Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2017

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

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32 AUGUST 2017 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED I n the last issue of Blue & Gold Il- lustrated, we went over the basic alignment of each player in the Notre Dame defense. Now let's move onto the primary responsibilities of the Irish defenders, beginning with the front six players — the four line- men and the two inside linebackers. Before getting into specific posi- tions, it should be noted that from a philosophical standpoint coordinator Mike Elko's defense will be built on stopping the run. It is gap conscious and will ask the front four players and the two inside linebackers to handle both A gaps, both B gaps and often both C gaps. Gaps are the spaces between of- fensive linemen. The graph provided shows the "box gaps," which are the gaps from the tight end in. Each front six defender will be responsible for a gap against the run. At times, they will overload a gap and will use the secondary to protect any exposed gaps. DROP: This position has one of the more varied jobs in the entire de- fense. The Drop lines up like a typical defensive end, but he will rarely put his hand in the ground. The Drop is the primary edge player on the short side of the field, which means he must set the edge and work to keep runs from getting outside him. In coverage, the Drop will often have the short flat areas and will also run with running backs that release on outside vertical routes. Ideally, the Drop has good pass rushing ability, but the defense can survive without it. DT: In Elko's defense, the interior linemen will be more aggressive than we've seen in recent seasons. The de- fensive tackle is a penetrator whose job is to get up the field, to secure his gap and to throw off the timing of runs between the tackles. It is imperative that the he hold his gap and not get pushed away, but he must do so while working up the field. A player can have an impact at this position if he can execute those duties, and also beat blocks and get to the player with the football. NOSE: The nose tackle will have many of the same responsibilities as the defensive tackle, but he is a bit more of a space eater. He must hold his ground and keep blockers en- gaged with him. He will primarily be an A gap player, but at times will slant into an outside (B, C) gap. When that happens, another line- man or a linebacker will take over the A gap. The more aggressive and ef- fective the defensive tackle and nose tackle can be at getting gap sound penetration, the harder it is for offen- sive linemen to block the linebackers. END: The strongside end will man the wide side of the field, which makes him an important run de- fender. He must handle the edge of the line of scrimmage and in his base assignment be responsible for aggres- sively attacking the outside shoulder of the blocker he is engaging. The goal is for him to force any off-tackle runs back inside to the line- backers. If the offense runs outside he will be a pursuit player. This is a position where a quality one-on-one pass rusher is most im- portant. Notre Dame's defense will be at its best when the strongside end can not only handle the edge run game, but also when he can get after the quarterback. MIKE: The Mike linebacker is a point-of-attack player that is primar- ily used as an aggressive weapon against the offensive ground game. With the defensive linemen attacking vertically, the Mike is then coming right behind that unit, often respon- sible for one of the two A gaps or a B gap. He has to be effective at taking on and beating blocks, preferably to the outside of the blocker in his gap. At that point, the Mike will either make the play on the ball or force an im- mediate cutback by the back. In the pass game, he will often handle the intermediate zones in the middle of the field, but he must also be able to handle running backs and tight ends in man coverage. BUCK: The Buck linebacker lines up all over the field and has many responsibilities. At times he will be a point-of-attack player, often making the tackle when the ends and Mike linebacker force cut-back runs. Elko will use the Buck to attack inside gaps, but will also bring him off the edge as a blitzer against the pass and to force runs inside. The Buck has a great deal of pass- game responsibility, and will be asked to cover the hook-curl zones while also checking slot receivers and tight ends at times. The hook- curl zone is an area outside of the hash and inside the numbers, often eight to 10 yards deep. ✦ Front Six Responsibilities CHALK TALK BRYAN DRISKELL Bryan Driskell has been a football analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated since April 2015. He can be reached at Above is a look at the gaps that Notre Dame's front six defenders are primarily responsible for covering. FILE PHOTO

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