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A projected defensive depth chart for future reference

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The open practice to kick off the preseason sessions revealed some interesting possibilities in defensive alignment. A projected depth chart a week ago, for example, would not have moved senior defensive end Andrew Trumbetti from the strongside (field) to the second-unit slot on the opposite end of the line behind sophomore Daelin Hayes. The potential move does make some sense, though. If senior Jay Hayes (no relation) can handle things on the strongside, then Trumbetti and the younger Hayes could theoretically rotate pass-rush attempts, keeping their legs fresh and opposing quarterbacks scrambling.

With that in mind, below you will find an attempt at a vague but practical defensive depth chart as it stands the first week of preseason preparations. Just like with the Irish offense earlier in the week, the qualifier practical is included because it will defer from any listed depth chart. Junior linebacker Te’von Coney may be the first substitute called upon behind both senior captains Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini, but it would be somewhat surprising to see him listed as such on a depth chart.

With 29 days to go before Notre Dame faces Temple, this look at the defense will likely change before Labor Day Weekend, but this should provide a point of reference as conversations unfold in the coming weeks.

Strongside Defensive End: Sr. Jay Hayes — So. Khalid Kareem or So. Ade Ogundeji. Exactly who backs up Hayes is now a question with Trumbetti’s considered move.
Defensive Tackle: Jr. Jerry Tillery — Jr. Brandon Tiassum — Fr. Kurt Hinish. Someone needs to fill out the depth chart here, and until junior Elijah Taylor is healthy (LisFranc fracture), it will be either a freshman or senior Pete Mokwuah.
Defensive Tackle: Sr. Jonathan Bonner — Jr. Micah Dew-Treadway — Fr. Myron Tagovaiola-Amosa. Again, the options are limited at defensive tackle, both in experience and in depth.
Weakside Defensive End: So. Daelin Hayes — Sr. Andrew Trumbetti — So. Julian Okwara. If anything is most-surprising about Trumbetti potentially flipping over to here, it is that it will most likely take away opportunities from Okwara, who has shown enough to warrant those chances.

Rover: Sr. Drue Tranquill — Jr. Asmar Bilal — So. D.J. Morgan. It is conceivable Morgan sees work at rover simply to have an option, if needed, before turning to freshman Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, thus preserving a year of eligibility for the player recruited largely for this role.
Middle Linebacker: Sr. Nyles Morgan — Jr. Te’von Coney — So. Jamir Jones. Coney may be more natural at the next position, but if Morgan were to suffer an injury, it would be Coney who first steps in.
Outside Linebacker: Sr. Greer Martini — Jr. Te’von Coney — So. Jonathan Jones.

Field Cornerback: So. Julian Love — Jr. Shaun Crawford — So. Troy Pride. The base Irish defense will not rely on a nickel back, but one will inevitably be needed frequently. That is the nature of football in 2017, after all. Crawford should essentially be a starter in that role.
Field Safety: Junior Nick Coleman — Fr. Isaiah Robertson
Boundary Safety: So. Jalen Elliott — So. Devin Studstill — Jr. Nicco Fertitta. At both field and boundary safety, the possible eligibility of sophomore Navy transfer Alohi Gilman would change this layout immediately. Gilman would fit into the two-deep at the least. He could start at boundary at the most.
Boundary Cornerback: Sr. Nick Watkins — So. Donte Vaughn.

Parseghian on Notre Dame scheduling, recruiting and money in college football

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In going through various articles and box scores about and from Ara’s era the last few days, it was hard not to think about how much things have changed since his title-winning years. Of course, that is to be expected.

Yet some things remain quite similar. Take Parseghian’s response a few years ago to the wondering if an independent, nationally-focused schedule helped or harmed Notre Dame’s championship hopes.

“It gave us an opportunity to play teams from throughout the United States — our traditional rivalries with Southern California, Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, and we had Navy on our schedule all the time because they helped us during the war years,” Parseghian said. “We played teams from every conference. We played teams from the south, then from the west. It was a national opportunity. It gave us the opportunity to schedule people that clamored for a Notre Dame-Ohio State game, and so forth.”

Not only do the Irish still face most of those each year and the others every few years — not to mention the 2022 and 2023 home-and-home series scheduled with the Buckeyes — but it also sounds very similar to Notre Dame director of athletics Jack Swarbrick’s comments to Irish Illustrated’s Pete Sampson last month.

“We want [games] against the major conferences,” Swarbrick said. “We’ll always have a Pac-12 marker, we’ll have two every year. More often than not we’ll have a Big Ten marker. We’ll always have an ACC marker.

