Andrew Trumbetti looks to lead improved Notre Dame pass rush

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Find a pass rush and watch how many other problems can be magically solved.

Linebackers have more freedom. The secondary doesn’t have to contain so long. Turnovers happen with surprising regularity.

A nice place to start improving the Notre Dame football team’s defense from last year is a more effective push up front.

While crafting an 8-5 record last year, the Irish were tied for 74th in the country — with the likes of New Mexico and UTEP, among others — with 26 sacks.

Not quite an area that will cause the opposition to make special concessions in its offensive game plan.

That’s one of the reasons Keith Gilmore was added to the Irish staff as ND's defensive line coach. A 30-year lifer as an assistant coach, Gilmore’s mission has been to put a punch in Notre Dame’s defensive line.

Andrew Trumbetti is a face of the progress that must be made up front. Injuries forced the 6-foot-4, 260-pound sophomore to play a vital role at end long before he was physically and mentally ready last season. One of five true freshmen to play significant minutes, Trumbetti collected 21 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss and a sack.

“I still feel (those freshman moments) every now and then, but, being a sophomore, I know how to cope with them more,” Trumbetti said, looking toward 11th-ranked ND's Sept. 5 season opener with Texas. “I’m starting to get through them better and quicker than last year.

“I’m still young, but my problem is the mental aspect. I’m so hard on myself. When I start taking it out on myself, that’s when my play starts to go down. I let it linger.”

Having gone through that difficult season gives Trumbetti insight into what current freshman Jerry Tillery is experiencing. When senior nose guard Jarron Jones went down with a season-ending knee injury on Aug. 14, it was Tillery — primarily an offensive tackle in high school — who got the call as the “next man in.”

“Jerry’s at a stage where he thinks he’s an upperclassman right now,” Trumbetti said with a chuckle as he recalled his own journey. “I went through the exact same stage. Then, you realize the first game, you’re still a freshman and the volume’s going to hit you like it hits everyone. It hits freshmen a lot heavier than it does anyone else.

“(A freshman) really doesn’t know what to expect. Jerry’s done an awesome job. I’m impressed with what he’s been able to do. He has special talents that are God-given. Whatever he can do with that, the sky’s the limit.”

Sooooo, how did Trumbetti get through the rough patches?

“I don’t really know if I did get through (the volume overload),” he said. “It just hits you. You start getting real hard on yourself, because you feel that everything (that goes wrong) is your fault. You need to take a step back and realize you’re a freshman; you can only do so much.

“You do what you can. It’s not like high school anymore. When you realize that, you’re finally able to break through.”

Trumbetti, by no means, feels he could break through all by himself. He gives a great deal of credit to the influence Gilmore has had on him since the spring.

“Coach Gilmore has done a great job focusing on the pass rush,” Trumbetti said. “That’s what we mainly needed to focus on. Personally, he’s done a lot for me. There are areas I still need to work on.

“It’s technique. Last year, we just ran into the offensive tackles or the offensive guards. We didn’t really know any counter moves off it. Now, we’re focusing on counter moves.

“I might not be the fastest pass rusher out there, but I’m pretty aggressive. When we run different stunts, that’s something I’m good at.

“It’s hard for me to rush the passer, because I don’t have 35-inch arms. I don’t run a 4.4(-second 40-yard dash).”

Trumbetti considers himself somewhat undersized when it comes to playing the “strong side” end (which he does occasionally in certain packages), which means going up against a tackle and tight end at the same time — certainly not a lot of fun.

“The biggest problem (for me flipping over to the strong side) is that I’m probably 35 pounds underweight,” Trumbetti said. “The ‘big end’ position, I get pushed around a lot, because you’re going against double-teams (by the tackle and the tight end). No one likes to get double-teamed.”

That’s just part of the territory when it comes to finding some solutions along the defensive line.

First come the answers. Then, the results.

Notre Dame defensive end Andrew Trumbetti (69) will be one of the young players asked to provide a pass rush for the Irish in 2015. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)