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Notre Dame Football: Irish have to take on a unique Alabama offense

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A tough assignment for the student-athletes from South Bend

ACC Championship - Clemson v Notre Dame Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

When you (fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish or otherwise) think of the Alabama Crimson Tide offense during the Nick Saban era, most of the images are of bruising offensive lines with powerfully fast running backs and a capable quarterback. An offense that I have lovingly referred to as the “Alabama Lean” over the years. The one that just kept leaning on opponents and gradually throughout the game — they end up with 40+ points on the board.

The results are still more of the same, but the way in which Bama scores is different. Like... the same stuff BUT MORE, which isn’t very fair to the rest of the country. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the mid-2000 USC Trojans offense in the way they just roll up a bunch of points quickly to demoralize most teams into submission.

Does that make sense? Well of course it does since Bama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was at USC during those years. But, that was 15 years ago. offense has evolved even more and we see more and more of the same around the country. Clark Lea explains that Bama is unique, but we’ve seen parts of this offense before.

“Schematically, we’ve seen variations of what they do. I think every opponent we play is in some way unique. Obviously I think the Clemson offense is a highly skilled outfit that has multiple ways to move the ball and multiple ways to find explosive plays. So, from a personnel standpoint, there are similarities there. But every offense is uniquely itself. And Coach Sarkisian does a great job. It’s not just about, for them, about their players. I mean, he does a very smart job in designing scheme to create matchups and to create problems on defense. And then you combine that with the fact that they have like a really talented group. I think it starts in the O line. There’s a toughness there and a physical approach that we have to match and exceed in our game and our style. And then they have skill at every position outside the O line. And it’s going to force you to win in coverage, to win your one-on-ones. And they’ve got a quarterback that can deliver the ball. So there’s a lot for us to have to work towards in terms of finding our success on the field. As far as defending an offense that’s similar, I think we’ve seen parts and pieces through the year, but Alabama is unique just like every other team is unique. I wouldn’t say it’s any different in terms of our preparation.”

This is definitely a game where the symbiotic relationship between the offense and defense has to meet its full potential. It’s the part of the game that never seems to be talked about enough, but is what truly makes each arm work.

Notre Dame needs to convert redzone trips into touchdowns and be +2 in the turnover margin to win this football game. The defense this year has never been the “opportunistic” type of unit — but that’s what they need.

In short... they NEED Kyle Hamilton to make plays in this game — and not just tackles in the box. Lea was asked about getting the best out of Hamilton — even as the quarterback knows to stay away (as all quarterbacks have this year).

“I think Kyle makes a difference. He makes an impact by just being on the field. I think that his presence is felt. I think teams will plan around him, his length, his range. He fills up a lot of windows. Obviously he’s proven over his career to have the ability to attack the ball and make plays. So that obviously is impactful just from the start. When he’s playing at his best, he becomes a difference maker for us. And I think when you look at big games like this, you need your best players to come out and play their best. And I know that’s what we’ve been pushing him for. And that’s been the message from Coach Kelly, and that will be fun to watch. I’m excited for him to have this opportunity. One thing that’s lost is that he was a recruit in 2018 when we were playing in the playoffs. And I can remember talking to him before the game, you know, about being to this point when he’s playing here. And here we are. So having all these guys take advantage of the stage and enjoying this level of competition and going out there and representing ourselves the right way.”

Friday will be a daunting task for this unit with Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris, and other extremely talented players on the Alabama offense. They have to do what no one else has been able to do this season and take down a unique and explosive offense in a game that means everything.

Should be a lot of fun... maybe.

PLAYER INTERVIEWS

The media was able to meet with six defensive players on Tuesday; Kyle Hamilton, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Shaun Crawford, Nick McCloud, Drew White, and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa.