4. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NOTRE DAME DEFENSE
– Six of the top ten tacklers and six starters return, but there’s plenty of turnover for a D that allowed 347 yards and just 18 points per game. It was terrific against the pass, good enough against the run, and solid when it had to be – even with a few shaky moments here and there. But now ..
– The linebacking corps takes a massive hit. Te’von Coney and Drue Tranquill combined to make 209 tackles in the normal 4-2-5 alignment, but they’re done. 227-pound senior Asmar Bilal worked mostly as a hybrid linebacker/safety tweener type last season, coming up with 50 tackles, and now he’ll get the first shot at replacing Coney in the middle.
Bilal’s move puts the untested 215-pound Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the spotlight at the Rover gig, and 231-pound Jordan Genmark Heath on the outside in place of Tranquill.
– The line has to find a new Jerry Tillery at one tackle, and Jonathan Bonner is done at the other tackle spot – the interior will be a work in progress. 286-pound junior Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa missed most of last year with a broken foot, and 295-pound junior Kurt Hinish has to go from decent backup to a rock of a starter on the nose.
The outside is settled, though, with top pass rusher Julian Okwara returning on one side and backfield playmaker Khalid Kareem on the other.
– Julian Love is gone after turning in a fantastic season at corner. Notre Dame doesn’t have another one of him, but Troy Pride is a big senior who can hit at one corner. Jalen Elliott is a 6-1, 210-pound roving safety who led the team with four picks, and Alohi Gilman is the leading returning tackler after coming up with 94 stops. It’s Game On between 6-3 senior Donte Vaughn and 6-0 sophomore Houston Griffith to take over Love’s spot.