“The focus was trying to build some SEC markers into the schedule with A&M, Georgia and Arkansas. We’ve been able to do that.”

Nonetheless, the aforementioned expected comes to mind with reason. Things change. The Irish did not have an exclusive television deal during Parseghian’s tenure. He famously never made in-home recruiting visits. His contract supposedly prevented him from ever making more than Notre Dame’s highest-paid faculty member.

Yes, cookies crumble, milkshakes melt, things change.

“I think it’s probably gone over the top a little bit, not just at Notre Dame — I’m talking nationally in all of collegiate football,” Parseghian said. “Money and television have directed it. They’re going 12 months of the year now.

“Recruiting goes back to sophomores [in high school] for goodness’ sake.

“Money has been a big factor because of television. The game is of great interest to the football fans and to people across the entire country. The salaries are enormous. I’ve always said I was born too soon.”

There is no intended larger philosophical point here. Simply enough, those Parseghian quotes seemed both thought-provoking and pertinent to 2017.

On top of that, hopefully, maybe, perhaps they possibly shed some more light on the legendary coach and his stretch of success.


One last piece on Parseghian today. Notre Dame will honor him throughout the season with a simple but hard-to-miss acknowledgement. At the end of this video of Irish coach Brian Kelly addressing the team Wednesday, he says “ARA” will appear on the front of the Notre Dame helmets above the facemasks, where it usually reads “IRISH”.

Remembrances and Reflections of Ara

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Ara Parseghian’s certainly was a life filled. Describing him as a two-time national championship-winning coach misses the point, entirely. These pieces found better ways to encapsulate the coach, the friend, the grandfather.

The Aura of Ara by Tim Prister of Irish Illustrated — “That’s not to say he was perfect and didn’t have his detractors. Everybody does. Or do they? I can say with complete honesty that I have never spoken with a Parseghian detractor.”

ARA: Shining Light of Irish Camelot has Flickered Out by Notre Dame senior associate athletics director John Heisler — “Parseghian ran the Irish program with a stern hand, yet his charges—players, assistant coaches and administrators—lovingly and reverentially held him in the highest regard. In maybe the ultimate compliment, the 1966 Notre Dame Football Guide in Parseghian’s biography suggested, ‘He invented desire.’”

Parseghian rebuilt Notre Dame football during the ‘Era of Ara’ by Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com, perhaps the most-thorough obituary published yesterday — “Along with his successful coaching career, Parseghian’s legacy will be his relentless work to find a cure for a deadly genetic disease that killed three of his young grandchildren. In the last three decades of his life, Parseghian helped raise millions to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C, the rare neurological condition that claimed the lives of the three youngest children of his son, Michael.” (more…)

Ara Parseghian: 1923 – 2017

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Legendary Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian died early Wednesday morning, the University announced. He had been battling a hip infection at his home in Granger, Ind., just outside of South Bend. He was 94.

“Ara was a remarkable man,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “We come across thousands and thousands of people throughout our life, and most of the time, they come and go, but there are certain people from the moment you meet them, you realize they’re truly unique. That’s Ara.”

Most notably, Parseghian led Notre Dame to two national championships in 1966 and 1973, part of his 95-17-4 record in 11 seasons with the Irish. Including his seasons coaching at his alma mater Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern, Parseghian’s career record was 170-58-6 across 24 seasons.

Despite spending his first 13 years of coaching elsewhere in the Midwest, Notre Dame may have always been on Parseghian’s mind. At least, it had been since two months before his eighth birthday.

“I remember vividly, back in those days we didn’t have a television and we had sparse radio compared to what we have today,” Parseghian told this writer during a 2012 interview. “The newspapers would print extras and they’d be coming down the street in the middle of the day when an incident occurred.

“I remember the paperboy coming down the street, ‘EXTRA EXTRA EXTRA. Rockne killed in air crash.’ That has been in my mind and vivid through all these years. That tells you the kind of impact that he had on the school and college football, and certainly when I went to Notre Dame I played on that part of the tradition. … You use the spirit and tradition of what had happened in the past as a positive note.”

Parseghian arrived at Notre Dame from Northwestern, having added four losses to the struggling Irish seasons following Frank Leahy’s retirement. From 1959 to 1962, Northwestern beat the school 113 miles eastward each year. University President Fr. Ted Hesburgh watched. Executive Vice President Fr. Edmund Joyce watched. Notre Dame quarterback John Huarte watched.

