Coach D's Mailbag

We're starting a new feature called "Coach D's Mailbag" where Irish fans can e-mail Coach and get his thoughts on football, the games, and the Irish.

Q: Can you elaborate on "washing out"?

WASHING OUT/DOWN: This term is used to describe when an offensive blocker takes a defensive player and rides him or blocks him in a particular direction, that direction usually being where that particular defender initially started to run. Here's an example: Sam Young is lined up with a defensive end to his outside. At the snap that player slants inside. Young engages that player and drives him down in that direction and uses that players momentum to take him away from the play. Another example: That same player decides to rush hard outside. Young engages the player and rides him all the way outside and away from the quarterback? Does that make sense?

Q: Can you elaborate on "using/losing leverage"?

When I talk about leverage I imply the old phrase "the low man wins." By that I simply mean coming off the ball hard, staying low, and getting your pads/hands underneath the pads of your opponent.

Q: I have a question about over-coaching the players or if that is not the right term, making them think too much and not rely on instincts. I am wondering if there is something more to other players either being too nervous and uptight to make a play or if they just have to digest too much while the younger (less learned players) just go out there and make plays.

There was something to this last season. I felt there were too many times where the Irish, especially on offense, tried to do too much. The younger players were still trying to figure out where to line up and how to play with the basic fundamentals. By getting too cute schematically I felt it prevented the young players from getting comfortable and improving a great deal. This season that seems to have changed. The schemes have been more basic and the players seem much more comfortable. Now they have a base and have shown they can execute it, which should give the coaches liberty to expand the playbook and feel good about the player's ability to improve and get better. The other part of it is the fact that Notre Dame had so many young guys playing. Mistakes from young players aren't as apparent when you only have three or four young guys playing at a time (freshman or sophomores). But Notre Dame at times was starting six freshmen and five sophomores. This doesn't include guys like Will Yeatman as the second tight end or Robby Parris as the third receiver. That many young kids on the field makes young mistakes much more apparent.

You also mention "washing" the D-Line down. Just wondering what you mean by that and what kind of block is most effective for that result?

I discussed the "washing down" phrase earlier. This kind of block is most used in the run game in the zone schemes, inside or out. It also is something I taught my wide receivers to do and is an effective block to use on the perimeter with your skill players.

Q: They always seem to have 3 or 4 linebackers 4 yards directly behind the defensive line and usually toward the center. Our line always seems to get the down lineman but rarely the linebackers on almost every play.

Part of the issue here is that both of Notre Dame's first two opponents were geared towards stopping the run. When Notre Dame snapped the ball the tried to read the direction and flowed hard. With these hard charging linebackers the linemen have to get their eyes downfield when engaged in their double teams and be ready to quickly pick up the linebackers. They haven't done that as well as I'd like but got better in week 2. One thing the Irish can do, and did a little bit against Michigan, is to run more misdirection. I'm talking about counter plays, reverses, bootlegs, etc. What also would work is stretching them out a bit with some more outsize zone plays.

Q: Did you see an improvement in the WR play in terms of technique and route running?

I have seen some improvement in technique and route running. The receivers are still too methodical in their route running and still seem to be tipping their routes a bit. One thing about route running is that all your routes should look the same, or as close as possible, in order to prevent the defense from knowing what is coming. If you come off the ball slower and upright the defender is going to know you are running a shorter route. Also the receivers aren't pushing their routes far enough (whether coached that way or not doing what they are being coached to do). This is allowing defenders to keep the receivers in front of them and in their sites. Things like that are the difference between catching a slant route for a gain of 11 and catching a slant on the run and splitting the defenders for a 60-yard touchdown.

Q: Do you still feel we are headed in the right direction? A lot of us have lost faith in Coach Weis.

I do. Do I have some issues with what has happened or is happening with Notre Dame? Certainly. But I do believe that Coach Weis is doing a good overall job with the program. When you lose people start second guessing everything that goes wrong and a coach will take heat for it. An example is the wide receivers. Fans harped on the poor route running of the receivers during the 3-9 season. But those same people failed to recognize that the route running wasn't that good in 2006 when the Irish won 10 games. So the scrutiny is going to be greater. There have been some mistakes along the way, but Coach Weis seems to have learned from most of those mistakes and changed course in ways. I respect that. This is a big season for Coach Weis. So far so good.

Q: I have very little experience with the new Spread offense, but it seems it is almost impossible to get a bunch of actual sacks when the QB reacts that quickly. I understand we were putting pressure on the QB and that caused some of his miscues. I just would like some confirmation that all the disappointments about the lack of actually sacks is a bit misguided.

To me sacks are one of the most overrated defensive statistics of all time. You could get three sacks in one game and not do a good job of putting pressure on the quarterback. You could get no sacks in a game and do a fantastic job of putting pressure on the quarterback. What is more important is putting CONSISTENT pressure on the quarterback and causing him to make decisions quicker than he likes and not be able to go through his reads. Hitting the quarterback more also helps, but it doesn't have to be sacks. It's even more true with spread teams or even West Coast offenses. The reason is the ball usually isn't in the quarterbacks hands long enough to actually get a sack. So what you look for are three other things. One: You want a lot of penetration. Two: You want to see the quarterback throwing off balance a lot. Three: You want to see a lot of batted balls. You can get zero sacks in a game, but if you are getting good penetration, getting the quarterback to throw off his back foot (which means he is rushing his throw), and you are batting down a lot of passes your pressure is good.

You can e-mail Coach D with any questions you might have at: Top Stories