The Evolution of the Irish Defense

Notre Dame enters this Saturday’s matchup against Miami (OH) at a respectable 3-1. I think they realistically should be 4-0, but what’s done is done. Their offense has had no issues putting points up, and quarterback Brandon Wimbush looks like he’s coming around as a passer after a few quality throws last week at Michigan State.

What’s caught my attention, however, is the defense. The Irish defensive unit has yet to give up more than 20 points in a game (18.5 points per game thus far), and they’ve been much easier to watch than last year’s team.

It’s funny when you delve into it, however. In 2016, the Irish actually gave up less yards per game, at about 379 in comparison to 388 so far. So, what makes up the difference?

Well, though an entire season last year, ND forced 14 turnovers (6 fumbles, 8 picks). This year, they already have 9, (5 fumbles, 4 picks). They’ve gotten 8 sacks (2 per game) so far this year, while last year they only averaged 1 sack per game (14 total).

Their experienced players from last year’s team have become true leaders; Nyles Morgan is quietly one of the best inside linebackers in the entire country. Drue Tranquill has evolved from a less-than-good safety into a quality, confident linebacker. Nick Watkins, Julian Love and Shaun Crawford have all continued to improve, while moving Nick Coleman back to safety has done wonders for the junior.

I’m not saying the Irish have faced any exceptional offensive teams. But taking these stats into account, I don’t think there’s any reason they should lose to this Redhawks team Saturday, a terrible UNC team the week after that, and a USC team that has been prone to turnovers thus far.

Shoutout to defensive coordinator Mike Elko. If he can keep this up, he’ll add the years that Brian VanGorder took off my life back on.

 

Cover photo from Chicago Tribune.

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