Thus, when Parseghian reached out to Joyce to inquire about the opening following the 1963 season, neither Hesburgh nor Joyce worried about hiring the first non-alum and first non-Catholic since Jesse Harper handed the team over to Knute Rockne. (1944 interim coach Edward McKeever was not Catholic, as well.) They worried about securing the coach who had made besting the Irish a routine.

“Ara said to us, ‘I’ve gone as far as I can … I’m a believer in emotionalism in athletics, and I know they have it at Notre Dame, and I know I can do better there,” Hesburgh wrote in his memoirs “God, Country, Notre Dame.” “Ara was right, of course, and he proved it many, many times.”

“The opportunities at Notre Dame far exceeded those at Northwestern,” Parseghian said. “They both have strong academic reputations and admissions requirements, but Notre Dame with the religious affiliation, the academic reputation and the great tradition of football was an opportunity to recruit on a national basis. … At Notre Dame, the whole country was open to us.”

Parseghian nearly proved his fit with at the University from the outset, despite taking over a team which had posted a 2-7 record in 1963. Then again, when he arrived, the Irish already knew who he was. They undoubtedly remembered the 35-6 rout Northwestern had delivered to Notre Dame in 1962.

Huarte and receiver Jack Snow felt they could run Parseghian’s offense. Not only could they, but they could run it well. Huarte threw for more than 2,000 yards in 1964 with more than half those yards courtesy of Snow’s hands, and Huarte received the Heisman Trophy a week before the season finale against USC.

“Ara said to me, ‘John, if you make a mistake, don’t worry about it. You’re my quarterback. I’m going with you,” Huarte said of the coach’s conversation before the season-opener at Wisconsin. “I think that was really smart as I look back on it. It made me kind of relax and go on to have a big year.”

Entering the matchup in California at 9-0, a final-minutes, 20-17 defeat to USC cost the Irish a national championship. Parseghian got his first title two seasons later, going 9-0-1 in 1966. Naturally, it is the tie that is best remembered, a 10-10 knot with undefeated, second-ranked Michigan State. Never mind the 51-0 victory over No. 10 USC a week later.

“There was only the national championship as the only thing we could strive for,” Parseghian said. “The circumstances we were facing when we started our season … all we were fighting for, the only thing open to us, was a national championship, and that’s pretty hard to get when you’re going against 120 schools.”

Another close call in 1970, again robbed by USC in the regular season finale, made the 1973 championship even sweeter, a 11-0 season punctuated by a Sugar Bowl victory over then-No. 1 Alabama.

“When you least expect it, you might have [a title]. When times are predictable that you are chosen to be, things can happen that you don’t even come close.”

After considering retirement following the 1973 title, Parseghian called it a career a year later following a 10-2 record. But he never really left South Bend. When three of his grandchildren were diagnosed with the rare neurological condition Niemann-Pick Type C, Parseghian’s literal and figurative closeness to the University led to the creation of the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation. Parseghian’s three grandchildren all died from the disease, but it has raised millions of dollars to further progress combatting the disease.

“We have lost one of the most remarkable men I have ever known,” former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said. “He was a role model for me in every facet of his life, as a husband, father, coach, businessman and genuine friend. People will remember Ara for his great success as a football coach or the valiant battle he and his family have waged in order to find a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease and rightfully so. I will remember him as a true friend, a great golfing partner and a person willing to help anyone in need.”

In 2007, the University unveiled a statue of Parseghian outside Notre Dame Stadium.

Parseghian was born May 21, 1923 in Akron, Ohio, and is survived by his wife, Katie, whom he married in 1948, as well as his daughter, Kris Humbert, and son, Michael. In addition to his three grandchildren, Parseghian was preceded in death by his daughter Karan.

To donate to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund, visit parseghianfund.nd.edu.

A look at defensive backs and ends in practice videos

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This post could simply be the two embedded videos below, but you’re busy. It is Wednesday, after all, and you do not want to sit through any excess football video.

Wait, what’s that? With a full month to go still before a bona fide Irish game, you’re willing to watch as much pads-less practice footage as you can get your hands on? Well, fair enough. But nonetheless, what harm is there in pointing you toward a few specific moments within the clips?

Starting with the highlight reel pushed out by Notre Dame …

Last year’s performance left many Irish fans concerned about the defense moving forward. It seems fitting these 74 seconds seem to focus on some defensive highlights. What may be most impressive is the number of different defensive backs breaking up passes. (more…)