Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

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

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30 AUGUST 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY BRYAN DRISKELL N otre Dame certainly has as‑ pects of its offense to clean up and improve in 2017, but when it has posted at least 30.9 points and 417.6 yards per game over the last three seasons — and is just two years removed from setting a school record in yards per play — you aren't that far off. It will be the veteran offense that is expected to carry the day for the Fighting Irish in 2017, but if they want to truly bounce back from the miserable 4‑8 season in 2016 and be a part of the College Football Playoff discussion, the defense is where the biggest gains must be made. First‑year defensive coordinator Mike Elko inherits a unit that sur‑ rendered 24.5 points and 176.3 rush‑ ing yards per game the last three seasons. It was the worst three‑year stretch in school history in regards to rush defense. Elko is being tasked with repairing the damage done in the recent past, and was hired thanks to his track re‑ cord of success and his proven ability to build a highly productive college defense. His coaching philosophy is geared towards doing exactly what Notre Dame needs most from its defense. "The first thing is stop the run," Elko said of the tenets he believes in. "The second is eliminate big plays, and the third thing is gener‑ ate turnovers." Notre Dame did none of the above the last three seasons, and Elko knows it must get better in each area if appreciable improvement is to occur. Fortunately for the Irish, he has understanding of how to get the most out of his players. For Elko, it boils down to instruct‑ ing. He is a teacher first and foremost, and he demands that his coaches be the same way. If his players are go‑ ing to execute the way he wants on game day it won't be because of his scheme, it will be centered around how his defenders play the game. "In the modern day of offense, so many teams run so many different styles of offense, at the end of the day they are going to find ways to get their guys matched up with the things they want to get matched up on," he explained. "You're not go‑ ing to be perfect calling the game of football. It's just not happening Elko is bringing as much of a change in philosophy as he is a change in scheme. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND FOUNDATIONAL SHIFT First-year coordinator Mike Elko is rebuilding the Irish defense from the ground up

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