“It’s a body of work. It’s coach Kelly building a program, and it’s going to take time. Everyone knows it’s going to take time.”
While we’re waiting, here’s how the last five defensive coordinators at ND are faring:
- Jon Tenuta (2009): Tenuta has brought his blitz-happy influence to North Carolina State, but he isn’t the defensive coordinator there. He’s the linebackers coach.
The Wolfpack is 6-2 after upsetting 16th-ranked Florida State, 28-24, Thursday night. N.C. State is ranked 47th in the nation (out of 120) in total defense, up from 55th in 2009.
- Corwin Brown (2007-08): Brown is a defensive assistant coach with the NFL’s New England Patriots (5-1). The Pats are fifth in the NFL (out of 32) in rushing defense, 27th in pass defense, 22nd in total defense.
- Rick Minter (2005-06): Minter is a linebackers coach at Indiana State, though his influence on the Sycamores’ unit goes well beyond his job title. The numbers here need perspective: ISU is 57th in Division I-AA (FCS) out of 117 in total defense, but that’s up from 92nd last year. And they’re 24th in sacks, up from 92nd.
Moreover, the Sycamores are 4-3 this season, hardly ho-hum by recent ISU standards. From 2005-09, ISU was a combined 2-54.
- Kent Baer (2002-04): Tyrone Willingham’s defensive coordinator at ND and interim coach for the Irish for one game in 2004 followed Willingham to Washington. He’s now the defensive coordinator at San Jose State (1-7) and works with former Irish All-America defensive lineman and former ND grad assistant Bryant Young.
The Spartans are 107th in total defense in 2010, a slight improvement from their 109 ranking last season, when SJS went 2-10. However, Baer has faced some pretty potent competition this season, including Alabama, Wisconsin, Boise State, Nevada and Utah.
- Greg Mattison (1997-2001): Mattison is the defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defensive rankings are 19th against the rush, 17th against the pass and 17th in total defense.
Freshman defensive end Kona Schwenke appears to be poised to be the ninth - and perhaps final - member of Notre Dame freshman class to start his eligibility clock this season.
Kelly all but guaranteed Tuesday that Schwenke would see time as a backup defensive end Saturday against Tulsa.
Sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o grew up just a few miles away from Schwenke on the North Shore of Oahu but commuted to the other side of the island to attend private school Punahou. He provided a scouting report on the former Kahuku High standout.
“Kona is very fearless, he's a fearless player who has a natural ability and a natural nose for the ball,” Te’o said. “He always just wants to make his plays, and he's not really a yapper. He doesn't really talk a lot. He's just a ‘yes, sir’ kind of guy. He works hard, and I know from watching him in high school, he'll give it his all at every play.
“He deserves to be here. I'm sure he'll show it on Saturday when he gets in there.”