Here are Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's thoughts on some of his defensive players.
On linebacker Carlo Calabrese's development: "He's tackling well in space. He's much better in his coverage fits. That was some of our concerns. I think really he's just tackling better and he's playing more consistent on a play-to-play basis."
On the contributions of backup linebacker Prince Shembo and Steve Filer: " They're improving, they're just allowing us to move personnel in and out of the game and feel really confident that they can be productive for us. So this is truly about the development of a Steven Filer and a Prince Shembo within this defense, as well as Neal and Smith. I mean, they're developing each and every week. Brian has probably developed as much as any of our linebackers, maybe, say, Carlo Calabrese. But all these guys are developing before our eyes to the point where when they go in the game they can be productive."
On cornerback Robert Blanton's ability to tip passes: "Either that or we're doing a great job in our tip drill. I don't know who gets the credit for that. He's a guy that plays the ball well in the air. He's played very, very well for us at the cornerback position. In particular he's coming in at nickel. He's, again, a young man that is playing a lot more this year and has made the most of his opportunities."
On the play and development of nose tackle Ian Williams: "Well, two things: One was work volume, his ability to have a sustained effort, a high level, was not very good. We graded it out to be somewhere in the 30-play range last year. And then his play would taper off, physical conditioning, strength, all those things, nutrition, taking care of his body. Now he's up in that 50-play range.
"So the first thing that's obviously noticeable is his work volume. He can now compete at a high level for a longer period of time. He's always had the intuitive, kinesthetic awareness, whatever you want to call it, he can get off blocks, so he's always had that. What we've really focused on is the work volume."