I realize the last week of entries has been heavy on the defensive backs, but between the great insight secondary coach Chuck Martin gave after practice to some illuminating comments from Darrin Walls, it’s clear that the problems that plagued the back half of the Irish defense have been diagnosed.
While Darrin Walls’ career at Notre Dame got off to a promising start when he played All-American wide receiver Calvin Johnson to a draw as a freshman, it’s been up and down since then, with last season’s lost to his hometown Pitt being a low-water mark for Walls.
Walls didn’t offer any excuses for his play in the past, but did hit on a key issue that plagued everybody in the secondary last season.
“We don’t have to think as much,” Walls said. “We all play fast and know what we’re doing. That’s one thing that’s helped us a lot.
“Everybody knew we blitzed a lot. We played a lot of man. When you play man you don’t have a lot of opportunities to make a play on a ball or intercept a pass. Now when we’re sitting in zone we can read the quarterback and react.”
There’s nothing that makes a secondary look worse than an ineffective blitz, and last year, the Irish were one of the least effective blitzing teams in the country, bringing pressure on nearly every down, yet still finishing 84th in the nation in sacks.
Too much thinking, too much man coverage, too little margin for error, and plummeting confidence levels is a recipe for disaster, and last season’s second half was a case study.