Sep 8, 2012; South Bend, IN, USA; The Irish Guard leads the Notre Dame Marching Band into the stadium before the game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Michigan Football: Behind Enemy Lines -- Notre Dame Scouting Report from UHND -- Defense/Special Teams

Posted at 4:00pm — 9/21/2012

Michigan Football: Behind Enemy Lines — Notre Dame Scouting Report from UHND — Defense/Special Teams

The writers over at UHND have given us a scouting report of the Fighting Irish. Along with this article they also have an article on Key Matchups: Michigan Week so take a look at their keys to the game. Also their article from earlier today on Notre Dame’s offense. We thanks them for reaching out to us. Also here is our Michigan scouting report for those that might be interested on their site Behind Enemy Lines: Michigan ’12.

Here is their Defensive/Special Teams UHND Scouting Report on the Irish.

Notre Dame Defense:

Through three games the Notre Dame defense has allowed just 30 points – their lowest three game total at the start of the seasons since allowing 27 points in 1988 – and against Michigan State they were at their finest. Michigan State had to fight for every yard and was effectively shut down in the running game.

Notre Dame’s strength defensively is up front where the Irish feature the best defensive line any Notre Dame squad has had in years led by sophomore defensive end Stephon Tuitt and junior nose tackleLouis Nix. Tuitt already has collected 5 sacks on the season and Nix has been a disruptive force in the middle of the Notre Dame defensive line. Both linemen are really coming into their own and playing at a very high level right now – a level Notre Dame fans are not used to seeing defensive linemen perform at.

What makes the success of the Irish defensive line surprising is the fact that they are having this success despite 5th year senior Kapron Lewis-Moore being banged up and limited in his effectiveness. Freshman Sheldon Day, sophomore Tony Springmann, and junior Kona Schwenke, however, have provided very solid depth and have stepped in when call upon.

Sep 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te

While the defensive line may be the strength of the Notre Dame defense, senior linebacker Manti Te’o is it’s rock. Last week the Hawaiian native lost his grandmother and girlfriend in a span of 24 hours. While playing with a heavy heart Saturday night, he was still able to turn in a dominant performance with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery. Up until this season Te’o had only shown stretches of dominance. This season, however, he has been a dominant force each week and playing up to his full potential.

Notre Dame received a boost last week on defense with the return of outside linebacker Danny Spond. Spond, a former high school quarterback, missed the first two weeks of the season with an injury forcing Notre Dame to shuffle its linebacker two deep. With Spond back in action last week, Notre Dame was able to fill out that two deep just as they would like and the result was a linebacking corps that had its best game of the season. Most notably, senior Dan Fox turned in one of his better performances in an Irish uniform and junior Prince Shembo harassed Spartan quarterback Andrew Maxwell all night long.

October 2, 2010; Chestnut Hill, MA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Jamoris Slaughter (26) lines up for a play against the Boston College Eagles during the fourth quarter at the Alumni Stadium. Notre Dame defeated Boston College 31-13. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

Despite one of its best front sevens in many years, the Irish are susceptible on defense through a secondary which lost its third starting member to a season ending injury last week when Jamoris Slaughter suffered an Achilles injury on the first play of the second half. Slaughter was Notre Dame’s most experienced defensive back and the leader of a secondary that was already featuring two converted offensive players as starters. Slaughter’s injury will increase that number to three with former wide receiver Matthias Farley filling in for the injured 5th year senior.

Even with the youth and inexperience though, the Notre Dame secondary has shown signs of improvement each week with the Michigan State game being their best outing of the season. Junior converted wide receiver Bennett Jackson and true freshman converted running back Kei’Varae Russell have started to look more comfortable in their starting roles. Both played very well last week as did freshman Elijah Shumate who has shown sides of being a very good nickel back already.

Notre Dame has had some problems tackling this season and if the Irish are to end Michigan’s 3 game winning streak that can’t be the case this week. Notre Dame has been able to create pressure on opposing quarterbacks without needing to blitz thanks to the defensive line. If they can do that again this week and spy Denard Robinson the Irish defense could have another strong outing. If they aren’t disciplined though, Robinson could turn in another highlight reel worthy performance.

Notre Dame Special Teams:

After a shaky beginning to the season, the Notre Dame kicking departments have both been solidified the last two weeks. Sophomore Kyle Brindza has stepped in for the injured Nick Tausch and has been very steady as the place kicker. He’s connected on his last 4 attempts highlighted by splitting the uprights perfectly from 47 yards out with plenty of room to spare last week. Meanwhile, in the punting department, Ben Turk has turned in the best back to back games of his career the last two weeks.

Notre Dame hasn’t gotten much out of their return games, but they haven’t had that many opportunities either. Both returnmen, Davonte Neal on punts and George Atkinson on kickoffs, however, are very dangerous and have the potential to make a big play at any time.

Final Analysis:

Last year Notre Dame had this game under control for 45 minutes and then got very sloppy in the last 15 and let Denard Robinson take over the game while not protecting the football when they had it. So far this season, neither of those things has been a problem for the Irish and if they continue to not be a problem this weekend, Notre Dame should have a very good chance to end Michigan’s 3-game winning streak and head into the bye week undefeated. Now, that is a lot easier said than done when having to deal with a quarterback as talented as Robinson.

September 15, 2012; East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Cierre Wood (20) runs the ball during the second half against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Notre Dame won 20-3. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

I expect Notre Dame to come out running the ball with Cierre Wood and then mixing in the play action pass to make some plays down field. Wood looked like he was in mid-season form last week displaying the kind of burst and acceleration that other Irish backs don’t have at this point and he should be ready to be the focal point of the Notre Dame running game once again.

Defensively, I don’t expect to see Notre Dame blitz too much. Instead, I think they will continue doing what they’ve been doing the last few weeks – let big Louis Nix clog up the middle and let the defensive ends get pressure from the outside. The danger in that, however, will be in containing Robinson if he steps up in the pocket and finds some room. If the Notre Dame defense lets Robinson run around he could have a big day. If they force Robinson in the pocket and don’t let him get outside where he can hurt you running or passing, Notre Dame should have a good night.

In the end, I see Notre Dame winning this game by a touchdown. Notre Dame 28, Michigan 21.

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Written by UHND Staff

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