April 11, 2006 // Notre Dame Football

How Fast Can The Defense Improve? (Part III)

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Last time, we looked at teams with Top 20 Defenses for 2005 who finished outside of the Top 20 on Defense the year before (2004).

We highlighted dramatic improvements made by seven teams (Tennessee, Florida, Kansas, South Florida, TCU, Middle Tennessee State, and Texas Tech), and now I’ll look at the possible reasons why or how those teams improved their defenses (based on defensive coaching changes, returning defensive starters, and Saragin/USA Today strength of schedule changes):

Team (’04 rank –>’05 rank)

I. Tennessee (#45 total defense –> #6 total defense)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: none (0)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: eight (8)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #37 –> #32

II. Florida (#42 total defense –> #9 total defense)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: three (3)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: seven (7)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #57 –> #40

III. Kansas (#41 total defense –> #11 total defense)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: none (0)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: three (3)
3. Strength of schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #19 –> #24

IV. South Florida (#77 total defense/#94 scoring defense –> #17 total defense/#14 scoring defense)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: none (0)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: nine (9)
3. Strength of schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #90 –> #53

V. TCU (#103 scoring defense –> #15 scoring defense)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: one (1)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: eight (8)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #80 –> #71

VI. Middle Tennessee State (#68 –> #17)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: two (2)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: nine (9)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #114 –> #113

VII. Texas Tech (#67 –> #18)
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: none (0)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: eight (8)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #14 –> #66

vs.

VIII. Notre Dame
1. New defensive coaches in 2005: four (4)
2. Returning defensive starters in 2005: three (3)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2004 to 2005: #5 –> #14

The point of all this is to show just how hard hit the Irish defense was last year compared to all of those other most-improved defenses from last season:
– We had the most new defensive coaches of these teams
– We were tied for the fewest returning starters
– We had the toughest strength of schedule of any of the teams listed

That, compared to the other teams, most of which returned all of their defensive staff and/or most of their starters, should give Irish fans hope that our defense can make similar dramatic defensive improvements in 2006, regardless of the eventual strength of schedule next season.

Look at South Florida. They returned all their defensive coaches. They returned nine defensive starters. Their strength of schedule jumped from 90 to 53. And they still dramatically improved their defensive rankings.
Now compare that to next year’s Notre Dame defense:

XI. Notre Dame Defense 2006
1. New Defensive Coaches in 2006: none (0)
2. Returning Defensive Starters in 2006: nine (9)
3. Strength of Schedule change from 2005 to 2006: #14 –> ???

Go Irish Go

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