon Tenuta and Corwin Brown the defense was a clusterfuck full of origami puppets. No one knew where to be or how to react. Were they a 3-4 defense or a 4-3 defense? New defensive coordinator Bob Diaco installed the 3-4 and plans to stick with it. Thank Touchdown Jesus!

The key of course to any defense is the ability of the defensive line to penetrate and take on blockers to free up your linebackers to make big plays. And this is where Notre Dame could get burned. They don't have a Chris Zorich or a Bryant Young to plug the middle. They missed out on guys on the recruiting trail like Omar Hunter, Justin Trattou, Chris Martin, and Gerald McCoy at the last moment. But make no mistake they return plenty of starting talent in Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson, and Ian Williams. Kap and Johnson should be ready to blossom as true juniors. Both have had their moments but the Irish will need more consistency and disruption to make the defense excel. Williams is a returning 2/3 year starter at nose tackle who should have an excellent senior season. The Irish are going to need all 3 of these guys to go above and beyond because simply the Irish don't have a ton of talented depth on the line. They got bodies but they don't have the talent the SEC teams and Texas and USC's regularly shuffle in and out during the game.

The secondary is going to be good. I have no doubt. Cornerbacks Gary Gray, Darrin Walls, and Robert Blanton are all capable of "locking down" receivers and as upperclassmen no the lay of the land. Most programs would kill to have one or two of these guys. Notre Dame has three. The safety position is led by breakout star Jamoris "Man" Slaughter. I watched Slaughter crush skulls while playing at Tucker high school down here in Atlanta and there is a reason why every big time program wanted him. The kid is simply a player. He has the 6th sense of knowing where the ball is going to go and then either laying down a devastating hit or intercepting a pass. Why the previous staff moved him to cornerback made little sense to me. Now he is at his natural position and he should be the last line of defense which is great news if you are a Notre Dame fan. He has the speed to not get burned deep. Harrison Smith is a returning senior who's career has been enigmatic to say the least. Harrison might have most god given talent on the defensive roster but it's what's between the ears which has held him back. I'm putting my confidence in the new staff with his switch back to safety (he played some linebacker) and have hope they finally unleash the beast within. Harrison had offers from Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee who all saw him as a future star. He can still be that guy his senior season. If not then sophomore Zeke "And Destroy" Motta will be more than capable of filling in.

The defense as a whole has a ton of elite starting talent. The question remains through a grueling season do the Irish have enough depth to stop the other teams? I'm not sure yet. The defense was horrific during the 5 years of the Weis Era. If the Kelly Era is to be a success (BCS Bowl Game WINS) then he is going to need to develop a defense with some passion who is proactive instead of reactive. Time will tell.

1 comment:

Irish Paul said...

Hopefully a short amount of time.