Grading The Notre Dame Defense vs. South Florida
Notre Dame dominated South Florida to improve to 2-0, and the Fighting Irish defense was especially good in the victory. Notre Dame held South Florida to just 231 yards of offense and 3.7 yards per play.
It was a great unit effort, and it’s time to hand out the grades.
COACHING — A
Defensive coordinator Clark Lea and his staff lost three starters before the game and were without three more key rotation players. If my sources are correct, most of those absences were not expected at the beginning of the week, which put the defense in a bit of a bind. Despite those set backs, Lea and his defensive staff had that unit ready to play hard, fast and disciplined football.
Notre Dame absolutely dominated USF.
The Irish were very aggressive attacking Duke in the opener, but they were less aggressive against the Bulls, and that was a smart decision. There were a lot of run stunts, but we didn’t see as many of the overload pressures or six man pressures we saw the previous week. USF runs a lot of mis-direction and they have talented backs, and getting caught in the wrong blitz or movement could result in a big play.
Instead, Lea allowed his defense to stay relatively basic, but within that basic look they were able to aggressively fly to the football and beat USF to spots. The result was a high effort/high execution performance that absolutely dominated the Bull offense.
DE #91 ADETOKUNBO OGUNDEJI (20 snaps) — B
Stats: 1 tackle
Keeping Ogundeji and Hayes below 20 snaps in this game was huge for the Irish defense, and could pay huge dividends on Saturday against a Wake Forest offense that loves to push the tempo and ranked in the top five in total plays the last two seasons.
Ogundeji got sealed inside on the first play of the game, but for the rest of his snaps he was quite stout on the edge. His ability to set the edge against the South Florida perimeter run game played a significant role in shutting down the run game. The play after he got sealed inside he blew up the edge and forced the run back inside for a loss. We saw that multiple times in the game.
According to Pro Football Focus he was on the field for just 11 run snaps, and on six of those I have a note that says, “blew up the edge.”
DE #9 DAELIN HAYES (19 snaps) — C+
Stats: 1 tackle
Hayes didn’t see much action in the game, and the pass rush was mostly negated by South Florida getting rid of the ball quickly. It seems to be an instance where the pass rush was negated in this game because the effectiveness of the rush in the opener had the Bulls coaching staff spooked.
Hayes had a chance for a good run stuff on a cut back run but he missed the tackle in the hole. Overall he was good at the point of attack.
DE #7 ISAIAH FOSKEY (32 snaps) — B
Stats: 2 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 1 QB hurries
Foskey got a lot more action against South Florida, and he handled himself well. He made a great read on South Florida’s early first half fourth down fake, ending the Bulls drive. He was physical at the point of attack and showed excellent hustle and pursuit on the backside of runs. There was an option play that was run away from him and his speed to close on that play going away from him showed his elite skills.
There was a boot throw where he made a good read and closed on the quarterback, but he needs to get his long arms up in the air when the quarterback goes to throw the ball.
DE #19 JUSTIN ADEMILOLA (27 snaps) — B-
Ademilo also didn’t see much action in terms of USF running at him, but like Ogundeji he was stout at the point of attack. He wasn’t on the field for many deep drops, but he did have a good outside rush that helped force the quarterback out of the pocket.
DT #41 KURT HINISH (14 snaps) — B+
Hinish had a strange game in that he didn’t register a single stat and he played just 14 total snaps, but he also graded out extremely well in the win. He started the game off extremely well, showing great pursuit on the first snap and blowing up the line on the second snap. He held up extremely well at the point of attack at disengaged well.
DT #95 MYRON TAGOVAILOA-AMOSA (16 snaps) — C+
Stats: 1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss
Tagovailoa-Amosa was a bit more inconsistent. He got knocked back on a couple snaps and didn’t get to the ball much. He’s been solid so far this season, but hasn’t made a lot of plays on the ball.
DT #54 JACOB LACEY (21 snaps) — B+
Stats: 1 tackle, 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 break up
I was critical of Lacey’s play in the opener, especially his slower get off. Well, the sophomore big man completely turned that around against USF, and he played very well in the win. Lacey came off the line with much better quickness and consistency. On the snap where he combined with linebacker Drew White for a tackle for loss, Lacey slanted and blew right past the guard to get into the backfield.
Lacey got good movement throughout the game, he was strong taking on blocks and he was disruptive. He also had a pass break up that showed impressive instincts and quickness making a read. His gap discipline in the run game also earned him high marks.
LB #24 JACK KISER (40 snaps) — A-
Stats: 8 tackles (7 solo), 2 tackles for loss
Kiser played excellent football for Notre Dame. He combined discipline with aggressiveness extremely well, which is vital to success at the Buck position, and it’s something the Bucks struggled with in the opener. Lea used him on a number of run stunts, and Kiser made good reads, kept gap integrity and did a good job getting off blocks. He was much more physical at the point of attack than I thought he’d be at this stage of his career.
Kiser is an athletic player, and we saw that on Saturday, but it was the discipline part that made him so effective in the first half. He was gap sound, played the cut back extremely well and played with good angles. I graded him down for a crossing route when I saw the play live, but after reviewing the film it was not his man and he actually played the route quite well.
Kiser tackled well in space (just one miss) and showed excellent pursuit on runs/throws away. In the second half the Bulls were able to get him sucked inside with some reads where they showed action away, and that dinged his grade a bit.
