Got Defense?

Notre Dame football recruiting is off to one of the quickest and most impressive starts in recent memory under first-year head coach Charlie Weis. Weis has already secured seven verbal commitments from some top targets early in this recruiting season. However, six of these seven prospects are slated to line up on the offensive side of the ball. What about the defense?

Irish head coach Charlie Weis is known in coaching circles as an offensive genius by most, so it's no surprise that many top offensive recruits have already responded to his vision, and many appear very interested in helping Weis return Notre Dame to the top of college football.

But what about the defensive side of the ball?

Notre Dame currently has one commitment on the defensive side of the ball (Cincinnati, Ohio defensive end Kallen Wade), and plenty more spots remain to be filled.

It should come as no surprise that offensive players have already bought into Weis' expertise and vision on offense, but the Irish still have a lot of questions to be answered on defense.

Defensive coordinator Rick Minter is also widely respected in the same coaching circles, but he also inherits a defense both exploited and inexperienced.

I don't need to remind Irish fans of the last three Irish games of 2004 where the Notre Dame defense surrendered almost 1,100 yards in passing offense and 14 touchdowns.

More importantly, I probably don't need to remind the current crop of defensive recruits as they were probably watching as well.

The truth is: Notre Dame isn't known as "the" place to go to play outstanding defense.

However, there have been many stretches where the Irish were outstanding on defense, most recently under current defensive coordinator Rick Minter in his first stint as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator under former Irish coach Lou Holtz.

The last go-around under Minter's tutelage saw the Irish finish runner-up in the National Championship hunt, and four of Minter's defenders reaching All-American status. Minter also coached 18 defensive players that went on to have NFL careers in his two seasons at Notre Dame.

Minter's defenses were known for their physical play and relentless pursuit, and their ability to stop the run.

Minter knows defense—Irish fans know this, but the Irish coaching staff will have to sell these top targets that vision, and the first place to start selling is with their product on the field. And trust me, the top defensive prospects will be watching.

Irish fans are excited about the future of the Irish defense under Minter, but not many of these top prospects know the name Rick Minter, at least not as well as Weis, nor the names Bill Lewis or Jappy Oliver for that matter.

Minter also doesn't have the luxury of four Superbowl rings to flash around while selling his vision on defense.

What Minter does have, however, is 10 seasons of head coaching experience, and another 10 season as a defensive coordinator for schools like Notre Dame and South Carolina.

Bill Lewis has many years of NFL experience and a lifetime of success coaching defensive backs. Oliver is also widely respected among his peers so the Irish are in good hands.

However, until the Irish can start playing solid defense again, unfortunately, we expect many of the top defensive prospects to take a "wait and see" approach to Notre Dame.

The good news is that this Irish coaching staff has already caught the attention of many of their top recruiting targets on defense. Some even have the Irish listed as their leader.

However, we don't expect a good number of defensive recruits to be committing early, like we've seen on the offensive side of the ball. We do believe they'll be watching with great interest though as the new Irish defense takes the field in 2005, and nothing will sell Notre Dame to these top recruits better than an attacking a relentless defense. The good news is that is almost always a staple of a Minter-run defense.


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