In the past two years, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has coached some tremendous defenses against some pretty decent teams.
Lest we forget, in the final three games of the 2010 regular season, Diaco's defense limited teams averaging at least 31 points per game to 22 combined points—the fewest points allowed by a Notre Dame defense in three straight games since the 1993 season.
In the offseason following 2010, the campus was filled with reports of rocks and trees missing from the university, as a monster defense was rumored to be brewing in the bowels of the GUG.
And what happened in 2011?
Last year ND had decent numbers overall, with a scoring defense that only gave up 20.9 points and 349 yards a game.
On the dark side of those numbers, teams with winning records averaged 28.0 points and 449 yards per game against the Irish.
But the numbers weren’t the ugly part.
We painfully recall how USC ran over us in the fourth quarter eight straight times to run the game clock out, while Stanford called four plays all game and still beat us by two touchdowns.
I am still at a loss as to how Denard Robinson can throw passes that have more hang time than our punter’s best moonballs and still light us up for 338 yards and four TD’s in the air.
To this day I still cannot watch a replay of the fourth quarter of that game without random thoughts of suicide and a quick shot and a sedative.
But there is hope. Lots of it. Cases and cases of it in my opinion. Look at the roster and you can make a good argument there is a beer truck full of hope.
The offense gave up the ball 13 more times than the D got it back, mostly due to poor QB play but in many cases we just got too damn close to the goal line so we just gave it away.
Every college football team lives and dies by the turnover margin every year, and the Irish were not the worst in the country by far.
They were 118th out of 120. Horribly and unjustifiably terrible, but not the worst.
Half the teams in the country were breakeven or better, so it's not unreasonable to think that it's humanly possible not to drop the ball or throw a pick every other time down the field.
That's 13 more times the offense scores or pins the other team deep. If the Irish just get to breakeven with turnovers, that’s 13 less times the D is on the field cleaning up the O’s constant screw ups.
Here's an old football adage to live by: One good way of not screwing up on defense is to be on offense.
That’s not a lot to ask of a college football team.
To compound matters, the Irish D had a lot of injuries across the board, which made them play talented but less experienced freshman damn near everywhere but the food truck.
This year that same liability is now an opportunity, as talented players like Stephon Tuitt and Ishaq Williams will get to play with a little bit more edge and experience, and a host of other underclassmen saw meaningful playing time that can only benefit the 2012 version of the Irish Wall.
And yes, we all know the secondary was torched consistently last year and lost both corners to boot.
Still, despite the fact the secondary is going to have new faces, they are talented faces that could not do much worse than last year’s group which only had eight interceptions all year in soft coverage. They had a no frills no blitz approach that took great care not to hit anyone too hard after the catch.
My 90-year-old mom kept close to a passing beer truck for a good three blocks just on the off chance a bottle might shake loose, and was rewarded when he stopped at a light long enough for her to get her shot.
She took the driver out with a flying Nelson followed by a deafening knee drop before making off with a month's worth of Coors Light that lasted her the better part of a week with enough left over to sell to the local high school kids and fund her Bingo group for the next three Sundays.
I'm just saying with the right motivation, great things can be accomplished.
With two reasonable opponents to start the year, and a pass-happy Purdue as the second test, the new secondary has a chance to grow into their roles before the Oklahoma's and USC's show us their endless stable of All-American receivers and QB's.
Baby steps are good things.
If the D-Line comes into its own enough to keep the focus off the back four, the defense has the overall talent to form a pretty solid unit.
At a minimum, we’ll see if Diaco really has any idea how to coach, so if we don’t get decent football, at least we’ll finally get some answers about this staff.
Either way it will be a lot of fun for everyone to see what happens.