Freshmen to have expanded role vs. Navy
Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch should expect a healthy dose of option football when Navy comes to Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday.
The two freshman will find themselves on the field even more than normal after Kapron Lewis-Moore suffered a season-ending knee injury. While senior defensive end Ethan Johnson may see his first playing time since suffering a high ankle sprain against Purdue on Oct. 1, it will likely be in a limited capacity, if at all.
It just so happens those two players are among Notre Dame's most experienced against the option.
"That's the disappointing part," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. "We had a body of work with guys who have had years, not just a couple games but years against this style of offense. When you can get that body of work against this offense you can get the speed of the players and the angles of the players because they come at you from different angles. The volume of reps is a big help."
The only option reps Lynch and Tuitt have been earlier this season against Air Force and this week, and the Air Force reps may not be that useful since Navy's third-ranked rushing offense is similar in some ways but far from the same.
Notre Dame allowed 367 rushing yards to Navy in last year's loss, including 210 yards on 26 carries by fullback Alexander Teich, who is averaging 86 yards per game this season.
"They just have to understand they have to adapt as the first series goes," defensive line coach Mike Elston said. "Hopefully, they'll settle in as the first drive happens. They're probably going to move the ball a little bit. They're going to get some things on you they wouldn't normally get but guys have to settle in as the game starts because we can not represent their speed."
That's the problem. No matter how many talented athletes Notre Dame has on its scout team, it's impossible to replicate Navy's speed and precision. Tuitt and Lynch will have to learn as they go.
"I don't think there's anything you can do to actually let them know how fast the game is going to be," said senior linebacker Darius Fleming. "The only thing you can do is put them in the game. We can practice all week and prepare them for the scheme but they won't get the speed of the game until they actually go out there."
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