Oct 6, 2012; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder speaks to players in the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame Football: Who Will Brian VanGorder Have The Largest Impact On?


Notre Dame Football

Whenever change occurs, there are winners and losers. It is likely that someone will excel under Brian VanGorder who did not perform under former Defensive Coordinator Bob Diaco. Undoubtedly, there will be someone who’s production is marginalized.

VanGorder has primarily coached linebackers in his career and he will coach them again at Notre Dame. VanGorder’s time at produce six players drafted in the NFL Draft including David Pollock.

VanGorder’s history suggests that he will play aggressive with a significant amount of man-to-man coverage. However, VanGorder stated the following in his introductory press conference at Notre Dame:

I think in today’s game, you know, your ability to mix your coverages, your looks and all those things have become more and more important and then the pressure part of it that you spoke of, again, that’s I like pressure. But that’s relative to so many things and a lot of times people don’t understand that. But that starts with when we pressure them, we’re going to play man coverage and behind it. Who’s in the man coverage. Is that a strength for a particular player, or what’s the matchup in that situation. So again, ideally I’d like to think of myself as a coach that likes pressure, but first and foremost, again, I want to find the strengths and play to those strengths of a player and we’ll find out what that is, you know, at Notre Dame.

So, basically, it remains to be seen exactly what VanGorder will do. However, if he feels that Cole Luke, KeiVarae Russell, Devin Butler and others can play man-to-man coverage, VanGorder will likely maintain his aggressive defensive.

In the examples below, Auburn played man-to-man with eight men in the box. Here are a few examples in VanGorder’s past of his alignment:

2012 Auburn Defensive alignment against #2 LSU. Courtesy: ESPN

2012 Auburn Defensive alignment against #2 LSU. Courtesy: ESPN

2012 Auburn Defensive alignment against #2 LSU. Courtesy: ESPN

2012 Auburn Defensive alignment against #2 LSU. Courtesy: ESPN

So, Notre Dame’s cornerbacks will either sink or swim in this scheme. A great example of this type of defensive scheme is the 2013 Michigan State Spartan team that went 13-1. This scheme is very solid if the team has the cornerbacks that are able to lock down Wide Receivers. Junior KeiVarae Russell may truly excel. He has performed well up until this point. But consistent look down coverage is a completely different level.

But, what fans probably want to know is there a player who’s “profile” did not fit the previous scheme that will fit well with what VanGorder is trying to do.

Along Auburn’s defensive line in 2012 (Strong side to weak side), the Tigers were listed at 240, 301, 305 and 237. This defense may be a perfect fit for Anthony Rabasa who has been buried on Notre Dame’s depth chart since his arrival in 2011. Rabasa was ranked as the 11th best Weak side Defensive End in the 2011 class. More likely, Ishaq Williams will play with his hand on the ground on a permanent basis.

Because linebackers do not need to take on offensive guards as much in a 4-3, they are able to smaller, leaner and faster. In Auburn’s 2012 defense, the linebackers were listed at 225, 236 and 211. For comparison, Manti Te’o played at about 245 and Carlo Calabrese at 250. Elijah Shumate may be able to play linebacker in this defense.

All of these predictions are completely speculative. Spring Football will answer these questions. It is right around the corner.

Tags: Football Notre Dame Fighting Irish