Notre Dame, IN (UHND) – Jon Tenuta’s name was mentioned in connection with multiple defensive coordinator positions this off-season including Michigan, Texas A&M, an LSU just to name a few. Instead, Tenuta ended up at Notre Dame not as a defensive coordinator, but as the linebackers coach and assistant head coach for defense and the Irish’s new fiery assistant coach wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m just saying this is Notre Dame. When that opportunity came up for me, this is where I wanted to be,” Tenuta told the media on Thursday at his first Notre Dame press conference when asked if it was hard for him to come to Notre Dame as an assistant after being a coordinator for so long.
His decision to join the staff was indeed a shock to most in the college football world considering his name had been linked to so many different open defensive coordinator positions since Paul Johnson took over at Georgia Tech and brought in his own assistants.
A phone call from Charlie Weis was all it took to let Tenuta know that Notre Dame is where he wanted to be though. “There were a lot of jobs and people that were interested in me. But the first time I talked to Coach Weis, once that happened to me, this is where I wanted to be,” he answered when asked about the other job possibilities he had this off-season.
The fact that Weis was on the other end of the phone and not an agent was also a big selling point for Tenuta. “Instead of this guy or that guy calling you or somebody’s agent calling you to see if you’re interested in a job, Coach called me. So, to me, that big. That even put more in it for me,” he said.
Aside from discussing why he decided to join the Irish staff, Tenuta also addressed questions about how he will work with defensive coordinator Corwin Brown and how his philosophies will fit in with the 3-4 defense Notre Dame runs.
While serving as the defensive coordinator at Georgia tech for the past five seasons, Tenuta employed a 4-3 defense for the Yellow Jackets. Despite a technical difference in philosophy, Tenuta thinks his blitzes will fit in perfectly with Brown’s 3-4 defense. “If you look at my package and the fronts that I played, my ends dropped and they were like a linebacker. So I may be a 4-3 personnel guy, but I’ve been a 3-4 personnel guy. So the whole package meshes together, that’s not a problem.”
While some terminology from the 4-3 to the 3-4 might change, one thing won’t change – his style of coaching. “I’m an aggressive attacking guy, so obviously, I hope and Corwin is, too. So we’re going to attack and get downhill and make things happen.”
That should be music to Notre Dame’s ears after the Notre Dame defense getting to the quarterback in 2007. As a unit, the Irish defense sacked opposing QBs just 18 times (96th in the nation). Meanwhile, Tenuta’s defense at Tech got to the quarterback a nation leading 48 times during the ’07 campaign.
Tenuta’s Yellow Jacket defense also excelled at stopping the run last year yielding just 114 yards an outing and that wasn’t by accident. “I think philosophically first and foremost, you have to stop the run, first and foremost. You have to stop the run or they’ll run the clock on you,” said Tenuta. “Philosophically we want to confuse the front five the offensive linemen and not let the quarterback set his feet. So to me, you have to be the one that dictates and don’t let them dictate to you.”
There was some confusion about how Tenuta, whose been a coordinator for most of the last decade, will work with second year defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. Tenuta addresses those questions by stating, “Obviously, with my experiences in where I’ve been and what I’ve done, with the packages that I have, and Corwin and his package, we just kind of melt the packages together. If something good, something’s bad, whatever, and work it out and game plan together and get ready for practice.”
That process of melting his packages together with Brown’s will not be a quick process though. During spring ball, Tenuta will be more concerned with figuring out what all of his players are capable of leaving most his packages on the shelf until he sees what he has to work with.
For now though, Tenuta’s knowledge of his new linebackers is limited to some film review. “Since I’ve started on Monday, and I’ve had two early morning workouts and I’ve met all the guys. But I’ve watched lots of film. But, I mean, that’s a tough question after four days,” he said when asked about what he thought of the linebacker play at Notre Dame this past season.
Tenuta said all of the right things Thursday and at this point there isn’t really anything to not like about this hire. The common themes throughout all of his answers were that he plans to bring his aggressive, blitzing style of defense with him and he is very happy to be at Notre Dame.
One thing is also clear at this point. Notre Dame fans are very happy to have him here as well.