Now that the offense has been taken care of, it is time to take a look at the side of the football that can win or lose championships. Here it is, the 2010 Irish Defensive Squad!
Leading off the Defensive Scheme for the Irish are linemen that have a new defensive coordinator and playbook for the third time.
Originally set up in a 3-4, then a 4-3 defense, and now back into the 3-4 it would seem like difficult times for the Irish on the defensive side of the ball.
Luckily, most of the candidates fighting for starting positions were recruited with a 3-4 defensive mindset, so the decision to revert back under new coordinator Bob Diaco, looks good so far.
The foundation in the form of the 3 down linemen is made up of Juniors Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore on the outside, and Senior Ian Williams holding down his fort at nose tackle in the middle.
The backup squad consists mainly of Juniors, however a couple of Seniors, and a few Sophomores and Freshman, are ready to gain as much experience as possible, and answer the call at a moment’s notice.
In my personal opinion, it seems far too long since the linebacker position played a dominant role at Notre Dame.
Entering Kelly's first season the linebacker depth chart looks very promising. Unfortunately, promise will only get you so far, and nobody will know what the future really holds until they take the field this fall.
The good news for the Irish Faithful is that leading the linebackers is the highly talented Manti Te'o who had a great freshman year with 63 total tackles, (29 of which were solo tackles.)
Alongside Te'o, playing the inside position, is Junior Anthony McDonald. McDonald is inexperienced, but pairs well with Te'o, giving them a strong defensive presence.
On the outside stands the 6-3 234 pound Senior Brian Smith, who had 71 tackles (37 solo) last year with the Irish.
The final position belongs to Junior Darius Fleming, who is arguably the best pass rusher on the squad. Last year alone, Fleming recorded 21 solo tackles, 12 of which were for negative yardage, (35 yards total,) and 3 sacks for 19 yards.
The rest of the Depth Chart consists of mainly Juniors and Sophomores, however as always, a couple of Seniors and Freshman, round out the linebacker portion of the roster.
The final item on the menu today is the defensive backs. Last year it was the secondary that was supposed to carry the Irish defense, however when faced with 3rd and long situations, cracks were found, and the Irish special teams were forced to stay on the sideline.
With a little less than 3 weeks before the season opener against Purdue, the veterans and the rest of the defensive backs must come together quickly, in order to ensure success.
Lead by 5th Year Senior Darrin Walls and Senior Gary Gray on the corners, and Senior Harrison Smith and Junior Jamoris Slaughter at strong and free safety respectively, I must admit the Irish backs has a lot of promising talent headed into this season.
The interesting spectacle to see this season will be how Smith and Slaughter are able to fill the shoes of Kyle McCarthy and Sergio Brown. Despite the fact that Brown and McCarthy were not the greatest of all time, I enjoyed watching them work the safety position last year. The shoes are big, but with a combined 51 tackles last season, I have faith in what Smith and Slaughter will bring to the table.
The reserves for the Irish Defensive Backs are an even combination of sophomores and Juniors, with a few Freshman and Seniors squeaking in to complete the Depth Chart for the 2010 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
However, just in case you did not know who had the positions, here are the starting Kickers and Punters for the 2010 Irish.
At this point the staring kicker is Sophomore Nick Tausch, who had a fantastic year in 2009, until he missed the final three games of the season due to a foot injury.
Despite the fact that Senior Walk-On David Ruffer made the most of his short time as starting kicker, with a perfect 5 for 5 on field goals, Tausch still holds the right of passage,(or in this case "kickage") as Kicker for the Irish.
Finally, though we hope we do not see much of him, is the man who will be kicking it deep for the Irish; Sophomore Ben Turk.
Turk showed great improvements in distance and accuracy towards the end of the season last year, which is the main reason he has held on to the position.
So there you have it, the 2010 Defense, and Special Teams for your NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH!!!!
What will the season hold? Will the Irish finally beat USC? Will things start of strong in the Kelly ERA, or will it be a rough year one?
All those questions and more will be answered throughout the year by yours truly, so keep up on the articles, and please DO NOT forget to vote in the polls!
I wish Coach Kelly and the rest of the Irish the best of luck this fall. Hopefully this will be the year that the echoes of a winning tradition in South Bend are finally awoken.
(Information from ESPN.COM, and "Here Come The Irish 2010" were used as references in this article.)
~James Cook Future Associated Press