Young players fill roster
Mike Monaco | Thursday, March 27, 2014
Regardless of how they define it, Mike Denbrock and Brian VanGorder see youth. The first-year Irish coordinators, tasked with leading the offense and defense, respectively, see a team that returns only three players (excluding special teams) who started all 13 games last season.
Whereas much of the offensive can be typified by underclassmen, VanGorder even describes some upperclassmen as young, whether because of their lack of game experience or unfamiliarity with the new scheme.
For the first time since spring practice began, VanGorder and Denbrock met with the media following Wednesday’s session, the sixth practice of the spring.
“We are so young,” Denbrock said. “I look at our offense and there’s so many young guys in so many spots that are going to have to grow up pretty fast. During the team meeting, I look over at the schedule, and I’m like, ‘To get from where we are now to where we’re going to have to be in the fall, we’re going to have to make tremendous progress.’
“The work ethic, the ability that these guys have is going to help us do that. But we’ve got some strides to make before we play that schedule.”
VanGorder, too, noted the progress that needs to be made, but the situation on defense is slightly different. Notre Dame is in the process of installing multiple looks defensively, and they’re doing the base teaching within different packages. A new-look defense, one that VanGorder said will not be exclusively a 4-3, brings new terminology, as well, which makes it even more difficult, according to the defensive coordinator.
But VanGorder has done this before. Notre Dame is VanGorder’s 12th different school or NFL team he’s coached since joining the Grand Valley State staff in 1989. VanGorder spent last season as the New York Jets linebacker coach after serving as Auburn’s defensive coordinator in 2012.
“The thing that stands out here is our youth. We’re so young,” VanGorder said. “We’re really young in the front seven especially. It’s young players. So we’ve got to speed the process up and bring them along.”
VanGorder noted that he’s still evaluating players, especially as the coaches throw a lot of schemes at players and move them around the defense.
“It’s an evaluation period for us too, trying to find a comfort zone in respects to a player and his ability and where he’s going to fit best as we build our schemes,” he said.
‘Uphill’ climb to return from injuries
Defensive players out of contact for the spring while recovering from injuries — the likes of senior linebacker Jarrett Grace, senior defensive lineman Tony Springmann, senior linebacker Ben Councell and sophomore cornerback Devin Butler — will be playing catch-up whenever they do return, VanGorder said.
“It will be uphill,” he said. “Each player’s a little bit different, but they’re definitely going to be behind. … There’s no getting around it. Hopefully they bring some different kinds of things to it as an individual as a player that help them recover quickly and put them in a position to help us.”
McGlinchey being ‘thrown to the wolves’
In practice sessions open to the media, sophomore Mike McGlinchey has lined up at right tackle with the first team. The 6-foot-7.5, 300-pounder didn’t play at as a freshman but has flashed his raw ability thus far, Denbrock said.
“When the light comes on and he gets it, he’s gonna be an incredible football player from the standpoint that I think the physical gifts that he possesses as far as his athletic ability, obviously his size is hard to miss,” Denbrock said. “But with that, he’s got some football intelligence that can be cultivated and can grow rather quickly and that puts us in a position, obviously, to get him on the field right away.
“And we’ve kind of thrown him to the wolves here in the spring and let him kind of fight through it. And he’s done a really nice job so far.”
Notre Dame will hold its seventh spring practice Friday.