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Notre Dame's defense applies pressure

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said just because the defense was working on forcing fumbles at the beginning of spring practice Friday, it isn't a sign that the Irish will be attempting to force more turnovers this season.

Notre Dame's defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs worked on strip sacks, hitting balls out of a carriers' arm from behind and knocking balls out of receivers' hands as they hauled in catches in the first drills after warming up. The media was allowed to watch the opening 30 minutes of practice Friday.

Notre Dame finished last season tied for 103rd out of 123 teams in turnovers gained with 17, and the Irish's four fumble recoveries were tied for the least in college football.

"I think that's too simple of a term, creating turnovers," Kelly said. "I think what (defensive coordinator Brian) VanGorder and I want to create there is we want to create more pressure for the quarterback. We want them under more duress. From that standpoint, maybe the net-gain there is turnovers, but I think if they're making bad decisions and throwing the ball away, we're gaining downs in that respect, too.

"I think that's been a process for us. We're moving in a new direction for our defensive personnel. It's coming, and they're making progress in that regard, but it will take us some more time."

Along with working on putting more pressure on quarterbacks, the Irish defensive players are also being asked to be able to do multiple jobs.

Kelly said earlier this spring that linebacker and former Bishop Luers star Jaylon Smith would be moved around to keep offenses from knowing where he is, and during the portions of practices the media has been allowed to see, safeties Austin Collinsworth and James Onwualu have worked with linebackers at times.

"If you can do that, you can put yourself in a very good situation because now you've got the pen last on defense," Kelly said of having players be able to fill multiple roles. "If you're situationally substituting, it's a big advantage. If I know you're taking out No. 92 and bringing in No. 36, I know what your front is.

"There's an advantage to being in sub-packages and there's a disadvantage. If you can have players that can play multiple roles within your defensive scheme, which is what we're trying to get to, there's definitely an advantage there. I think defenses are trying to get to the point where they can keep their guys on the field first, second and third down."

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