While the Notre Dame offensive coaching staff will have a different look to it in 2009 with Charlie Weis serving as offensive coordinator, the defensive staff will also undergo some tweaks.
Corwin Brown has been promoted from defensive coordinator to associate head coach with Jon Tenuta taking Brown's place as defensive coordinator and calling the plays on game day.
"I've called defenses most of my life so it's no big deal to me," Tenuta said. "Obviously, I'm excited about the opportunity and just go forward with it."
Brown said that he is all about whatever makes the team better.
"I've been on board with this since the start. Coach Weis and I actually discussed this toward the end of the regular season and I was as on board with it then as I am now," he said. "I'm all for making Notre Dame better. If this will help us win more games next year than I'm all for it. I¹m the ultimate team guy. I've always been the ultimate team guy."
What will not change is the collaborative effort that the staff goes through in preparation for Saturdays.
"You prepare during the week so all of us in that room have our input based on down and distance and personnel and what you're going to do and how you're going to call things," Tenuta said. "You just work together and obviously through experience or whatever there's certain things that you don't want to do at certain times and you may have to reiterate it at certain times.
"Now they may have to reiterate it to me if they don't want to do certain things at times during the game. You've got to work together. It's a cohesive group, the chemistry has got to be good all week and then obviously game day, but somebody's got to be in charge."
"Last year game planning was a collaborative effort and that won't change this year," Brown said. "The only thing that will be different is that Jon will call the plays on Saturday."
While Tenuta and Brown worked together on game days in 2008 and will continue to do so in 2009, each coach on the defensive staff is able to give their ideas on the best way to approach each game.
"When you go in there and break down film and you get ready to put your game plan together there's multiple ideas and multiple ways of stopping certain run plays and pressuring the quarterback," Tenuta said. "There's a lot of different ideas so on and so far, but you've got to put it to paper and obviously you have to execute it on Saturday."
Randy Hart is expected to be named as Notre Dame's defensive line coach although the University has yet to officially announce Jappy Oliver's replacement. In the meantime, the staff has been working with newly hired graduate assistant Bryant Young, who played in the NFL for 14 years and will also have a voice in defensive meetings.
"The guy's been in combat at the highest level and obviously little things that he's done or been around or how he's taught certain things and the scheme and the realm of not just the defensive line, but the defense as a whole," Tenuta said of Young. "He's a very smart man that knows all of the things that went on for a lot of outstanding coaches that he played for at San Francisco…He understands football so there's a lot of things that he can contribute."
Now in his second year in South Bend, Tenuta will get the chance to further install his defensive system.
"I have a system and some of the system was intact. There's some things I do a little bit different, but my philosophy won't change from making the front five move their feet and adjust to me and getting after the quarterback," said Tenuta. "The pressure package is what I've always done and what I'm going to continue to do."
According to Weis, there may be some changes in the verbiage used to describe the 2009 Notre Dame defense.
"Last year we were a 3-4 defense, but we're playing an under defense the whole year, which is a 4-3 with 3-4 personnel," he said. "Most of the stuff will be almost exactly the same, it's just that we might change some of the terms. When we line up in what looks like a 4-3 defense, we'll probably call it a 4-3 defense. But when we line up in an odd defense, we'll probably call it an odd or 3-4 defense."
Tenuta prefers the 4-3.
"Basically I'm a 4-3 guy, but in 3-4 you still play under," he said. "We may base out of a 4-3, but you still have 3-4 principles in a lot of things that what we do. Our ends will still be involved in the pass drops and things like that to where you want to call them an outside linebacker. It's all semantics in that aspect."
One player that Tenuta cannot wait to get his hands on is incoming freshman linebacker Manti Te'o.
"He's an awesome football player that plays the game the way you're supposed to play it. Obviously, he's a dominating factor in high school football and he's one of the most dominant guys I've seen coming into any program that I've been at," Tenuta said. "I've only been around one other guy that was even close to that aspect and that was Andy Katzenmoyer at Ohio State."
Weis said that Te'o will line up at inside linebacker when he arrives, although he could not say exactly what position until the Irish revise their terminology before the start of spring ball.
"He'll be one of the inside linebackers. He could play inside or out, but he'll be an inside linebacker," said Weis. "Jack might be a Will. The Will that was an end could be a Will. We'll get to it in March. One of the inside linebackers. Mike or Jack, based off the verbiage from last year, yes, one of the those two positions."