The Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s defensive struggle have continued, namely the play of the inside linebackers in passing plays. They have bit too hard on the play fakes and have allowed too many big plays from underneath and short routes.
They have been strong on running plays, but teams have sliced and diced their way up and down the field. If Notre Dame is to turn around their current defensive woes, they can start with shoring up the middle of the field.
But where do they turn? They have used Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox, and Jarrett Grace primarily and Joe Schmidt has seen some time in the middle, but the rest of the players in the middle lack the experience to likely make a difference. The answer might not be from the inside, but on the outside.
Prince Shembo is one of the team’s talented linebackers, a true 3-4 pass rushing linebacker whose ability to get to the quarterback will more than likely land him in the NFL playing on Sundays. For the meantime, the Irish need to at least contemplate playing the senior linebacker in the middle to shore up the pass defense.
The move doesn’t need to a permanent one — Shembo is too good of a pass rusher to give that up completely. But if the Irish don’t do something to shore up that position, they won’t win too many more games. They certainly won’t get away with games like the one on Saturday night.
The Irish will be fine on the outside, having Jaylon Smith, Ishaq Williams and Ben Councell that can work in a rotation. They can also work in Romeo Okwara, a sophomore who many are high on.
The Purdue Boilermakers struggled to beat a FCS school, but if you look at the numbers, who looked like the FCS team — Notre Dame or Indiana State?