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Notre Dame Football

Rylie Mills, Notre Dame Defense Rallying and Preparing for Caleb Williams

October 11, 2023

It’s never easy losing college football games and it’s especially challenging when you’re at Notre Dame. 

One loss puts the College Football Playoff in doubt and two losses really puts Notre Dame behind the eight-ball as it relates to a New Year’s Six bowl. 

Notre Dame has no time to pout from Saturday’s loss to Louisville as No. 10 USC comes to South Bend this weekend, which means the Irish defense will have its hands full as the Trojans boast the nation’s top-scoring offense at 51.8 points per game. 

How have the Irish responded? Well, Tuesday was a step in the right direction

“I think everyone's kind of rallied,” stated Notre Dame senior defensive lineman Rylie Mills. “Our goal is we're never satisfied. There's a million excuses you can make for everything but it comes to Tuesday and you gotta come out and practice your butt off.” 

Discipline will be the challenge for Mills and the defensive line this week as it relates to slowing down USC quarterback Caleb Williams. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner is a handful as he can make every throw from every arm angle, but his legs also cause issues as the Irish found out a year ago. 

It’s a game that’s stuck with Mills and the experience of facing Williams can only help this fall. 

“It's a big learning point to know how much further we have to go as a team or I guess as a defense,” explained Mills. “Looking back, there's just so many missed opportunities. Things if we execute a little better that we're so close to.

“I think that's at least what I take away from watching film, like if we do this a little bit better, if we focus on this in practice, like there's no reason why we can't play our best football out there.” 

Notre Dame freshman quarterback Kenny Minchey and senior running back Chase Ketterer have been tasked with playing Williams on scout team this week and have drawn rave reviews from the defense. 

Minchey and Ketteer are not only tasked with simulating one of the best players in college football, but also extending plays like Williams. 

“Kenny has done a great job,” stated Mills. “I feel like when we go out in practice, he makes an emphasis to really try to emulate that. Same with Chase Ketterer, too. They're both really good athletes. And especially for a guy like 13, it's just like, there's almost like two types of plays where it's like the first half of it and then the second half. 

“I think just having that ingrained in you, that second half interval to keep going. Coach Golden always preaches run through the interval, the five-second interval as hard as you can.” 

And yes, Minchey has also impressed Golden this week with his looks.

“I think Minchey has done a great job and Minchey did a great job today,” Golden said. “Can you replicate it? That's a strong word. But can you simulate it to a degree? Yeah, I think so.

“But I was going to look for Minchey after this and just tell him ‘thank you’ — just did a great job today. He's got arm talent. He's moving around back there. He's trying to extend plays for us and he made it challenging, and we'll learn a lot today because of it.”  

When it comes to his individual game, Mills has played well over the last month and it starts with shredding blocks. Al Washington has emphasized it with the 6-foot-5, 306-pounder and it’s showing. 

“I thought he did a great job,” Golden explained. “I think he's truly playing with leverage and extending. Then his block destruction has been really improved the last couple of weeks. So, even if there's a blocker in front of him, he's able to play his gap.

“If you're in control of the block, then obviously you can make a play in an adjacent gap. I think he's been doing a lot of that and doing it well the last couple of weeks. I'm excited about his progress. His last two games have been his best two games, so that's great for him.”  

Mills has felt the improvement, but he’s far from satisfied. 

‘I really feel like just every game is just me improving and learning things each game,” stated Mills. “I think definitely when it all comes together, it feels great. But for me, I'm still focused on things I didn't do well enough in the past two games.” 

The Illinois native has found a home on at three-tech after bouncing around between playing inside and outside over the last few years. Mills obviously has the size to play inside, but he’s found his athleticism is an advantage when it comes to facing interior offensive linemen. 

“I feel like I have the best matchup on the guard,” Mill said. “I feel like I'm able to take advantage of my athleticism and size on the inside.” 

Mills is just seven games into his senior season and already has set a career-high for tackles in a season with 27, including seven against Duke and five against Louisville. 

In the coming months, Mills will have a decision to make as it relates to his future, but right now, his only focus is on this weekend. 

“I think that's just gonna be at the end of the year,” said Mills. The choice will happen, but right now, it's just beat USC.” 

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