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Opponent Breakdown: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Defense

The Irish have some real star power on the defensive side of the ball.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Louisville traveled to Notre Dame for a game, the Louisville offense was able to take advantage of a defense that was poorly coached. That won’t be the case this time around. Brian Kelly lost one of the best Defensive Coordinators in the country a couple of years ago but he had great fortune when he was able to hold onto Clark Lea when Mike Elko left. Lea has done a great job to maximize the talent that he has while also finding ways to put his best players in positions to make big plays.

Notre Dame lost some great talent and experience from last year because they had an large group of veteran contributors and stars. They still have Daelin Hayes at Defensive End but they have to be pleased with the younger players who have stepped up to fill the voids. Isaiah Foskey leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss and guys like Justin Ademilola have shown in the past that they can make plays. Louisville has had some issues blocking on the edge which has been a big issue with them being so reliant on the outside zone runs. They have to find a way to control these guys on Saturday.

The interior of ND’s defense is stout but not overly disruptive. Louisville found some success last year running the ball and I think the lack of play making from the interior defenders was a big factor in that. The Irish also don’t get a great pass rush from the inside though they do push the pocket pretty well. Louisville’s veterans on the Offensive Line have to win this matchup for the offense to have success.

The Irish defense starts to really improve when you get to the second level. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is an outstanding Outside Linebacker and he might be one of the best defenders UofL will see this year. He runs like a Cornerback and he has good instincts against the run and pass. I thought that he was the best player in the game last year and he’s only gotten better as he’s played more snaps. He will be a key in this game as UofL wants to work the edges on offense and they like to get their receivers in matchups against Linebackers and Safeties.

Drew White and Shayne Simon man the other Linebacker spots and both are very solid players who execute well and rack up tackles. Neither has been a player that you might label a “play maker” but you know exactly what you’re getting from them and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. I think that Louisville could possibly take advantage of these guys focusing on stopping the run. They might find some success with play action passes over the middle of the field.

The Cornerback spot for ND is a bit of a question mark with Nick McCloud at one spot and TaRiq Bracy opposite of him. McCloud was a starter at NC State before transferring and I think he’s a solid cover corner. He can be beaten by UofL’s receivers, though. Bracy is a little less experienced but he’s made some plays on the football over his career. UofL didn’t challenge this pass defense in last year’s game so it will be interesting to see if they change things up this year.

Kyle Hamilton gets my vote for the best defensive player that UofL will see this year. He is a monster of a human at 6-4/219 and he runs like a much smaller man. He’s the newest version of the hybrid Safety/Linebacker/Defensive Weapon types of players we’ve seen lately. Isaiah Simmons was that guy for Clemson and Derwin James played that type of role for FSU. Hamilton can do it all and he debuted last year against Louisville and made plays in that game. Look for him to play deep Safety as well as walking down into the box to help in run support.

The other Safety spot will be manned mostly by Shuan Crawford. As a former corner, I expect ND to utilize him in coverage more than Hamilton. they may even look to leave him alone against Tutu Atwell and others in the slot. Houston Griffith is also a former corner so the Irish are in good shape when it comes to coverage in the back end.