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Irish offense ready to challenge Alabama secondary

Jan 4, 2013, 3:31 PM EST

Kirby Smart, CJ Mosley

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With hundreds of reporters sifting through storylines looking for a new angle under every nook and cranny, Irish All-American Tyler Eifert ended up supplying the closest thing to bulletin board material this morning, when he called a Crimson Tide secondary that had to replace three NFL draft picks, well — human.

“They’re not perfect,” Eifert said. “They’re not supermen. They’re a really good defense, but they have weaknesses, too.”

And with that, the reports were off and running.

An hour later, when Notre Dame players and coaches departed and Alabama players and coaches took their turn with the media, suddenly a Crimson Tide defense Eifert called “the best defense we face all year,” was feeling challenged.

“They’re going to pick out something, a position or anything, to say they’re going to exploit. It’s not just Notre Dame. Any team will,” All-American Dee Milner told reporters. “I’m glad they chose the secondary. That just makes me want to play more.

“Hopefully when we get out on Monday night, we can showcase that we’re not a secondary that’s intimidated or can be messed with at all.”

Trying to find even a sliver of disrespect in anything Eifert or other Irish players said this morning would take an active imagination. But keying on the battle between Notre Dame’s pass catchers and Alabama’s secondary is wise. Because that’s going to be the Irish’s best bet to pick up yards by the chunk, especially after watching Texas A&M and Georgia have some success in the passing game.

If there’s been any consistent kryponite against the Tide secondary, it’s the NFL. Replacing first round draft picks Mark Barron and Dre Kirkpatrick was no easy task. And while Dee Milliner looks well on his way to hearing his name called early as well, the Tide have had to rebuild their secondary with junior-college transfer Deion Belue, underclassmen Tino Sunseri and Haha Clinton-Dix, joining the lone returning starter Robert Lester. It’s hardly the cobbled together group that Notre Dame runs out there, but that’s the machine that Nick Saban has built over the past few years.

And while Alabama players might be looking for motivation, defensive coordinator Kirby Smart acknowledges that Tyler Eifert and company possess some unique challenges, most leveled by the Irish’s All-American tight end.

“We haven’t faced a tight end with this much talent,” Smart said today. “The guy is a special player. People don’t give this kid enough credit for his blocking ability.

“He really forces you to play different defensively because he’s so multiple. And they do a great job as an offensive staff of managing their players and using their skill players in the right way.”

While this pass catching corps for the Irish hasn’t put up impressive individual numbers, they’ve been far better than many expected, winning one-on-one battles when their numbers were called. And if Notre Dame is going to make the kind of “big chunk” plays needed to move the ball, they’ll do it via the pass. They’ll also need Everett Golson to extend some plays, using his legs not unlike another redshirt quarterback that gave the Tide fits.

While statistically there’s not much common ground, after 40 days of scouting, Smart and the Tide defense has seen a lot of Johnny Manziel in the Irish’s dual-threat quarterback.

“The guy is a very good athlete. He’s got the ability to run the ball. He’s got extremely great arm talent,” Smart said of Golson, finding more than a few parallels. “There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both of them are youthful, and sometimes youth is a good thing. He doesn’t have a very long memory. He forgets it and he’s right back to the next play and will make another big play.”

  1. ndgoldandblue - Jan 4, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    With so much time off from the end of the season to the championship game, I wonder if either side (or both sides) is overthinking things at all. These guys are fishing if they think Eifert’s quote was in any way disrespectful. I don’t know…all of these mind games have turned this match-up into Vizzini vs. Wesley from the Princess Bride.

    • ndfi78 - Jan 4, 2013 at 5:44 PM

      Now I have to watch the Princess Bride :)

    • 4horsemenrideagain - Jan 5, 2013 at 8:25 AM

      “never get involved in a land war in Asia”

  2. mdp44 - Jan 4, 2013 at 5:44 PM

    Serious question, Kelly came in here and changed shit up.and it’s worked but why are other programs not catching on

  3. mdp44 - Jan 4, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    When it comes to building the LINE

    • heisenbyrg - Jan 4, 2013 at 11:30 PM

      ‘Cause it’s not that easy, my man.

  4. jerseyshorendfan1 - Jan 4, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    I don’t know, if I were a DB for the Tide, I wouldn’t be too pumped up by Eifert’s comment. He was way more complimentary than derogatory.

  5. westlaw1 - Jan 4, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    Yup, princess bride just got keyed up for tonight’s viewing.

    • ndgoldandblue - Jan 4, 2013 at 11:16 PM

      Stop rhyming. I mean it!

      • alsatiannd - Jan 5, 2013 at 8:02 AM

        Anybody want a peanut?

  6. kiopta1 - Jan 4, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Add Redfield.

  7. wgray981 - Jan 4, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    Can’t wait until ND gets slaughtered.

    • jmfinsd - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:57 PM

      Thanks. I’m sure he appreciates the good wishes. We can’t wait to get our safety back either, assuming he’s approved for another year. But it’s “Slaughter,” not slaughtered.

  8. harvupdyke - Jan 4, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    Can’t wait to watch golson pee down his leg & throw 3 or 4 picks.

    Roll dam tide.

    • ndfaithful - Jan 4, 2013 at 10:18 PM

      round the bowl, down the hole – roll damn tide

    • papadec - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:25 PM

      harv, harv, harv – I gotta give you credit for persistence – but not much else.

  9. 9irish - Jan 4, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    Pretty interesting

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/ncaaf–alabama-s-hatred-of-notre-dame-runs-long-and-deep–052115743.html

    • papadec - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:48 PM

      9irish – thanks for posting that item. Based on my experiences in the Marine Corps (while stationed in Georgia) I would say that Pat was right on, except for one thing – the hatred goes back to 1866, not 1966. They’re still fighting the Civil War down south. All the ND success over ‘Bama just fuels the fire – check out our latest troll harvupdyde – he’s the exclamation point on the negative southern stereotype.

      • papadec - Jan 5, 2013 at 7:50 PM

        sorry harv – that’s updyke. My bad.

      • 9irish - Jan 6, 2013 at 12:37 AM

        Albany? Either that or recruiting, I assume. Yes, I bet those were interesting times.

  10. harvupdyke - Jan 4, 2013 at 11:37 PM

    That OU win is lookin better by the minute Rudy.

    Roll dam tide

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