Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

Notre Dame's Defense Stealing Headlines

August 18, 2018

Notre Dame put a wrap on fall camp on Friday with a scrimmage and will now head into a regular practice schedule as classes begin on Monday. 

Quarterbacks were the storyline heading into camp, and while Brandon Wimbush and Ian Book are still the headlines, I believe it’s the defense that made the biggest impression. 

“Defensively we're playing very well at the edge of our defense, cornerback, safety position is very active, and you can see that,” stated head coach Brian Kelly. “You can see it during the practice and 7-on-7 and the one-on-ones that we've got guys competing for the football.

“Feel really good about the ability to do some things defensively that sometimes you worry about, putting a guy out on an island. We're going to have to do that sometimes, and I think we can hold up.” 

The defense might be headlined by Te’von Coney, Drue Tranquill, Jerry Tillery and Julian Love, but two names could turn into stars in 2018.

I hesitate to use the word dominant when it comes to player and especially from watching practice reps, but cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was very close to dominant in the practices we saw. 

Everyone knows about the 4.3 speed, but it’s the little things such as understanding leverage that has allowed Pride to take massive steps forward in his game. 

“His development has been really wonderful and nice to see,” said cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght. “His mental approach to the game has been outstanding. He’s very engaged in meetings, film study and then trying to apply the techniques and fundamentals that will produce championship play at the cornerback position.” 

The other player that could be in for a breakout season is junior defensive end, Khalid Kareem. 

We saw flashes a year ago as Kareem recorded 20 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in limited action but the reigns have been taken off the 6-foot-4, 265-pounder. 

The Michigan native has responded in camp, and defensive line coach Mike Elston has been impressed with the consistency Kareem has brought this fall. 

“Khalid is probably one of my favorite guys I’ve ever coached because it’s so important to him,” explained Elston. “He’s so intentional, and he works his tail off. He doesn’t normally have bad days. He had one this camp, which shocked me, but in 11 practices that one bad day is pretty good.

“He’s always consistent and in the backfield. He’s great with his hands. Physically, he has long arms, and he knows how to use his body with his hips and hands. He’s just a special player and fun to be around, but he knows when it’s time to work.” 

On the other side of the football, it comes down to Book and Wimbush. The two friends have competed and pushed each other this fall, which is going to help Notre Dame. 

You’d love to see Wimbush be more accurate in the short game and Book have more consistency throwing the ball deep, but both players have improved since the spring according to quarterbacks coach Tom Rees. 

The improvement in both quarterbacks starts with the same offense for the second year. 
“Anytime you’re with the system or same people, and you’ll see the offense grow and see guys take ownership of it,” Rees stated. “You’ll see people paying attention the details and finer points of the offense now that they have an understanding of it.” 

Experience has also led to a higher competition level and quality reps. Book and Wimbush have beaten Top 25 programs and know what it takes to win big games, which is something Rees believes is priceless. 

“Anytime you have two guys that have done it, you feel a little more comfortable knowing they can execute,” said Rees. “You still strive to be better in practice and more consistent in practice. Those are things as a quarterback that there can’t be a play taken off. You can take a play off at some positions, but quarterback isn’t one of those spots. 

“The intensity in practice and camp is something we’ve been pushing for those guys.” 

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