Bob Diaco developed a defense that ranked the Notre Dame football team in the top 30 nationally in scoring defense four years in a row, something the Irish had only done twice in the previous ten years. After Diaco’s departure to Connecticut, the Irish were in desperate need of a defensive coordinator who could fill Diaco’s shoes. They got just that when they hired Brian VanGorder as their new defensive coordinator.
VanGorder has had success during his coaching career in both the NCAA and the NFL. As a defensive coordinator his defenses’ numbers have been quite impressive and are something Irish fans should be thrilled to see coming to South Bend. During his four-year tenure at the University of Georgia, VanGorder’s defense ranked 17th, fourth, third, and eighth in the nation in scoring defense, respectively.
To Irish fans’ pleasure, his success goes beyond the college game. As a defensive coordinator he helped lead the Falcons to four consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. His defense finished in the top 14 in the NFL in scoring defense three times during his four years there. Seeing his success in both the NCAA and the NFL, I think Notre Dame fans should be ecstatic that such a capable replacement for Diaco was hired.
VanGorder is going to have to utilize a lot of young talent as the defense loses star linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, as well as three of its starting linebackers. Fortunately, the Irish have had top ten recruiting classes the past two years so there will be a plethora of young talent for VanGorder to pull from. Also, his successful track record will help pull in talent to build on the currently eighth ranked recruiting class in the country which could help replace those experienced Irish defenders.
One thing Irish fans can expect to see is a drastic change in defensive strategies under VanGorder. Diaco always tried to prevent the big play and focused on a bend-but-don’t-break defense. His passive tendencies were quite noticeable as Notre Dame’s defense finished this season ranked 96th in sacks and 56th in interceptions. VanGorder is quite the opposite, as he loves calling blitzes and creating turnovers. In 2010 his Falcons defense ranked in the top four in the NFL in both turnover differential and interceptions.
Diaco’s scoring defense was ranked highly but the lack of turnovers and sacks is something Notre Dame has struggled with during his era. VanGorder will definitely bring a more aggressive defensive strategy to the table then Bob Diaco did. This is a positive hire for Notre Dame, and VanGorder’s track record suggests that the defense will continue to improve with him as coordinator.