Saturday, August 16, 2008

Notre Dame Football Position Preview: Linebacker

Previously Covered
Running Back
Wide Receiver
Tight End
Offensive Line
Defensive Line

Spotlight: Brian Smith


Also Returning: Maurice Crum, Jr., Aaron Nagel, Kerry Neal, Steve Quinn, Brian Smith, Kevin Smith, Scott Smith, Toryan Smith, Kevin Washington

Lost: Joe Brockington, Alex Lough, Anthony Vernaglia (graduation), Steve Paskorz, John Ryan, Morrice Richardson (position changes)

Gained: Harrison Smith, Kallen Wade (position changes), Tom Burke, Martin Quintana (walk-ons), Steve Filer, Anthony McDonald, Darius Fleming, David Posluszny (freshmen)

The first thing I should note is that all position changes, except for Steve Paskorz', should be taken with a grain of salt. Paskorz has definitely moved to fullback. But all of the others are either playing a hybrid role or are bouncing back and forth between outside linebacker and defensive end.

Brian Smith gets the spotlight this year after he worked his way into the starting lineup last season at outside linebacker. Right now he's penciled in at inside linebacker alongside Mo Crum, so he can use his athleticism from sideline to sideline. But he may still see some snaps at outside linebacker. The inside spot Brian Smith took originally belonged to Toryan Smith, making this the third straight season that Toryan has had a starting job (this time only in the spring) then lost it.

Taking Brian Smith's spot on the outside, essentially, is Harrison Smith. Harrison will probably play more of a hybrid role, as he is simultaneously listed as starting SAM linebacker and backup free safety. Tom Zbikowski played a similar role on passing downs last year. Harrison's "backup" is Scott Smith, one of five Irish linebackers named Smith.

Speaking of taking position changes with a grain of salt, John Ryan is back on the depth chart as a backup outside linebacker. Ryan came in as a defensive end, then started at outside linebacker last year, then moved back to defensive end last spring. Assumedly, he can and will play both roles this fall.

The freshman look to be an exciting group, headlined by Steve Filer, who Phil Steele lists as the number one linebacker in the country. Interestingly enough, the four freshman are each listed at a different position on the latest depth chart. For those looking to the future, that could potentially mean that all will be starting together someday. But speaking to the depth at this position, no freshman is currently higher than third string right now.