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FOOTBALL: Weis impressed with freshman linebacker

Heather VanHoegarden | Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Scott Smith was the latest Irish freshman to see his first action on Saturday. The linebacker entered the game for Corey Mays, who felt sick for a few plays. Smith helped take down Steve Breaston on a reverse to help prevent a touchdown.

“The last thing you really want is to be there and all of a sudden see your freshman middle linebacker come running in for the first time playing against Michigan,” Weis said. “But I tell you what, he had one great hustle play on that reverse. I mean, he was already all the way up in the line of scrimmage and he turned and tracked a guy down and ended up making a hit on him right there.”

Weis said Smith, who hails from Highland Park, Ill., has been progressing in practice to the point where he is Mays’ backup.

“Obviously it’s a learning experience for him and a lot of other guys, but I think it was great to get his feet wet and to get him in there some in the heat of the action. And it wasn’t in a non-pressure game, so obviously it wasn’t like he was overwhelmed by the game.”

And Weis said Smith may not be the last freshman to see his first playing time this season.

“There’s more coming,” Weis said.

“Because we played eight of them so far, and it would not surprise me if more of them end up seeing time than that.”

Winning the toss

When Notre Dame won the coin toss Saturday, it elected to receive.

The Irish proceeded to score a touchdown on a 12-play, no-huddle drive. Weis said it is a no-brainer what he wants to do if and when he wins the coin toss.

“A lot of people say, you win the toss, you always elect to defer,” he said. “That’s a thought that never even enters my mind. That is the furthest thing from my mind when the players looked at me and said, ‘You mean, win the toss and we want the ball?’ I looked at them and said, ‘Why wouldn’t we want the ball?'”

Getting the hands up

The Notre Dame defensive line broke up five passes Saturday against Michigan quarterback Chad Henne, getting their hands up in the air to help the Irish pass defense. Weis attributed this not only to his staff, but to Henne’s three-quarters release point.

“Usually it’s a combination of the defensive line being well coached, getting good pressure, being well coaxed and a combination of a quarterback whose delivery doesn’t come straight over the top,” he said.

“You know, I think that their quarterback is very good, but he also … releases more at three quarters. And I think any time you release the ball at three quarters, you have a little better chance of a lower trajectory with a better chance of knocking some balls down.”