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Linebackers preview: no longer an afterthought

The heralded recruiting class of 2007 touted a lot of very big names.

Brian Smith’s wasn’t one of them.

Smith was a recruiting afterthought, a three-star linebacker committed to Iowa, but a deep love of Notre Dame given to him from his father Chris, a former fullback at Notre Dame from 1981-84, made the 11th hour scholarship offer a decision Charlie Weis will never regret. Smith walked away from his commitment to Iowa, signed with Notre Dame, and the rest is history.

Brian Smith is the leading man of the defense. He plays fast, he plays hard, and he brings an edge that recent Notre Dame defenses haven’t seen. He’s so loud and abrasive on the field that he’s debating whether to take his trash-talking to a new -- bilingual -- level.

“That would be a new element,” Smith said. “I could say something in Spanish to them on one play and the next play translate it for them.”

While most of the scuttle surrounding the linebackers this preseason has centered on the arrival of talented freshman Manti Te’o, it’s Smith’s ability to slide between the Mike and Will linebacker spots that makes him so valuable. While linebackers like Toryan Smith, Steve Filer, and Scott Smith find themselves with defined roles within the defensive scheme, what makes Smith so valuable is that his role is anything but defined.

He’s the #1 Will linebacker. He’s the #2 Mike linebacker. He’ll slide all around, a huge asset for a defense trying to find ways to get a somewhat raw newcomer like Te’o onto the field.

“Manti will definitely be on the field. We won’t start him, but I think you’ll see him rotating in there, rotating in there at Will linebacker with Brian Smith and Toryan Smith.

“I wouldn’t feel real confident with Manti being in there with an inexperienced player. I think at this point right now he won’t rotate what he plays, but if he’s in there with Brian, Brian will pop over to Mike; and if he’s in there with Toryan, Toryan will just stay where he is.”

With Smith’s presence a constant, there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot from him. And hopefully it’s his play that’s doing the talking.