Brian Kelly building around defense at Notre Dame and it's working
Posted by: Josh Kendall on October 8, 2012
Notre Dame assistant coach Bob Diaco has quite a long title as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator/linebackers for the Fighting Irish.
His list of responsibilities in the first five weeks of the season has been even longer.
"Think of what coach Diaco has had to defend in the first five weeks, option offense, a run first with a quarterback in Purdue, Michigan State with a grind it out, great running back," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "It's been an outstanding performance to date, and we've seen it all. Now we just need to build on it."
The undefeated Irish -- who have beaten Navy, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan and most recently Miami (41-3 on Saturday) - face Stanford on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. Kelly is no stranger to fast-paced offensive football, but he made a decision when taking over the Irish program that he would build around defense.
Teams relying on an offense to outscore every opponent are too ripe for an upset for Kelly's tastes, he said.
"When you play the game that way, you are susceptible to off days, and you're going to get beat," he said. "When I came to Notre Dame, having lived in that world of trying to outscore opponents, I felt the best blueprint we could put together here for a national championship was through our defense."
Notre Dame is second in the country in scoring defense, having allowed only 7.8 points per game this year. It has allowed 290 yards a game, the 13th best total in the country.
"We are starting to see the building of the defense, Kelly said. "It's only our third year in terms of building it. The blueprint here is not to try to outscore people and turn it into a track meet. It's to control the line of scrimmage, to play great defense, to be great in the special teams. It's just a choice of the way I want our program to evolve."
The defense is not the only unit rounding into shape. The Notre Dame offensive line played it best game of the season against the Hurricanes, Kelly said.
"I think anytime that you have a day like we did it's going to build your confidence," Kelly said. Offensive line coach/run game coordinator Harry Hiestand "has been very consistent in what he has expected from our players on the offensive line and a lot of this, and I said this earlier in the week, the inside, outside schemes are coming together. (The linemen) are a lot more comfortable with their technique and their steps and you can start to see it coming together."
Kelly can see the improvement on film, he said.
"If it looks like the same ol' thing to me I too would be skeptical of the improvement. I have a different eye in a sense that I am looking at those things more than anything else," he said. "If I see Mike Golic pulling on power and not running into the back of a lineman but finding that linebacker and creasing them. Those are fundamental improvements."
The Irish will host ESPN's College GameDay this weekend.
"It's a day in the life of the Notre Dame program, so it's kind of business as usual," Kelly said.
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