LB #40 DREW WHITE (24 snaps) - B
Stats: 4 tackles. 0.5 tackles for loss
White was more active on film than I thought he was watching him live. He played aggressively, and after a few missed assignments (MAs) early in the first quarter he cleaned things up and played good football. White showed good timing on run stunts and he filled quickly and with force. I have “good fill” and “great fill” written down many times for White, and even though he didn’t make a lot of plays on the ball (limited opportunities) he was very involved in clogging up run lanes and forcing USF running backs to other players. I dinged him a bit for getting sucked inside on the early 42-yard run and another missed tackle later in the game.
There were many snaps where it was the defensive tackles and White combining to blow up the line, which forced the running backs to cut back, and Kiser was there to clean things up. Great team defense.
LB #6 JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH (23 snaps) — C+
Stats: 1 tackle
Owusu-Koramoah didn’t play much, and when he was in the game he played a bit reckless. He took a few poor angles to the ball and was out-leveraged too much, and he also had a missed tackle where he tried to blow a player up instead of going for the sound play.
LB #31 JACK LAMB (21 snaps) — B+
Stats: 3 tackles, 2 QB hurries
Lamb benefitted from the loss of Simon and Liufau, earning 21 snaps as part of the linebacker rotation. The junior got good depth with his pass drops, played with good angles (with one exception on his first series) and the timing of his run stunts and blitzes was excellent.
He made one very heady play in the third quarter on a blitz where he hit the quarterback. What I liked was that Lamb timed the blitz perfectly, but he was headed right towards the back, which was his initial read, but he quickly veered to the quarterback and forced a rushed throw once he realized it was a play-action.
Lamb was aggressive downhill and combined with Kiser to make the play of the Buck linebacker position truly outstanding in this game. The pair combined for 11 tackles, 2 TFLs and 3 quarterback hurries.
S #3 HOUSTON GRIFFITH (40 snaps) — B
Stats: 5 tackles (5 solo), 1 tackle for loss
I was quite impressed with what I saw from Griffith. He did his job at a high level in all phases of the game. He made quick and sound decision in the run game, which allowed him to quickly fill run lanes. What I liked is Griffith didn’t overcommit, which would have resulted in South Florida then running RPOs or play-actions behind him. But he was also aggressive enough and filled hard enough to allow him to be around the ball quite a bit.
Not only did he finish second on the defense with five solo tackles, he also was around the football on plenty of other snaps where he would have made the tackle if a teammate didn’t do such a good job making a tackle. Griffith played with good angles, he was sound in coverage and played good help defense against the pass.
S #16 KJ WALLACE (24 snaps) — B
Stats: 3 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
Wallace was thrust into the mix due to the personnel losses, and he handled himself well. Like Griffith, he played a good downhill game and made good decision in the pass game.
S #12 DJ BROWN (38 snaps) — B-
Stats: 2 tackles
Brown was steady and solid in this game, but he needs to come down with the interception in the end zone. It was his second dropped interception in as many games, but the good news is both instances were good over the top reads where he put himself in position to force an incompletion and almost a turnover.
S #20 SHAUN CRAWFORD (28 snaps) — C+
Crawford cleaned up his game a bit against South Florida, but his early missed tackle - which came due to him taking a poor angle - opened up a 42-yard run for the Bulls. Crawford came up aggressively, but he didn’t make many plays in the game. There was one huge play he almost made when he did a great job jumping a slant route, but Lacey broke up the pass.
It was good progress for Crawford, but he still needs to work on taking better angles to the ball from deep and wrapping up as a tackler.
CB #26 CLARENCE LEWIS (33 snaps) — B+
Stats: 5 tackles (5 solo), 1 tackle for loss, 3 break ups
Lewis was very aggressive coming up on the edge in run support, and his downfield coverages was mostly strong. He had three break ups in the game, and in each instance he showed advanced feel for playing the football.
Lewis was all over a go route early in the game, but instead of getting grabby (which a lot of young corners will do), he read the eyes of the receiver and quickly turned back, found the ball and broke it up. Later he undercut a crossing route perfectly and almost came away with an interception. His final breakup came on a perfectly defended post route. A mistake many corners make - young and veteran - is to play over the top on a post route getting near the end zone, but Lewis did not make that error. Instead, he showed great field awareness and undercut the post for the breakout.
He was a bit late reacting to out cuts and stop routes when playing off coverage, but overall I was pleased with how Lewis played in the win.
CB #14 NICK MCCLOUD (14 snaps) — C+
McCloud played a lot of off coverage in the game and was late reacting to an out cut and a stop route, but inerrant throws resulted in a pair of incompletions.
CB CAM HART (44 snaps) — C+
Stats: 2 break ups
Hart had a bit of an up-and-down performance, but the high volume of snaps should benefit him. The bad is his footwork hurt him on multiple occasions. It resulted in him getting beat on a corner route (the ball wasn’t thrown there) and being late to react to stop and out cuts. He played the deep ball well on two snaps, but also misplayed a couple of deep throws as well. Hart should have had one pass interference penalty called on him near the end zone, but he caught a break.
There was a lot to build on for Hart, and the talent is obvious, he just needs to clean some things up.
*** Three freshmen defensive linemen got into the game and showed flashes. End Alexander Ehrensberger had a big sack and blew up a running back on a power read play. Fellow end Jordan Botelho missed a sack attempt and he must play under a bit more control, but his burst off the edge is very impressive. Defensive tackle Rylie Mills was a bit up-and-dow, but he certainly flashed quickness off the ball and playmaking potential. His issues were more about holding up against double teams, which is to be expected.
*** Rover Paul Moala had some quality moments on the edge, and Bo Bauer did a solid job up the middle when he played at Mike. Both were aggressive and did a good job filling agains the run game.
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