Notre Dame's defensive depth coming into focus

Notre Dame's defensive depth coming into focus
August 14, 2014, 10:00 pm
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As it turns out, Brian VanGorder's first-year defense at Notre Dame will have to rely on a number of first-year players.

With VanGorder's aggressive system in place, expect Notre Dame to call upon a number of freshmen to contribute, even if it's only for a handful of plays per game.

"It's going to drive you crazy," coach Brian Kelly said. "We're going to play so many different players defensively, you're going to need a scorecard."

Just to rattle off the names Kelly mentioned Wednesday: defensive tackles Jonathan Bonner (he's Sheldon Day's backup) and Daniel Cage, defensive ends Jhonny Williams and Andrew Trumbetti, outside linebackers Greer Martini and Kolin Hill and inside linebacker Nyles Morgan.

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Trumbetti, who enrolled early in January, is in line to start at defensive end opposite Ishaq Williams. Martini, who Kelly described as "Joe Schmdit with really good size," will back up Jaylon Smith at Will outside linebacker. Morgan, pending the return of Jarrett Grace, looks like Schmidt's backup at inside linebacker.

There's a certain simplicity to VanGorder's scheme that opens the door for a greenhorn linebacker or defensive linemen to get on the field. Kelly said the directive most of these youngsters will have is to get after the quarterback, providing fresh legs in pass rushing situations.

Kelly said he's not a big depth-chart guy and doesn't post a two-deep, but by this coming weekend players' roles should be crystallized — like, for example, Kelly said Cody Riggs is in line to start opposite KeiVarae Russell at cornerback.

But for this group of freshmen in the front seven, those pressure-the-quarterback roles will be important for the success of VanGorder's defense.