August 13, 2006

Flexibility secondary's first step to improvement

The good news?

Notre Dame has enough secondary talent to concoct a set with seven defensive backs. It probably won't be employed often this season, if at all, but during Saturday's practice the Irish trotted out Tom Zbikowski, Ambrose Wooden, Mike Richardson, Chinedum Ndukwe, Darrin Walls, Ray Herring and Terrail Lambert all at once.

That's quite a breakthrough considering even playing nickel last fall constituted a stretch for defensive coordinator Rick Minter regardless of how many receivers the opposition employed. So this new pass defense could cure Notre Dame's secondary woes, right?

Not so fast.

On one of the plays when Notre Dame went with seven defensive backs, Brady Quinn hit Rhema McKnight for a 65-yard touchdown.

"Situation defense is about trying to match up and be a little bit quicker," Minter said. "We're just trying to get more athletic."

Walls, who took first-team reps in the nickel package on Sunday, could be part of the solution. So too is a slimmer Ndukwe, who's dropped nearly 20 pounds and is listed at 218. Zbikowski resisting the temptation of play action plays a part as well. Then there's the simple techniques that stop Ted Ginn from running 20 yards behind the secondary before anyone seems to notice.

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