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The Journal Gazette

September 21, 2016 10:32 PM

Irish working to clean up shoddy tackling

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

SOUTH BEND — Without a doubt, tackling and getting back to technique are being emphasized at Notre Dame's practices this week. The Irish (1-2) cannot afford to lose another game when they play Duke (1-2) at home Saturday. And the number of tackles they've missed, which could be estimated as more than two dozen, factored heavily into the two games they've already lost.

"Obviously it's going to be stressed a lot more," said Cole Luke, Notre Dame's top cornerback. "In the Texas game, we didn't tackle very well. This past game, we didn't tackle very well, so that's something we're emphasizing very hard. We're trying to push it in every drill.

"Whether it's a half-speed drill, we're going to thud regardless. We just have to practice it perfect so when the game time comes, it's natural."

The Irish allowed Michigan State to pile up 501 yards of offense over the weekend. Now their defense faces fill-in quarterback Daniel Jones and three decent receivers -- T.J. Rahming, Anthony Nash and Johnathan Lloyd. Each has more than 10 receptions and 150 yards receiving this season.

Duke also has a veteran talent at running back in Jela Duncan, who is coming off a 53-yard and one-touchdown rushing performance against Northwestern.

"They are a very conceptual offense, so trying to just understand their concepts and get a good idea that it can come out of a few different things," Irish outside linebacker James Onwualu said. "Younger quarterback, but he's a pretty good player and has some sets that he can really use. Just trying to get a good understanding of their offense and play some good ball."

Jones, Rahming, Nash, Lloyd and Duncan can make the Irish pay if there is more sloppy tackling. Middle linebacker Nyles Morgan and the defense are eager to make amends. Coach Brian Kelly has spent a good portion of his time with reporters this week answering questions about poor tackling.

"He added more periods of thud (to practice)," Morgan said. "It's just understanding leverage and where the ball has to go. Taking the right angles is the best bet."

Kelly said it's been taught and coached properly from spring practice through fall camp through the early weeks of the season.

"Our problem is we don't go from speed to power," Kelly said. "We go from speed to speed. And we miss tackles, and that's not how we teach it. So we've got to communicate it better. We've got to break it down. When I say do a better job coaching, obviously, speed to power is not getting there."

Changes are being implemented this week.

"We're going to do some things differently," Kelly said, "that allow us to actually talk about the power end of things and put them in a power position before they tackle instead of just going from speed to power because they don't understand power, because all we're seeing is speed, and we're missing tackles."