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Football: New coach says blitzes fit with ND

Bill Brink | Friday, February 22, 2008

Despite facing questions about his defensive style meshing with defensive coordinator Corwin Brown’s 3-4 scheme and his affinity for the blitz, the only doctrinal tidbit John Tenuta revealed in his introductory press conference Thursday was his strategy for sneaking into the football stadium at Ohio State.

“I never got caught,” Tenuta said with a proud smile. “For six years they couldn’t catch me.”

Tenuta, who joined the Irish as the new assistant head coach/defense on Jan. 31 after serving as the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech for six years, will coach the linebackers next season. He arrived in South Bend Monday and has been working with the linebackers, but said he’s not sure exactly what he has to work with.

“I’ve watched lots of film,” he said. “But, I mean, that’s a tough question after four days. I’ve got to learn the players and what they can do first and foremost and adapt to that aspect.”

Tenuta made no secret of the fact that he relished the opportunity to coach at Notre Dame. The University, he said, had a great allure to it.

“This is Notre Dame. You get so many opportunities to coach in your career,” he said. “There’s a lot of good jobs, but this is a great job. So Notre Dame is Notre Dame.”

The personal touch of coach Weis, he said, cemented in his mind the need to come to Notre Dame. Tenuta said he had offers from other schools, but when Notre Dame came calling, it didn’t use its athletic department bureaucracy to contact him like other schools did. Weis picked up the phone himself.

“To me, that was big,” Tenuta said. “That put even more in it for me.”

Tenuta’s connection to Notre Dame started early, when he was a child growing up in Ohio.

“Growing up in Ohio you had Ohio State, you had Michigan, you had Notre Dame,” he said. “That’s just the way it was.

“Every Sunday morning whether I can remember back when John Huarte was a quarterback with [Terry] Hanratty and [Jim] Seymour and [Joe] Theismann to [Tom] Gatewood … I mean, that’s Notre Dame.”

Now that he’s here, Tenuta has to help fix an Irish defense that allowed 195.4 rushing yards per game last season. He will work closely with Brown, whose philosophies, he said, are similar to his.

“It’s based on the people he’s been around and some of the people we’ve been around, I’ve been around, so all of it comes into play,” he said.

Losing his play-calling abilities did not bother Tenuta in the least. He said his past jobs allowed him the versatility to accept whatever role he played.

“I’ve been a coordinator most of my career and also not been a coordinator,” he said. “So that part is no big deal.”

Tenuta said adapting to Brown’s 3-4 defense would not pose problems because in his 4-3 scheme, he would often drop a defensive end into coverage, essentially creating a 3-4 defense.

The Yellow Jackets made bowls in each of Tenuta’s six seasons. Last season, Georgia Tech’s defense led the nation in sacks with 3.69 per game. The defense ranked No. 20 in the nation in both yards allowed and rushing yards allowed.

Tenuta was previously a defensive coordinator for Marshall, Kansas State, Southern Methodist, Ohio State and North Carolina.

Known for his heavy blitz packages, Tenuta said he and Brown would continue to send extra men.

“I’m an aggressive attacking guy, so obviously, I hope and Corwin is, too,” he said. “So we’re going to attack and get downhill and make things happen.”