Building a Contender
We have all heard the colloquialism as old as football itself - defense wins championships.
This isn’t just a saying, either. It’s an empirically true trend. Thinking back to all of the recent national champions in college football, from the Clemson Tigers to the Ohio State Buckeyes to the Alabama Crimson Tide, this saying is applicable. Each team fielded a stellar defense.
It seems that Brian Kelly took notice of this, and decided to begin building his team around this idea last season.
According to 247Sports’ rankings - which were more fond of Irish defensive commits than other services - the average rating for a Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive commit in 2017 was 88.6 across 10 players.
Some of the players from that class, like Jordan Genmark Heath and Myron Tagavailoa-Amosa, appear to have a bright future in South Bend. Others, like Jonathan MacCollister who is now at UCF, have flamed out already.
In the 2018 recruiting class, the average rating for a defensive commit was 90.4. That’s a higher average rating across more bodies, meaning more talent a better depth. There were five defensive players in that class rated more highly than than Darnell Ewell - the highest rated defensive commit in 2017 (now an offensive guard).
The 2019 class so far has an average rating of 91 across 10 defensive commits, including the highest rated defensive recruit since the Class of 2013 in Kyle Hamilton. This is indicative of a greater focus on building both defensive talent at the top and quality depth, which the Irish coaching staff is doing effectively.
This also equates to a 90.65 average over the past two years across 23 total players. To compare to another powerful Midwest program, Ohio State’s two-year average comes in at 93.10 across 19 players - taking into account that they had arguably the best defensive class in 2018. So while the Irish still quite aren’t at that level, the direction they’re heading is promising. They aren’t far off either.
The Irish are 7-0 after a solid, albeit disappointing 10-3 season, and are taking the right steps towards building a consistent contender. They’ve had one of the top 5-10 cumulative defensive recruiting hauls over the past two years, which has huge implications for the potential future of this team.
It all starts with the defense, and the coaching staff at Notre Dame seems to have taken notice.