Thursday, August 25, 2005

#9 - Laying Down the Laws

ND-Pittsburgh is just 9 short days away, and I might be getting tickets. In the meantime, the countdown continues...

#9 - Laying Down the Laws


In this case, Trevor Laws.

The defensive side of Notre Dame's superb Minnesota lineman pair (offensive tackle Ryan Harris being the other), Laws is a pure athlete who played a mainly reserve role on last season's defense. With Greg Pauly graduated, it now becomes the chief duty of Laws and Derek Landri to pace the interior of the Irish run defense in the 3-4 scheme of defensive coordinator Rick Minter.

The Irish were outstanding against the run last season...sort of. I mean, when you're the second-worst pass defense in the country, how much do you really need to worry about your opponents trying to run the ball? And the Irish encountered plenty of teams with a "pass-first" mentality: USC, Purdue, Stanford, Pittsburgh, just to name a few. So in that context, ranking in the top 10 against the run isn't all that impressive.

But the role for which Minter is grooming his lineman is not to think about stuffing Reggie Bush while hanging the secondary out to dry against Matt Leinart. Much like Weis' offensive scheme, Minter's designs center on outstanding line play to free up his linebackers, in particular the LB/Safety hybrid position known as the "Apache" linebacker.

"We looked at South Carolina film," Laws said on media day. "They got after them in that 30 front and those blitz pressures worked really well. The way we run it, it's more of a passing defense and a blitzing kind of thing. I'm going either way and they're bringing linebackers a lot."

Put another way: Laws needs to step it up not only to protect the run but open the Irish's main weapon against the pass. Every position is important, but how well the more conditioned Laws handles being in on every play as part of both aspects on defense will go a long way towards erasing those 5-TD performances by a "household name" like Tyler Palko.

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