Spotlight should be on Tenuta

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While much of the talk this week has been about Charlie Weis and his lack of a “signature win,” if there’s one coach that should be in the crosshairs this week it’s defensive playcaller Jon Tenuta.

Tenuta was handpicked by Weis to turn an upstart defense filled with young but promising players into an elite unit. Defensive coordinator Corwin Brown gallantly stepped aside to allow Tenuta to implement his system, switching the base defense from a 3-4 based system to Tenuta’s attacked 4-3 defense.

Needless to say, the results this season have been disappointing. Notre Dame checks in as the 100th rated defense, giving up over 400 yards a game. More disconcerting is the lack of pressure that Tenuta has been able to get on quarterbacks. Pete Carroll pointed out in his Tuesday remarks that even though the Irish have been bringing pressure well over half the time, the Irish still only check in at 75th nationally in sacks. Beyond the statistics, just watching the Irish this year, it’s been obvious that the defense is what’s holding back this team. Poor tackling, blown assignments, a lack of forced turnovers, and inexplicably open receivers have been hard to miss. With the exception of Nevada, Notre Dame has made every offense they’ve faced look much better than they really are.

As the Irish prepare to face Southern Cal, it’s clear that this game could be the defenses to lose. There is no better opportunity to get the Trojans, as the three main ingredients to an upset are present.

Home field advantage? Check.
True freshman quarterback? Check.
Offense that can put up points? Check.

Tenuta, who has been surly with the media already this year, has to know that it’s up to his unit to produce a complete effort for Notre Dame to walk away victorious. He was fairly upbeat yesterday as he gave a clinic on coachspeak his remarks to the media.

If the Irish beat the Trojans this Saturday, it’ll be more than just Charlie Weis’ signature win at Notre Dame. It’ll be Jon Tenuta’s as well.