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Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame Defense Fresh in 2022, Will it Pay Off vs. USC?

November 25, 2022

Notre Dame’s defense has been one of the best in the country over the last five years, but depth has always been somewhat of a concern at positions. 

A year ago, Notre Dame’s linebacker corps looked deep with experienced bodies, but injuries quickly racked up as Marist Liufau and Shayne Simon were gone for the season by halftime of week one. 

The Irish secondary has also seen its top players take a significant number of reps as there simply wasn’t established depth behind them. 

in 2021, Notre Dame had eight plays take more than 500 snaps (13 games) and 12 players take more than 400 snaps - and that doesn’t include special teams work. 

1. CB Clarence Lewis: 832 
2. LB JD Bertrand: 753
3. CB Cam Hart: 739
4. DL Jayson Ademilola: 592
5. Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa: 579
6. DE Isaiah Foskey: 564
7. S Houston Griffith: 524
8. LB Drew White: 511
9. CB TaRiq Bracy: 483
10. DE Justin Ademilola: 445
11. S Kyle Hamilton: 439
12. S DJ Brown: 432 

832 snaps for any player is a large number and for a cornerback, a very high number considering everything asked of the position. 

This year has been a far cry from those numbers entering the final week of the regular season. if you include Saturday’s game with USC and the bowl game, no Notre Dame player is on pace to play over 700 snaps in 2022. 

1. CB Cam Hart: 568
2. LB Marist Liufau: 537
3. DE Isaiah Foskey: 506
4. CB Benjamin Morrison: 494
5. CB TaRiq Bracy: 461
6. LB JD Bertrand: 456
7. S DJ Brown: 424
8. DE Justin Ademilola: 400
9. S Brandon Joseph: 394
10. DL Howard Cross III: 392
11: DL Jayson Ademilola: 373
12. DL Rylie Mills: 346 

Does Notre Dame being fresher heading into game 12 mean a victory at USC? Certainly not, but having a fresh team in November has been a goal of the staff as 22 players have played over 122 snaps this fall according to defensive coordinator Al Golden. 

"I think that's a great number,” Golden said when asked about just three players playing over 500 snaps. “We've done a good job of trusting some of those guys and rolling them in there. Hopefully, it will pay dividends down the stretch here. 

"We've tried to do whatever we can to protect those guys and hopefully, they'll respond for us this week." 

For linebacker JD Bertrand, he never came off the field a year ago due to depth and that includes playing through a significant wrist injury for most of the year. 

Now, Bertrand has missed a game due to injury and time for targeting, so he’d be well over 500 snaps, but the senior can feel a difference in playing almost 300 fewer snaps.

Last year was an introduction to college football for Bertrand as he’s also taken steps to keep his body fresher this season. 

"I definitely feel fresher,” stated Bertrand. “I've missed some games and had some weeks that have been a little lighter. My body feels a lot better.

"I learned how to better take care of myself off the field. That also plays a role into it.”

When it comes to the defense, fresh or not, Bertrand believes his guys are ready to roll as the Irish look to stop one of the nation’s top offenses and a Heisman frontrunner in USC quarterback Caleb Williams. 

“Speaking of our defense as a whole, I think we're ready to go and we're just excited to get out to California and play,” said Bertrand. 

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