This year’s team has been up and down on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, with the notable ‘down’ portion in the 4th Quarter against Michigan. Other than that 15 minutes of mess, the Irish D has been really, really good this year. And especially so against the Run.
Notre Dame is currently a Top 25 Defense against the Run, averaging only 93 yards per game on the ground for opponents. And note that this is against a really solid schedule with USF (running QB), Michigan (Denard), MSU (traditionally a solid running team) and Pitt (going into the game on Saturday I was sure that Graham was suiting up for the Steelers, not the Panthers). 25th against that kind of competition is far more than respectable. It’s DAMN GOOD.
The Irish front 7 were touted as being really solid this year, and the group has not disappointed at all. The starting 3 of EJ, LNIII and KLM have been really solid, and their backups in Lynch, Tuitt and Cwynar have also performed really well. The LB corps remains up and down but in general have been good, and we’ve seen bits of brilliance from all of the guys in that crew. While the ILB spot opposite Manti (not Monty!!!) still remains a weak spot, Fox and Calabrese have shown improvement as the season has progressed, each working to patch up the holes in their game.
To give a little context, ND’s current ranking of 25th against the run is 24 spots better than their BEST finish since 2007. ND wrapped up each year ranked well below 25, as follows:
2007: 96th (!)
2009: 85th (!)
Granted, the season isn’t over year, but if anything we should see ND’s rankings rise as other teams get out of their cupcake warm-up games and into conference play.
BK’s philosophy largely focuses on stopping the run on D, then shoring up the passing game. Thus far, phase I seems to be well on its way. I have to say, it’s really, really nice to be confident in our DL. It’s been a while since I truly felt like we had a dominant front 7 and I’d say we’re getting really close to that point.