Blue and Gold Illustrated

June/July 2017

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

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42 JUNE/JULY 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED W ith 15 spring practices in the books, the basic philosophy that defensive coordinator Mike Elko plans to implement at Notre Dame has become much clearer. Elko built a Wake Forest defense with two- and three-star recruits into a unit that ranked 31st in defensive efficiency, 23rd in scoring defense and 11th in sacks in 2016. Head coach Brian Kelly hired Elko with the hope he would turn an Irish defense with much more individual talent into an equally effective and cohesive unit. In order to better understand El- ko's defense, let us take a look at the basic alignment and responsibilities of each defender in the lineup. The photo that accompanies this column shows the base of Elko's de- fense, which is essentially a field/ boundary look. The field is the wide side of the field and the boundary is the short side. In the photo, the field is to the right of the defense and the boundary is to the left. Certain positions will be tasked with lining up to the field while oth- ers are to line up to the boundary. DROP: This is the weakside defen- sive end in Elko's defense. He lines up to the boundary side — but unlike most ends he lines up in a two-point stance, which means he does not put his hand on the ground. DT: The defensive tackle's align- ment will vary; he will line up on the outside shoulder of the guard, head up on the guard or inside of the guard. At times, he will align over the offensive tackle, and he primarily lines up to the boundary side along with the drop end. NOSE: In Elko's defense, the nose primarily lines up on the center or on the inside of the guard to the field side. He will generally line up to the same side of the formation as the end. END: This is the strongside defen- sive end that lines up opposite of the drop end and to the field side. Aligning to the field allows the end to primarily be to the strength of the offensive formation. BUCK: Better known as the weak- side inside linebacker. He will line up in a number of positions, includ- ing the boundary edge or outside of the end and over a slot receiver. The Buck's basic alignment is between the boundary tackle and guard, and about four to five yards off the ball. MIKE: The middle linebacker will line up over the center and off the ball or to the field side, which puts him to the strength of the offensive formation. Like the Buck, the Mike's alignment will change depending on the offensive formation. ROVER: In Notre Dame's 4-2-5 de- fense, this is the fifth defensive back. His general rule is to line up to the field side, but his position will vary from being out in the slot like we see in the graphic above to lining up in the box in a similar alignment to the Buck. He will also walk up to the edge of the line against certain offen- sive formations. STUD: Elko calls his strong safety the Stud, and he is the deep safety that lines up to the field side. The Stud will be asked to play deep coverage, to defend tight ends and slot receiv- ers, and to come down in the box as an extra run defender or to protect a blitz from the inside linebackers. WHIP: This is the free safety in El- ko's scheme. In many ways the safe- ties are interchangeable, and their responsibilities are similar. What separates the two is that the Whip is the boundary safety, and when the defense goes to a look with just one deep safety the Whip is usually the player that will drop to the deep middle of the field. FIELD CB: He lines up as the wid- est player to the field. When teams go up-tempo, the cornerbacks will of- ten stay on the same side they ended the previous play, but against other offenses they will line up based on where the ball is placed. The field corner must be a strong tackler be- cause of all the open field space available on his side. BOUNDARY CB: This corner will primarily line up to the short side of the field. He will be left in man cov- erage to a much greater degree than the field cornerback, so he must be a good one-on-one defender. In the next edition, we will break down the basic responsibilities of each defender. ✦ Down To Basics CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at bdriskell@blueandgold.com. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko's scheme implements a 4-2-5 alignment. FILE PHOTO

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