Less than four months removed from the spring game, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish defense took the practice field and has already changed some of the narratives we talked about all summer. So many people are drooling for college football during the spring season that we look deeper into things that should just be took at face value.
With the start of fall camp (in the summer) this is ridiculously true on the defensive side of the football. With incoming freshmen, injury returns, and the full scope of spring now behind them — the picture is much clearer in terms of what the Irish actually have for 2019.
It was one non-contact practice without pads, so perspective is key here, but it shouldn’t dissuade hope for something better either.
THE DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD IS WHERE THE FUN BEGINS
Notre Dame only loses one starter from 2018 in the defensive backfield, but Julian Love’s value was so high — it caused a plethora of questions moving forward. Rather than rehashing the theories, let me just say that very few people were probably right about what is going to happen with this combined unit.
Boundary vs Field and Left vs Right when it comes to cornerback is where we all got into trouble. I’m not foolish enough to say “I told you so” after one practice, but it does force me to revisit some of my thoughts from the spring since Donte Vaughn came out as the 1st team boundary corner. So here it is... perhaps these are the best players at each position:
- Alohi Gilman FS
- Jalen Elliott SS
- Shaun Crawford Nickel
- Troy Pride Jr. Field CB
- Donte Vaughn Boundary CB
Is that really a hard sell? All five players are seniors with Crawford being a HUGE upgrade at Nickel.
There are other possibilities here for sure as Crawford can play the field, and as Kelly said on Sunday, Shaun can also play a little safety with Elliott up at Nickel. And this completely fails to mention Kyle Hamilton doing a similar swap with Elliott or Crawford as well.
The more and more I think about this, it makes much more sense than figuring out if Houston Griffith is either a safety or a corner — or what happens with Avery Davis. TaRiq Bracy should still be figured into these scenarios, but I look at him as more of a role player in 2019 than an every down corner — but I can certainly be wrong about that.
This is a “Health 100%” scenario of course, but it looks good to me.
As clearer as the defensive back situation is for me (in theory) the linebackers seem even more messy than in the spring. The major difference here is the return of Drew White from injury. White someone that might have competed for a starting job at the Mike over Asmar Bilal had he been healthy — and that could be a major story moving forward. There just isn’t a whole lot of confidence in Bilal right now and besides White, there could be real challenges from Bo Bauer or even freshman J.D. Bertrand.
What about Shayne Simon? Well, after practicing at the Mike in the spring, Simon was back as a Buck where Jack Lamb appears to have an edge. Jordan Genmark Heath is also probably ahead of Simon at this point as well.
Rover is the only one of the three spots that is really locked in with Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. There has been no challenges to JOK, but there is some depth there with Paul Moala right behind him.
While all of this will basically shake itself out by Louisville — I would bet real money that the lineup changes a few times throughout the season.
OUTSIDE IN FOR THE DEFENSIVE LINE
First things first; the WDE is now called “Shark End,” and SDE is called “Big End.” The name change happened after spring. What didn’t change here is the incredible depth Notre Dame has on the edge.
- SHARKS: Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes, Justin Ademilola, Ovie Oghoufo, Isaiah Foskey
- BIGS: Khalid Kareem, Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Jamir Jones, NaNa Osafo-Mensah
It’s a legit 3 deep, but the 2-deep is OMG dynamic. Notre Dame is all good there.
As far as the defensive tackles are concerned, Kurt Hinish at the 1 and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa at the 3 is a nice combo. The depth behind them is still a concern, but Jayson Ademilola was very productive in 2018 with his minutes and Jamion Franklin is fully healthy. Add freshman Jacob Lacey into the mix, and this unit looks much stronger than in the spring. Freshman Hunter Spears saw his first practice at defensive tackle on Sunday as well.
COULD BE PRETTY GOOD
The entire lineup just has a different look and feel than what we saw in the spring. If the linebacker situation was just a little clearer (in a good way) I would be confident enough to fully sell that the Irish defense should be as good — if not better — than it was in 2018.
There’s a ton of fall camp left to go seeing as this was DAY ONE, so they can still get there for sure.This is a lot different than spring, because it’s just better.