In charge of leading the group is Jappy Oliver. Head coach Charlie Weis tabbed the 26-year coaching veteran to continue to success of 2004. Oliver shared the depth concerns early on but says they have come a long way.
"Coming in, we were concerned about the depth but we've made tremendous strides, especially at the defensive tackle spot," Oliver said at Media Day. "We got a few guys back from being injured. That helps. At the end spot, we still have some concerns but we have some young men were anxious to see."
Weis has said consistently through the week that he does not share these depth concerns. He made a reference that when he was the offensive coordinator with the Patriots, he had to work with only four receivers from week to week. On a college roster, there are many more options to work with. Weis says it's important to build "inherent depth" and have flexibility for guys to play multiple positions.
The struggles of the secondary may make the work of the defensive line a little tougher. A secondary's best friend is a consistent pass rush. Oliver knows that everybody must be on the same page and help each other out.
"We all have to do our part," Oliver said. "When they are covering like crazy, we got to work our tails off getting to the quarterback. If they are struggling back there…again, we compliment one another.
"If we pressure, we got to get to them to help the cover guys. If we don't pressure, hopefully one of them will cover a little longer until one of them breaks free to the quarterback. We compliment one another."
Oliver enjoys the chance to be at Notre Dame. More importantly, he knows there is a leader at the top from which everything flows into one unified goal.
"It starts at the top," Oliver said. "You have a strong leader. If he states that common goal in mind, it doesn't matter where your problems are at. We'll come at it from different angles but we're still going to work at it to reach that common goal."
Oliver's coaching resume includes the last two years at South Carolina with new defensive coordinator Rick Minter where the Gamecocks ranked 20th in total defense. He was at Air Force between 1995-2002 under Fisher DeBerry where the team went to five bowl games. Oliver even spent time at rival Purdue as a graduate assistant.
Weis made it a priority to land a first class coaching staff. At Media day, he made a point of thanking the university for giving him the resources to acquire the group. Weis also told a telling tale of the chemistry the staff quickly developed.
"I flew in for the first official visit the week of the bye week, the first week in January," Weis said. I flew in and literally met these guys face to face, together, for the first time about 20 minutes before we take the recruits out for dinner. So here I am, I fly in there, I meet all of these guys, it's the first time I've ever seen their faces. I've been negotiating with them, but it's the first time I've ever seen them. But more importantly, I sat there that night at dinner with all 11 of these recruits, of which 10 ended up coming and I watched these guys work together and I said, this is the first time these guys have ever worked together? I think the chemistry is a very, very critical factor when it comes to coaching, and I think that this team, this staff, has great chemistry."
Oliver has shown this chemistry during the first few practices. Earlier this week, Oliver was joking with wide receivers coach Rob Ianello to bring the pass catchers over with the defensive line for a drill or two and see which unit was tougher. This staff is a close-knit group with the potential for solving any football-oriented problem that occurs in the 2005 season.
"It's a strong staff," Oliver said. "We got guys from all over. From that standpoint, we've worked with a lot of different personalities. So we know how to bring together. As long as we have one common goal and Coach Weis sets that goal, we will do whatever we can to reach that goal."