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Hoyte’s injury, return unknown

Pat Leonard | Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte spoke last spring about his will to improve within the defensive scheme.

“At the end of last season,” he said, “I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and say I played to my potential.”

Hoyte’s numbers did not indicate he needed improvement.

He finished second on the team in tackles with 74 total and 48 solo.

Still, Hoyte’s attitude reflects the leadership role that the Irish coaches feel flows through this season’s linebacking core.

“All the players on the team are leaders,” linebackers coach, Bob Simmons, said, “but [linebacker is] a position from a vocal standpoint of getting guys lined up to play … based on what the defense calls. It’s important for them to be leaders on our defense.”

The word “them” describes more than just the normal three linebackers set behind a defensive line.

Seniors Mike Goolsby, Derek Curry and Corey Mays will most likely start the season against BYU, with Hoyte (5-foot-11, 231 pounds) sidelined with his right arm in a sling.

Coaches have declined to comment on Hoyte’s injury or a timetable for his return.

“What you want to do is keep your linebackers fresh,” Simmons said. “We have Mike Goolsby, who is available now. And that gives those other guys a chance to really take a break.”

Goolsby (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) has experience from the 2002 season but did not play in 2003 due to a collarbone injury.

His return will add depth to what could be one of the strongest positions on the defensive side of the ball.

“It is extremely nice [to have depth at linebacker] and that makes it one of the strengths of our football team,” Willingham said. “We’re really pleased to have it, and not only just to have it but they have done great things with it.”

One of the most vocal linebackers and players on the team, Curry (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) could start at middle linebacker. Curry saw middle linebacker duties last season in the Irish defense’s nickel packages.

“It’s nice to have experience,” Willingham said. “It’s nice to have confidence. But if you don’t share those things then it really doesn’t mean a lot to a team environment. The [linebackers] are sharing. They’re leading not only by example but by stepping up and saying the right things at the appropriate times.”

While vocal leaders Goolsby, Curry and Hoyte boast the most experience, Mays has worked his way into significant playing time.

The 6-foot-1, 243-pound senior made 26 tackles last year but hopes for better numbers after taking a solid number of snaps in the spring and fall.

“I don’t think you ever put a label on a guy who has a lot of ability [and say he is] the most improved player, but along those lines Corey keeps getting better and better,” Willingham said. “What we need from Corey are the things that he is working hardest on, which is to be able to communicate about where everybody else goes, not just where Corey goes, and he’s starting to do a very good job of that.”


Coach Tyrone Willingham and the Irish began their preparation for the BYU Cougars Tuesday, 11 days before the team opens its season at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

Willingham said the early stages of learning the Cougars’ schemes have slowed practice from the two-a-day pace that ended after Monday’s practice. Still, early preparation is necessary.

“The focus was to start some of the initial learning for BYU, so we did that,” Willingham said. “We’d love to have it be very spirited, but if it’s not it’s the learning that is important.”

Ending two-a-day practice calls for a quick transition into the preparation phase.

“Coming out of two-a-days, you’re most sore, you’re most hurt,” Willingham said. “That’s where you’re fatigued the most. So we’re just coming out of that period. Where we really start to get a build up is probably coming out of this [coming] weekend. Even though that is only one week away from the game, there still is that time before everything seems to be crystallized for you.”