Double-Edged Sword

Notre Dame plans to attack opposing defenses with an up-tempo offense this season. Two will play at that game…

With less than a handful of notable exceptions, Notre Dame's defense hopes to feature multiple contributors at most positions each Saturday this fall.

At least three Sam (strong side) linebackers will see action alongside constants Jaylon Smith and Joe Schmidt. So too will a duo, and perhaps trio of cornerbacks in congress with RCB Cody Riggs. Three backup safeties are slated for extensive action as are seven defensive linemen to augment the efforts of junior captain Sheldon Day.

It will be the deepest pool of defensive talent featured at the school during the Brian Kelly era -- that is, if opposing offenses allow it to be so.

Asked Tuesday, "If an opposing offense is running tempo, what are the dynamics involved in being able to get your defensive players out there?" Kelly responded: "Can't get 'em on the field (pause waiting for a follow-up question). They don't get on the field.  They don't get on the field."

The oft-reference sub packages favored by first-year defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder are necessary for his youth-filled group to reach it's optimal potential. That means first and second down successes are also crucial. In other words, no dedicated up-tempo offense slows its pace when faced with 2nd and 4 or 3rd and 1.

"You'll have to play with the players that are on the field and obviously you're getting them in and out on incompletions, you're getting them in and out when the ball is out-of-bounds, you're getting them in and out when you obviously can get that opportunity," said Kelly. "But if the ball is in play and they're spotting it, you know, 8 to 10 seconds is generally the speed that most crews can get that ball spotted back if it stays in the field of play.  Pretty hard to get your guys in and out.

"Hopefully you're by your bench…we need to stay right and left (at cornerback) and keep it in that fashion so we can get guys in and out in a faster substitution pattern.

"But, yeah, if you're clicking (offensively) and you're moving the ball effectively, it's hard to get (defensive) sub packages in there."

Back At Ya

New offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock (the Irish passing game coordinator last fall) dubbed Notre Dame's 2013 offense, "reactionary."

Irish fans would likely add the words "frustrating" and/or "dull."

None of the above will apply in 2014, though Kelly isn't married to the up-tempo approach full-time.

"Everything is based upon the game itself, how the game looks to me," he said when asked if there is a target number of snaps per contest. "That has a lot of factors, right?  Their defense, what it looks like during the game?  Are we in a situation where we need to maximize our possessions?  Then what we are capable of doing. From week-to-week those (are) going to be the factors. 

"Having said that, we've gone into this year knowing that we're going to run more plays than we did in the past.  So there is a different bar than what we have had in the past."

It also means a handful of capable running backs and wide receivers, perhaps ideally suited to certain situations, might have to bide their time on a given drive.

"We don't have the multiple substitutions if we're moving the ball in a faster tempo," said Kelly. "We won't have the kind of substitutions that we have had over the last couple of years."

In some cases, whether they want to, or not.