Irish Prepare for Blitz

Georgia Tech defensive coordinator John Tenuta, with his aggressive play calling, has had the Yellow Jackets defense ranked in the nation's top-25 the last two years. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and company are expecting Tenuta to throw everything he has at them in this Saturday's season opener.

Tenuta likes to mix up several different blitz packages and looks, trying to confuse offenses, causing teams to play tentative. He will be lining up against the Irish with a seasoned down seven but a very green secondary.

"Well, first of all, they have a great scheme," Weis stated. "They have a lot of confidence in both their scheme and their players. I think a lot of defense is when your players know what to do and can do it at a high level. I mean, (Tenuta's) had success for a long time here now. I'm not the only one who is saying good things about John, okay? We can talk about blitz zoning, bringing pressure, which I know is part of his personality. But the bottom line is they have a good scheme and they play it well."

The Irish coaches and players have spent a week and a half now in preparation of various things they expect to see from Georgia Tech on Saturday. They have broken down everything the Yellow Jackets did defensively last season and have geared up for all of it.

"They have a scheme that's difficult," Irish offensive line coach John Latina began. "You'll see a lot of different blitzes. Every blitz that you've ever seen before, you have to prepare for because they throw so many different things schematically at you. That's the biggest challenge, to be able to go out there and play confidently, play aggressively and manage all the different things we'll see.

"You see em all," Latina said when talking about Georgia Tech's blitz packages. "Rarely do you have to prepare for them all that given week."

Though Tenuta will come with a lot of different fronts and looks, there isn't much a veteran offense including four returning starters on the offensive line hasn't seen. From watching Georgia Tech on film to being able to rewind back to a formation they have played against sometime in their head, the Notre Dame offensive line should make quick adjustments en route to helping make plays. The only question mark is freshman Sam Young, who will be able to lean on the four upperclassmen as he makes his debut as the starting right tackle.

"Through the course of their careers and the course of last year, they've seen it all, but normally it's a couple of things each game," Latina said.

"There are always adjustments made on the fly, but we've seen a lot of looks over the years from teams we played," explained center John Sullivan, who enters his third year as the starter. "Being an experienced player, that's one of the benefits, that you've seen a lot thrown at you and you know how to handle different looks. Hopefully we'll be able to handle whatever Georgia Tech throws at us."

Expect Tenuta to bring a lot of pressure from the right side early to find out what the rookie Young is made of. Defensive tackle Joe Anoai and his 20.5 career tackles-for-loss will command a lot of attention. Adam Oliver will line up opposite Young and try to school the youngster or lock him up, making room for blitzing linebackers and safeties. There will also be a few corner blitzes, so Irish tailback Darius Walker, who has proven to be a reliable blocker will have his hands full.

"Whenever you have to face a team that blitzes an awful lot, they can be dangerous on any given play," said Irish guard Bob Morton, who has started off and on for three seasons. "Sometimes when they don't blitz, that's when they are most dangerous because you are expecting it so much. So, we need to be on our toes as offensive line and as an offense.

"We've prepared ourselves for whatever they may bring."

Against this blitzing defense, teams still struggled to run the ball effectively last season. Georgia Tech only allowed 103.92 yards per game on the ground, ranking 13th nationally.

It's obvious with Weis, if he feels like teams can stop the run, he'll throw the ball all day. Vice versa, same thing, if a team can't stop the run, he'll hand it off on nearly every play.

In this case or game, Heisman candidate Brady Quinn should have a great opportunity to throw for huge numbers as Weis will look to pick on a young secondary. Plus one of the things Notre Dame can do to offset all the different looks Tenuta would like to give is by spreading the field with multiple receivers.

The only veteran in the defensive backfield is cornerback Kenny Scott. The other starting cornerback could be former receiver Pat Clark. Whether it's against All-American receiver Jeff Samardzija or Rhema McKnight, Clark will have a tough match-up. Converted corner Jamal Lewis moves to safety in the absence of injured Joe Gaston. Djay Jones is the other safety. There is even less experience when the Yellow Jackets have to go nickel.

Of course you won't get any bulletin board material from either of Notre Dame's standout receivers.

"Very good secondary, they have a few returning starters back, at the same time, some guys are inexperienced," McKnight said. "But you can't take anything for granted. You just have to come out, compete, come ready to play."

"You have to look at their secondary, and this is one you look at, coach Weis is big on matchups and you look at them, and you have to tip your hat to them," Samardzija said. "They have a lot of good athletes back there, guys that can do things. We have to come playing our best game."

If the Irish do come and play there best game, Tenuta's aggressive play calling will still be unable to stop Notre Dame from moving the football.


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