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ND defensive backs coach Terry Joseph looks forward to season ahead

| Friday, August 23, 2019

In his media day press conference ahead of the 2019-2020 season, Notre Dame football defensive backs coach Terry Joseph talked recruitment, talent and development. 

And of course, when you think defensive backs, you can’t help but think of the loss of All-American cornerback Julian Love. Love, the all-time career leader in pass break-ups at Notre Dame, was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. Joseph acknowledged the significant gap Love’s absence leaves for this squad of defensive backs, but he expressed confidence in the group’s development this offseason. 

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior cornerback Troy Pride Jr. attempts to break up a pass during Notre Dame’s 24-16 win over Ball State Sept. 8, 2018, at Notre Dame Stadium.

Obviously, you’re losing an All-American like Julian Love, you’re going to have some holes to fill,” he said. “But I think as a group, those guys have really done a nice job stepping up. I think [senior] Troy [Pride Jr.] has had a pretty good camp, obviously going against a great down-the-field catcher like [senior wide receiver Chase] Claypool day in and day out, it really gives him an opportunity to sharpen his skills. And we’ve been preaching to sharpen the axe all camp. So I think he’s really battled.” 

In addition to Pride Jr., Joseph acknowledged the physicality the position requires while also assuring his team has a deep enough roster to withstand the demands of the regular season.

“A lot of the guys have been banged up at times at that position, but I think [sophomore defensive back] TaRiq [Bracy] has come through and shown some consistency, really grown up and matured a lot from last year,” he said. “The rest of those guys, getting [graduate student cornerback] Shaun [Crawford] back, [freshman defensive back] Houston [Griffith] has been dinged a little bit, so I think all those guys as a group, we’re going to have about five guys that we can roll out there and play winning football.”

The bevy of pieces available in the defensive secondary for the Irish this year is crucial for the squad’s health and development, according to Joseph. 

“Well, I think you know, when you look back at last year, [senior safety] Jalen Elliott and [senior safety] Alohi [Gilman], they played probably above everybody’s expectations, but at the end of the day, they played too much,” Joseph said. 

Joseph said Elliott and Gilman’s situation this past season was a focal point for his unit going forward as they strive to build a more regular rotation.

“I think when we looked back at the season, that was one thing that I discussed with those guys,” Joseph said. “The next step for us is to get better by having them do less, play less. And so recruiting takes a big step in that, getting some guys in here who we feel like we can develop and grow and get them 20, 30 plays a week. Then in October, November, December, January you can have a group of guys that can play at a high level. So it’s exciting to have more pieces and the players are fresher and the competition is better and the overall morale is a lot better.”

Such a defensive backfield rich in talent is especially significant considering Notre Dame football’s recruitment style, which is extensively selective according to Joseph. 

I think one of the biggest things with Notre Dame is we’re more selective in recruiting. You can go into big cities — Dallas, Atlanta, [Los Angeles] — and you really probably pass up more schools than you go in,” he said. “Because the Notre Dame fit is different than any other school that I’ve been at. So you really have to be selective and choose you the guys that you’re going to go after and make sure that they fit your culture. So I think that that kind of limits it a little bit, but it makes you as a recruiter do a lot more research to know what you’re getting yourself into.” 

Finally, Joseph spoke a bit about the recruitment of freshman defensive back Kyle Hamilton of Atlanta.

“It’s really one of probably the craziest recruiting stories around,” he said. “Two years ago I was working at North Carolina and we had a bye week. One of my walk-on DBs said, ‘Coach, do you recruit Atlanta?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Well, if you get a chance, stop by my school. I think they have a player who’s a pretty good player.’ He was describing Kyle.”

After receiving that tip, Joseph made his way to Marist School in Atlanta.

“You see the kid play and move around and you’re like, ‘Oh my God. How can I keep this from the rest of the world?’ In the meantime, the season ended at Carolina, and it was a whirlwind and I became the safeties coach here, and he was one of the first people that we reached out to to get an offer to,” Joseph said. “And throughout the recruiting process, it was like the perfect storm. It was a kid who was very level-headed, knew what he wanted and basically at Marist, he went to a little Notre Dame. So it was kind of already set up for us. And really he was a kid who kind of stayed strong throughout the process. Started off as a two- or three-star, ended up as a five-star. But the truth of the matter is, he never really got affected by the process.”

While Joseph said the recruitment process was an experience in itself, he said keeping Hamilton’s secret was the biggest challenge.

“He called me about a month before he went public and said that he was, you know, coming to Notre Dame, just to not tell anybody,” he said. “So that was biggest challenge, to not tell anybody. I had to stay quiet for a month and true to his word, he released it and it was a big get for us.”

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