Tenuta and Brown face their biggest test

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I wasn’t able to find a transcript of Jon Tenuta’s remarks yesterday, but I was able to watch about 3:30 minutes of his comments. I was actually surprised that he seemed in good spirits, although I supposed it would’ve been a bad sign if we saw a guy with gigantic bags under his eyes looking like he hasn’t slept since Saturday.

Yes, the Notre Dame defense has been terrible. But we’ll find out this week if it is an utter abomination, or merely a group that has been slow to find its groove. The optimist in me hopes that the Irish defense can build off that semi-stout fourth quarter against the Trojans, where they played pretty rock solid defense the last 13 minutes of the game and got a big turnover. The pessimist in me points out the fact that USC went into absolute shut-down mode, which wasn’t all that surprising considering the freshman quarterback they were playing, even if it was Pete Carroll coaching.

The questions (that I heard) Tenuta field didn’t seem to be too tough of ones, and I can’t really blame the guys who have to look him in the eye and ask him why his defense is ranked 104th in the nation. Yet one reporter tried to get creative and ask if inexperience could be an issue. Tenuta obliged.

“I attribute it to that. Guys understanding where they’re supposed to fit. If you haven’t played, you haven’t seen all different blocking schemes, and once you get rattled a few times, or hit in the head a few times, figure out whose going to block you, and what the play is, then you figure it out.”

Now I take just about everything Tenuta says with a very large grain of coachspeak, but the point of practice is so you don’t need to get hit in the head, blocked differently, and rattled before you make the correct decision. Again, I don’t think this is what Tenuta’s telling his troops, but still — it would’ve been good to hear some candor coming out when asked about some of the general problems.

In Corwin Brown’s session with the media, he was asked about Weis’ comments about simplifying things. While he backpedaled from saying the Irish are going back to a vanilla approach, he did say they’ll be starting over with their progressions.

“If you ask any of our kids, they’ll tell you, whenever your struggling, go back to page one. No matter what it is. Go get in line, don’t worry about disguising. Forget where everyone else is, this is my guy, this is my key, this is my threat. Once you start building back, you’ll be able to zero in and play it better.”

The Irish rank 117th against the pass, and we’ll find out on Saturday whether or not Tenuta and co-defensive coordinator Corwin Brown have a solution for what ails the Irish defense. If there’s good news, the Irish run defense has been steadily improving, which will be key if Notre Dame wants to slow down BC running back Montel Harris, who was named ACC and National Player of the Week for his performance last Saturday against NC State.