One of the many changes Brian Kelly made for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team over the offseason was hiring Mike Elko to take over as the defensive coordinator.
After three games now, it’s hard to say if Elko or new strength and conditioning coordinator, Matt Balis, was the best move made. Either way, Mike Elko is making a strong name for himself at Notre Dame already.
The Irish defense isn’t blowing anyone out of the water. Although the 4-2-5 isn’t an extremely popular defensive system, it’s not like it’s overly complicated, exotic, or flashy.
If we just go back over the past few years when Brian VanGorder was in charge, I think it’s safe to say that we can see a distinct and positive difference on this side of the ball.
Notre Dame’s 49-20 win over the Boston College Eagles is another example of that change. It was nothing spectacular, and they gave up 20 points, but it was physical, opportunistic, and limited the big play. It’s exactly what they have done in each game this year.
Against the Eagles, Shaun Crawford had a huge day with 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery, and a pass break-up. That kind of day was unheard of in the recent past. And it’s not just what kind of day that Crawford had, it’s also from where he did it - at the nickel.
The linebacker rotation was strong today with Te’von Coney, Greer Martini, and Nyles Morgan getting 13, 10, and 7 tackles respectively. Morgan added a forced fumble to his stat sheet, and Coney made big stop on 4th down.
One of the question marks for this team during the offseason was the defensive line. So far, they have exceeded most realistic expectations, and against Boston College, we saw a really nice 7 tackle performance from Jerry Tillery.
Seriously, how refreshing has it been to watch a functional defense over the past three games. A defense that is getting turnovers, limiting big plays, making 4th down stops, and getting 3 and outs?
The defense hasn’t been incredible, but the difference in the defense is incredible.
Notre Dame doesn’t need a top 10 defense to win football games, but it does need a defense that is more than just serviceable. Through 3 games last year, Notre Dame was allowing 32 points per game. Through 3 games this season, they are allowing 18 points per game.
That’s a 2 touchdown per game correction. All of this while they still have issues at safety, and really, they are still adjusting to Mike Elko’s system.
The defense is more normal than it’s been in years, and that’s a huge win.