Blue and Gold Illustrated

April 2017

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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www.BLUEANDGOLD.com APRIL 2017 11 UNDER THE DOME The Defensive Line Must Assert Better Control By Lou Somogyi Nothing on a football team can be more de- moralizing than the angst that comes with a defense unable to stifle the run consistently nor apply enough pressure on a quarterback with a fierce pass rush. During the 4-8 fiasco in 2016, Notre Dame was sub-standard in both while still averaging a fairly respectable 30.9 points per game on offense. The Irish surrendered 182.4 rushing yards per game rushing to finish 72nd nationally — one year after head coach Brian Kelly stated that a No. 72 ranking in that same area in 2015 (175.6) is "unacceptable." For the first time in history, Notre Dame has allowed more than 170 yards rushing per contest three years in a row. Meanwhile, the defensive line recorded only three sacks in 2016, the few- est in the country among the 64 Power Five teams (and the 14 sacks overall were 117th out of 128 teams). That was with two bona fide NFL prospects in Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones, both of who have exhausted their eligibility. We can talk about inexperience at quarterback all we want, but with a veteran offensive line, receiving corps and running backs, Notre Dame can average 30 points per game, at least, again. Unfortunately, if the defensive line, led by junior nose tackle Jerry Tillery and senior end Andrew Trumbetti, has similar production as in 2016, the Irish collectively will be whistling past the graveyard again. It all starts up front, specifically the defensive line. The Offensive Line Can Carry This Team Like In 2015 By Bryan Driskell Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has a truly loaded position group, which possesses two players in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nel- son that project as 2018 first-round picks, and another in senior Alex Bars that could get to that level with a strong senior season. Notre Dame enters the spring with eight line- men who were ranked as top-100 players by at least one recruiting service, and four more ranked as top-250 prospects. At least three of those players will start the season on the bench, and so will incoming top-100 recruit Josh Lugg. With that talent, Notre Dame has an offensive line capable of upgrading the ground game, like it did in 2012 (12-1) and 2015 (10-3). A standout front line will lessen the pressure on junior quarterback Brandon Wimbush, who has just five career pass attempts. The better the line plays, the better the ground attack is, which takes pressure off the blossoming young pass catchers. An elite offense then takes pressure off the defense. Notre Dame's defense should make significant strides this season, but a dominant offense gives it time to develop without having to be the primary difference between winning and losing each week. It gives coordinator Mike Elko the opportunity to be more aggressive with his play calling, knowing he has an offense capable of backing up his unit. No position can have a bigger impact on the entire football team than the offensive line, and no position for the Irish has more talent. Point ✦ Counterpoint: WHICH POSITION GROUP IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR NOTRE DAME TO DEVELOP IN 2017? 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