Things are indeed looking up for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Heard that before?
Well, I've said that before...
But as National Signing Day draws ever closer (February 3rd has been circled on my calendar for about three months), the Notre Dame football program appears to be headed in the right direction as Brian Kelly begins work on his second season in South Bend.
The Fighting Irish had an up-and-down year to say the least, but we won't re-visit the downs (student videographer Declan Sullivan's tragic death, a mind-numbing loss to Tulsa) or ups (win over hated rival USC, impressive bowl win over long-time rival Miami (FL)) here, but rather take a glimpse into Notre Dame's future.
The future is bright, and it all starts up front defensively.
Anyone who watched Auburn's BCS national championship game victory over the Oregon Ducks would recognize a key component to the Tigers' win: incredible front-seven defensive play—particularly the defensive line.
Nick Fairly (probable NFL top-five draft pick and possible NFL Pro Bowler) and mates were a menace to the Oregon Ducks' high-powered offense and lived in the Ducks' backfield.
Living in an opponents' backfield is a good way to play defense—but Notre Dame hasn't been doing that of late.
The reason is obvious: Notre Dame hasn't been getting electrifying defensive linemen to go along with their otherwise electrifying offensive standouts.
Sure, any Irish fan would love Brady Quinn, Jimmy Clausen, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd, and Kyle Rudolph, but as good as they are/were in Notre Dame uniforms, they couldn't prevent opponents from scoring on them.
Notre Dame had commitments from Justin Trattou and Omar Hunter several years back (now both Florida Gators), but neither high-profile defensive lineman signed with the Irish on Signing Day, leaving coach Charlie Weis with top-ten classes built primarily on the offensive side of the ball.
We know offenses win games, but defenses win championships.
Of course, Weis' teams didn't even win many games, so he was promptly shipped back to the NFL.
A rejuvenated front-seven and defensive line could be just what the doctor ordered for Notre Dame to return to prominence in the college football world.
With this year's recruiting haul, the Irish are shaping up to be very tough in the front-seven defensively and hope to keep opponents out of the end zone, while still maintaining their own high-level production on offense.