Log onto any Notre Dame football board these days and this much is clear. ND fans want a change at the defensive coordinator position. Will that change ND’s defense into a top 20 unit? Certainly other schools have done it. UCLA’s defense has seemingly been born overnight, and Michigan is clearly a different unit than they have been in recent years. All the examples have me thinking. Is Rick Minter a poor defensive coordinator, or is ND’s experience lacking at certain positions?
My only issue with Minter’s defense this year is a simple one. At times, I can not identify with any real gameplan. Against USC, what was the game plan? Was it to take away the middle of the field and allow USC to work outside? Was it an effort to take away the run and make Booty beat us? I wasn’t sure, and even after watching the game a second time, I still don’t know. My inability to identify a gameplan certainly doesn’t mean one didn’t exist. I will say this. Minter has shown an ability to make half-time adjustments. The Navy game comes to mind. In the first half of that game, ND was getting beat on the edge. ND took away Navy’s ability to get inside, and Navy simply started getting to the corner. Minter made a very simple, yet effective change in the second half. He moved Ndukwe up to the LOS on the wide side of the field, and the move work perfectly. Navy was shut down for pretty much the entire second half.
What teams beat ND last/this year? Michigan and USC. Add Ohio State from last year’s Fiesta Bowl. What do those offensive teams have in common? The most obvious is their athleticism. Speed and size at the WR position. Troy Smith, Ginn, Manningham, Jarrett. Speed. Size.
To me as I look at the current ND defense, I would say talent is more of an issue right now than scheme.
What specific talent? A pass rush off the edge. For me this is the single most glaring need, and something that would change the defense’s identify overnight. Victor Abiamiri is a very good defensive end, and he will be a solid NFL player for years to come. He is the only pass rusher ND has right now. However, it is pretty easy to negate him when all a team has to do is double him. Our lack of a pass rush has a cascade effect on the rest of the defense. It gives opposing QBs more time to throw, and isolates an already suspect secondary. I am sure some of you will throw out, “Well why then doesn’t Minter blitz more?”, and that is exactly what Minter can’t afford to do. Blitzing more asks him to isolate his coverage more, or worse…..it gets his LBs on faster players in open space. The truth is Minter has tried to blitz. Often. However, our players are not getting to the QB. Anyone recall the UNC game? I won’t call out any player, but I will say ND has been in place to make a play or two while blitzing and failed to make a tackle. The result was a big play for the opposing team.
If coaching/scheme are really so poor, how can anyone explain the development of Terrail Lambert? Someone is coaching him, and he is turning into a pretty good college defensive back. How about Derek Landri? He is a very solid defensive tackle. Landri is ND’s best defensive player, and yet I rarely see anyone commenting on how well he and Laws have played this year. Notre Dame players have grown, and they have improved.
Notre Dame’s defense will change. Charlie Weis will see to that. It will start with the addition of a great pass rusher. Maybe the player already exists on the team, maybe someone like Kerry Neal will fill that role. I don’t know where he will come from, but I am certain that we will have such a dynamic player very soon.
Minter may not be the popular choice for a defensive coordinator, but until he has the horses to line up with Michigan and USC, I will give him one more shot.