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FOOTBALL: Mays, Hoyte lead defense

Mike Gilloon | Friday, April 1, 2005

Corey Mays turns heads when he walks into a room. His thick, bouncy, dread-locked hair tends to stand out. But entering his last season in an Irish uniform, the senior linebacker hopes to attract attention from his play alone.

“I’m trying to do more this year with action,” Mays said. “Because I believe people believe in someone who’s doing more action rather than just talking. Really, I’m trying to combine talking and action to get the guys emotionally charged during practice.”

Mays and fellow senior Brandon Hoyte are the only returning Irish linebackers with sizable game experience. They will need to fill holes left by the departure of Mike Goolsby and Derek Curry and also adapt to the terminology used by new Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter.

“There is some different lingo here and there, but there’s a lot of carryover in everything we do,” Mays said. “There will be a little change, but just like class, you have to study and get everything down. If you just spend 15 to 20 minutes of dedication every day, you can get things down pat.”

Despite the inexperience of this year’s linebacking corps, there is plenty of talent to compensate. Juniors Mitchell Thomas, Joe Brockington and Nick Borseti return and will compete for a spot in the 4-3 set. Sophomores Abdel Banda and Maurice Crum, Jr. are expected to push the veterans.

Chinedum Ndukwe, who logged minutes at safety as a sophomore last year, will play a hybrid position, mixing duties of a safety and linebacker.

“I don’t think it’s anything ingenious,” Minter said. “I think the best thing for us to do right now is to play with [Ndukwe] on the field as a ‘nickel-backer’ type guy.”

According to Minter, Hoyte and Mays are the frontrunners for number-one spots, along with Ndukwe, but no one is assured of anything just yet.

“Right now we’re just competing for spots and not locked in too much,” Minter said Wednesday after Notre Dame’s second spring practice. “But when the dust settles I’d like to see [Mays] at [middle] linebacker. He’s that prototypical, big, thick-bodied guy that plays in the middle, and then I’ll put Hoyte on the flank somewhere.”

Despite his coach’s confidence in his ability to contribute this season, Hoyte is taking nothing for granted.

“It’s really simple,” Hoyte said. “I need to prove myself. Some people would say as a fifth-year linebacker that’s already been done, but I don’t think so. I don’t think I’ve played up to the possibilities I’m capable of, so in my viewpoint, I’m no different than a freshman.”


U Former Notre Dame punter Joey Hildbold has been hired by Washington coach Tyrone Willingham as a defensive graduate assistant. Hildbold was a senior during Willingham’s first season as Irish coach in 2002.

U When asked how the Irish are handling the change to a new system and coaching staff, Notre Dame defensive coordinator Rick Minter entertained reporters with his colorful response. “We’re as lost as a ball in the high weeds,” he said. Later adding, “We’re trying to cram three pounds in a two-pound sack.”