The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Football: Meet the Smiths

Joe Meixell | Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The fall depth chart released Tuesday revealed good news: The Irish can once again field an all-Smith linebacking corps.

Oh, and, uh, it revealed the starters.

The Irish defense changes again this season – Notre Dame will play four down linemen and three linebackers, compared to the three linemen and four linebackers it previously employed.

Which is a shame, really, because it removes a position that could get another talented Irish linebacker, of which there are plenty, on the field.

This season, sophomore Darius Fleming will start at strong-side linebacker, senior Toryan Smith will play middle linebacker and junior Brian Smith will play weak-side linebacker, according to the depth chart released Tuesday.

Well, but what about senior Scott Smith, sophomore Steve Filer or superfreshman Manti Te’o? They’ll play too.

Fleming has the Sam linebacker spot locked up. Scott Smith is second on the depth chart and Filer third.

“I think you’ll see both Scott and Steven both play Sam linebacker as well, but Darius is the starter,” Irish coach Charlie Weis said in a press conference on Aug. 24.

Weis added that Fleming was the most dynamic pass rusher of the group. He had 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season.

Filer, Weis said, was so eager to get on the field at the Sam position he may have neglected to focus on other positions that would also earn him playing time, such as the nickel formation.

Brian Smith, also listed behind Toryan Smith as the Mike linebacker, is the leading returning tackler on the team with 54 tackles last season. He had two sacks and recovered two fumbles, one of which he ran back for a touchdown against Michigan. He has the versatility to move around and allow the defense to use different personnel packages, Weis said.

“If he’s in with Toryan, he’s not a Mike. If he’s in with Manti, he is a Mike,” Weis said. “Brian Smith is the guy who gives us the flexibility to move people around because he’s the guy who’s easily the most flexible and most interchangeable of all of the linebackers.”

Speaking of Manti, he’ll see most of his time at the Will, which is where Weis said he practiced most. But Weis didn’t rule out his playing elsewhere. What he did say was he wanted Te’o on the field with an experienced linebacker.

“I wouldn’t feel real confident with Manti being in there with an inexperienced player,” Weis said Tuesday. “We won’t start him, but I think you’ll see him rotating in there, rotating in there at Will linebacker with Brian Smith or Toryan Smith.”

Toryan had only 18 tackles in 10 games last season, but 10 of them came in a breakout game against Navy. He also recovered a fumble.

Sophomore Anthony McDonald is the third option at Mike and sophomore David Posluszny is third on the depth chart at the Will.

“I’d say that they both put themselves in the position where we’re not going to be afraid to play them and I think that you’ll see both of those guys on special teams a whole bunch,” Weis said.