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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024
The Observer

Details, details, details: Hinish cites tackles and small tweaks for Purdue success

In his fifth and final season as a starting Notre Dame defensive lineman, Irish graduate student Kurt Hinish is one of the longest-standing pillars on Notre Dame’s defensive roster. As one of the seven captains in his final season, Hinish has taken the weight of the season directly onto his shoulders. That is at least the weight of the defense, and especially the weight of the defensive line.

Hinish finds himself at nose guard again this year, so when any opponent breaks through the line he holds it personally.

“I gotta hold my gap,” Hinish said in a press conference on Wednesday. “I have to keep everybody next to me accountable for holding their gap, getting off the blocks and making tackles upfront. I feel like if one of the players gets through one of our gaps and it leads to the middle, you know, I take responsibility for that. Even if it’s on the opposite end gap, I feel responsible for that because it is in the middle of the defense.”

He’s seen some of the trouble he and the rest of the defense have been having after the two close games to open the season. Both games were decided by three points: a missed Florida State field goal in overtime during the season opener (41-38), and a successful Notre Dame two-point conversion against Toledo (32-29). Again, Hinish has put a lot of that weight on his own shoulders and found individual things he’d like to work on. If he doesn’t catch them himself, teammates like fellow defensive lineman senior Jayson Ademilola keep him in check for too.

“Me and Jayson Ademilola, we’ll hold one another accountable,” Hinish said. “For example, last week I missed a tackle for loss against Toledo, we’re sitting in the film and watching it the other day and that play came up and Jayson just turned around and gave me like a look, you know, and I looked at him back and I was like, right, you know, I’ve got to, we’ve got to make those plays.”

The Irish defense has a definitive goal moving forward though and Hinish has it in his sights.

“Just being a detail-oriented defense,” Hinish said.

That’s what the Irish are focused on, but he said he knows that it isn’t a given but rather something to work toward.

“When you play fast mistakes are gonna happen right that comes with playing fast,” he said. “So, when you can find the balance and the medium of playing fast and playing detail-oriented you can have a very dangerous group. I mean, we’re still a baller defense, right, and have we given up a couple of points? Yeah, but we’re still a group of ballers, and we’re gonna be a group of ballers, we just need to find the mix, find the medium and that’s what it takes. Like I said, when you play fast, mistakes are gonna happen, but when you can find the happy medium of playing fast and playing detail-oriented we’ll be a dangerous group, so I know we’ll be alright."

How does the 2021 squad break into that “dangerous group” bracket? Hinish says it won’t happen with any sort of lack of intensity. Energy has to be high and the Irish have to be ready to work.

“Coach Mickens and coach Freeman and coach O’Leary, they’re doing their part in the secondary to get everybody going just as much as coach Freeman and coach Helsingo are getting us going upfront,” Hinish said. “No one in that facility is taking anything easily right now, we’re all working extremely hard especially coming out on the practice field and even in the meeting rooms. There’s a vibe in the facility that can be felt that we need to have a sense of urgency and intensity when we come outside for practice.”

He says that intensity needs to be explicitly present as they work on tackling, specifically in his own stats. With only one tackle and one sack on the season so far, Hinish hopes to see a cleaner performance from both himself and the rest of the defense.

“When we go back and watch the film, it’s always one missed tackle, one missed assignment,” he said. “And that comes with getting those details, and that comes with playing fast and that’s something that we have to clean up and that’s something that we’ve been cleaning up. We’ve been harping on this. One of the things we’ve been harping on during practice is going against and doing scatter work, tagging off on the hip, getting fitted up in a position to where you’re going to make that tackle.”

“You can try to play mistake-free, which isn’t possible, but we try to do our best at it,” Hinish said. “We’re working on our details so we can find the happy medium of playing fast and playing free that’s going to be great.”

They’re hoping to see some of this work pay off this weekend. Hinish said he knows that won’t be an easy feat but that doesn’t diminish his excitement to see the field and do the work he knows he can do.

“They [Purdue] are a good football team,” Hinish said. “They have a great quarterback, they have a good offensive line. I know their running back just got hurt. Hate to see anybody get hurt, but you know he was a big part of their team. And not to say the second team running back isn’t great, he’s really good too. We’re gonna see a really good football team on Saturday and I’m excited to play them. I don’t know too much about their defense. I’ve been talking a lot about their offense guys. I’ve just kinda been staring at their O-line and their quarterback, but they run a lot of trick plays and we’ll be ready for it, we’re ready for anything their ready to throw at us.”

His faith in the Irish defense to be ready when it comes down to it has yet to waiver. Hinish, the Irish defense and the offense take the field in Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday. Kick off is at 2:30 p.m.