Notre Dame Plans To Get Creative In Utilizing Defensive End Tyson Ford

Notre Dame has top 10 strong-side defensive end Tyson Ford in the fold, and the Fighting Irish plan to create a lot of mismatches with him at the next level
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When St. Louis (Mo.) John Burroughs School defensive end Tyson Ford committed to Notre Dame in January, the Fighting Irish picked up an explosive, powerful defensive end that ranked among the best at his position in the country. According to Rivals, Ford is the No. 70 player in the entire country the No. 6 strongside end, and he's certainly deserving of that ranking thus far.

Last season, Ford's high school was only able to play five games due to Covid, but the 6-6, 260-pound edge rusher made an emphatic statement, racking up seven sacks and nine tackles for loss during that timespan. In Ford's opinion, a tackle for loss is just as helpful as forcing a sack, so the Notre Dame commit logged 16 impact plays behind the line of scrimmage a year ago, which works out to over three such instances per game.

“I'm really just an explosive, aggressive type of pass rusher,” Ford told Irish Breakdown. “I'm pretty quick for my size and I'm also strong, so the combination of that makes it hard to block me. Last year, I wasn't as proficient with my hands as I wanted to be, but this upcoming year I'll be a lot better. I really can't wait for the season to come up, but I'm really an aggressive type of pass rusher that goes 100 percent every play and is going to go after you no matter what.”

The tenacity that Ford mentions is part of what allowed him to have such a productive junior campaign in 2020, but it is not the only element to his success. If Ford's sack-forcing looks effortless on the field, it is because of all the hard work he put in off the field, during the offseason and in film study. And heading into his senior season, Ford is committed to turning in an even more productive year after an offseason filled with training.

“It's really been busy,” Ford said. “I work out about six times a week. I have two-a-days with lifting that I do, explosiveness on Tuesdays, Wednesdays I do lifting and agility, Thursday I do lifting and speed. On Mondays I just do lifting, Friday is my off-day and on Saturday I lift, then on Sunday I do D-Line work. Usually six days out of the seven I've been working out. I've really been trying to work on my technique and perfect that while getting stronger and faster.”

Ford, who is a four-star prospect across the board, has a rough idea of what he'd like to accomplish on the field this season. The Notre Dame commit has set a benchmark of 20 sacks, which is a threshold he says would've been reached a year ago if not for a Covid-shortened season, and he'd also like to break his schools tackles for loss record before his high school career wraps up. To turn those goals into a reality, the dominant pass rusher is working to tighten up a few specific areas of his game.

“The spin is actually pretty useful, so that is something that I've been working on, but I've also been working on everything really,” Ford explained. “I've worked a lot on my hands and my technique to beat offensive tackles, and I'm excited to see what I can do to break them down.”

It should come as no surprise that Ford is anxious to terrorize opposing offensive tackles on the field this Fall after a long and trying offseason, but he's also looking forward to doing the same for the Fighting Irish in college. Along those lines, Ford has had numerous conversations with defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston about where he fits into the future Notre Dame defensive scheme.

“They actually have talked to me about moving me inside sometimes and using me on the outside as a pass rusher and also dropping me into pass coverage a few times a game,” Ford said. “That is something we've talked about. They just think with my size and speed that I'll be able to handle that. Most schools with someone of my size, they use them as a three-tech, but they're actually planning on using me as a pass rusher and switching me around on the D-Line to see where I fit.”

Based on that description, Ford would be tasked with more on-field responsibilities than he currently has, but that is by design. Ford is an athletic player who can move quickly and forcefully, so Notre Dame has envisioned different strategies for creating mismatches with that skill set.

According to Irish Breakdown publisher Bryan Driskell, Tyson Ford grades out as a 4.0 on the IB scale with an upside grade of 5.0, a score which comfortably puts him within the top 100 players in the country regardless of position. Ford could make a big impact at the next level as a strong-side pass rusher, but his athleticism opens up the possibility of using him all along the defensive line depending on the down and distance.

Read more about what Driskell sees in Ford's game here:

Ford has all the tools you want in a strongside end, and I believe he is a pure power end. He has tremendous size, impressive natural power and he has the combination of tools to eventually be a dominant run defender and pass rusher. Getting a player with the tools to do both is rare, and an absolute must for an elite defensive lineman.

Ford already has good size at 6-5 and 250 pounds, and his length is impressive. He has plenty of room to reshape his body, and he should take off in the Matt Balis strength program. His frame is such that he could easily get to 265-270 pounds and get even more explosive. He is an aggressive player that shows an edge at times that I like, and that you need to be a dominant run defender.

The Burroughs standout shows an impressive burst off the line, especially for a player that weighs 250 pounds. At times he comes off the line too high, but it is correctable and he does show the ability to bend when he keeps his pads low. His block destruction technique needs work, which isn't a surprise for such a young player, but he has fast and powerful hands, and he's hard to block at the prep level. When he does use his hands correctly he destroys high school linemen.

He's an agile athlete that displays the occasional impressive spin move to get off blocks. As his technique improves you'll see his ability to get after the quarterback take off. He is able to disrupt the passer now based mostly on raw talent, but as a junior his repertoire started to enhanced, and his game improved tremendously. With even more work he projects to be an impact power rusher.

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