By Steve Wiltfong, Irish 247 / Photo by Bill Panzica, notredame.rivals.com
Notre Dame's defense has shown flashes at time.
There's certainly talent inside the defensive meeting room.
But lack of consistency, and passion are the root of why Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly decided to make a change at defensive coordinator, firing Brian VanGorder Sunday four games into his third season and replacing him with Greg Hudson who was working off-field in South Bend as a defensive analyst.
The final straw for VanGorder was Saturday's 38-35 loss to Duke where ND fell to 1-3. The Blue Devils came in three-touchdown underdogs and only scored 27 points combined in losses to Wake Forest and Northwestern the previous two weeks.
Notre Dame's defense ranks No. 103 nationally in total defense, 96th against the rush, 111th in pass-efficiency defense and 101st in scoring defense. Tackling was poor and receivers seemed to regularly run by the Irish secondary.
Hudson will get the first crack at turning this thing around.
"Loves Notre Dame," Kelly said of Hudson. "Knows Notre Dame. Has great experience on the defensive side of the ball."
Hudson is a Cincinnati native, a former Irish linebacker and Notre Dame graduate that went on to coach at UConn, Cincinnati, Minnesota, East Carolina, Florida State and Purdue. The Seminoles defense ranked No. 2 nationally in 2012, with Hudson playing a key role as linebackers coach in a turnaround for a unit that was 108th in the country the year before.
"Now as the defensive coordinator he'll assume the responsibilities of the coordinator to get them energy into the group, some passion, get that unit playing the kind of football I know they're capable of," Kelly said.
Kelly doesn't want to see his defense playing mechanical and robotic moving forward. He wants to see them having fun, adding there was maybe too much analysis, saying they'll play fast and free moving forward.
"He has a lot of pride for Notre Dame," Noles247 insider Josh Newberg said. Newberg covered Hudson for three seasons in Tallahassee. "He went there. At times like this you just need a guy that's prideful. Win or lose, that defense will play with pride for Notre Dame."
The Irish have a big, veteran defensive line that hasn't registered a sack in four games. The linebackers led by Nyles Morgan and James Onwualu are capable. The secondary has been decimated by injury and suspension, and Hudson will run out a unit playing a lot of freshmen in the back end.
Sunday afternoon Kelly said that Notre Dame lacked the energy and fun needed on defense to be successful. They plan to tweak some things and he said he'll spend a lot more time with the defense. Terminology will stay the same but you'll see some tweaks "necessary" in the Irish defense leading up to Saturday's game against Syracuse.
"Greg Hudson is a fiery coach, a type of coach when it gets going he's going to be right there in the trenches with his players," Newberg said. "I feel players respond to his enthusiasm that he exudes. He hasn't played football for 20-plus years but looks like he could jump right into the game on Saturdays.
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