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Notre Dame Football: Irish prepare for a different Alabama team as a different program

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Offense took the stage on Monday

tommy rees notre dame football coach Mike Miller

As the Notre Dame Fighting Irish prepare to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the upcoming Rose Bowl, it’s easy to think about the nightmarish 2012 BCS National Championship game. For a game that we are now 8 years removed from, it still remains fresh in the memories of fans, media members, and detractors of the program.

So, of course Brian Kelly got a question on Monday about that 2012 game. Because nothing has changed for Notre Dame — right? Well, that’s not how Kelly sees it, and he’s absolutely right.

“Look if you’re not getting better every year in everything in life, you’re getting left behind. You need to look internally at what you’re doing. Even after going undefeated that year, we lost in the national championship game and we were looked at as not a very good football team. We needed to look at the things that could help us grow and we’ve been doing that each and every year. So, are we a different football team? We are a different program. We have to be. We have to change and have to be able to stay up with the current trends and things that are occurring every single day. We all do. Whatever business we are in. We’re a different organization, we’re a different program. We stand for the same things. Our mission is still the same, to graduate champions, but the way we go about things on a day to day basis, how we develop our players, who we’re looking for in the recruiting process, they have to still fit Notre Dame and what we stand for. But you’ve got to be ever changing, you’ve got to be able to keep your pulse on what’s going on in college football. That’s that’s just the nature of it.”

Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, a member of the Irish team in 2012 and a big reason why the Irish went undefeated in the regular season that year, has a similar assessment of the Notre Dame football program.

“Yeah, that was a long time ago for us. I was there, I remember it, and it wasn’t a fun night, obviously. I think the program has come a long way under coach’s leadership. I think the way we recruited, the way we’ve developed within our program has increased, and I think we’ve been in this situation now multiple times and there’s a belief within the program that we’re consistently one of the best five teams in the country and we handle ourselves that way. We have that belief and that’s really the standard and work ethic that we come into this building with every day. I think coach has built that consistency here over the last 11 years and it’s been really exciting just to see this place grown into where it’s at now.”

Now, that doesn’t mean Notre Dame has reached the level of Alabama, but as a program they certainly have improved — without question. Of course... Alabama has changed over time as well.

The Crimson Tide defense is still one of the most talented and soul-crushing units in all of college football. There’s a natural tendency to lump elite SEC defenses into the same box, and since the Irish has played a couple of those in its two games against the Georgia Bulldogs over the last four years, we open up that box to take a look.

The thing is though, Tommy Rees opened that box and ended up seeing something else.

“There are some similarities. It’s not the same defense. If you go back and study obviously what Alabama was in the past, you see a lot more similarities to what Georgia was in 2017 and 2019. There’s certainly some carryover. I’m not saying there isn’t. It’s funny you mention that, because going into the game, that’s kind of what I anticipated, ‘Hey, it’s gonna look a lot like Georgia.’ There are some differences there. There are certainly things formationally-based, personnel-based that are same and some things that we’ve done over the last four years here that will be staples and carry over. I think this team presents a different challenge and they certainly have enough wrinkles in there that is not just a complete carryover, if that makes sense.”

The most drastic difference between this Alabama team and the 2012 version is on the offensive side of the football with newly crowned Broyles Award winning coordinator Steve Sarkisian at the helm — but we will get to more about that with Clark Lea on Tuesday.

EXTRA NOTES FROM MONDAY

  • Kyle Hamilton is healthy and ready to go.
  • The competition at center between Josh Lugg and Zeke Correll continues.
  • Kelly talked about Braden Lenzy helping the Irish: “Braden Lenzy will help us. He’s get speed, which you’re going to need against this outstanding Alabama football team. He brings that element and I think we’ll be able to see that on Friday for us.”
  • Kevin Austin will have surgery after the season.

PLAYER INTERVIEWS

The media spoke with six Irish offensive players; Kyren Williams, Liam Eichenberg, Ian Book, Tommy Kraemer, Michael Mayer, and Ben Skowronek.