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Football: Tenuta brings tenacity, aggression to defense

Deirdre Krasula | Friday, April 18, 2008

You only need one word to sum up coach Jon Tenuta: aggression. That’s what he’s brought to Notre Dame’s defense this spring.

The former defensive coordinator from Georgia Tech has brought his blitzing scheme to the Irish, and thinks it’s just what the Irish need to become an intimidating force. Tenuta wants to make sure it’s the Irish calling the shots on defense next season and not the other way around.

“All I want to do is dictate to the offense, I never want the offense to dictate to me,” he said.

It’s a coaching style that he has developed over the years, one that has grown out of a wealth of experience. But he claims that his aggression has mellowed with age.

“I was probably more aggressive when I was younger and learned from my mistakes in being overboard in some aspects … and learning situations tapered, when not to be that aggressive,” he said. “But I believe in 75 to 85 percent of the time we’re coming after them.”

As for the defense and the coaching staff, it’s a style of play everyone is getting used to.

“[The aggression is] like multiplied, cause that’s all [Tenuta] thinks about,” coach Corwin Brown said. “Now you see how or why other people view him in that light because he’s constantly talking about pressuring the ball, making the quarterback not set his feet, making the running back run sideways.”

It’s been an adjustment for Brown, one that’s kept him on his toes.

“I’ve been more of ‘OK we’re going to pressure sometimes’ and all of a sudden we’ll change it up, give ’em a curve ball, give ’em a little bit of coverage, all of a sudden we’re gonna change it up and give them this, where as he’s more got his foot on the gas,” Brown said.

And from Tenuta’s experience, he’s been able to help Brown develop his coaching skills – reminding him to think back to his former days as a player and draw off what he did then while adjusting it to the college hash marks.

“Obviously I’ve known about [Brown] for a long time … the things we go over and over every day, well he did that. I say, ‘Corwin think back when you were at Michigan when you ran slant and angle, think when you were at the Patriots when you ran this blitz, think about when you played at the jets and you guys did this, so and an so forth.’ He has it, and he’s been around it, its just fitting it all together and just do it.”

Tenuta’s also has an ability to use personnel in different ways. This spring, rising sophomore Harrison Smith has played at both safety and linebacker.

“[Smith] can play on the front level, on the second level … and he does a heck of a job at the third level so his multi talents allow him to do a lot,” Tenuta said. “And really it helps our package.”

Having a versatile player like Smith at safety gives the Irish defense more room to maneuver. With his speed and skill, Smith can cover the third wide receiver or can adjust back and play as a linebacker. It’s that type of aggression and flexibility that Tenuta can teach with his experience.

“There is no substitution for experience … [Brown] has it, lets just keep going.”

But only time will tell if aggression turns into wins.