Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 28, 2013 Issue

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 27 of 125

The Inside Story The linebacker positions will try to sort themselves out in coming years N By Lou Somogyi otre Dame's victory against Arizona State Oct. 5 was replete with linebacker stories. • Junior Mike linebacker Jarrett Grace, who had been coming on stronger each week as a first-time starter and leader, suffered a seasonending broken right tibia that will sideline him four to six months. • Grace's replacement, fifth-year senior Dan Fox, who had rotated with classmate Carlo Calabrese at Will linebacker the previous two seasons, recorded his first career fumble recovery to set up a 21-yard touchdown drive and then intercepted his first career pass, which he returned for a 14-yard touchdown. • Cat linebackers Ishaq Williams and Romeo Okwara, both backups for senior Prince Shembo (who recorded three sacks against the Sun Devils), worked some on the inside, and even along the defensive line, against Arizona State's vaunted passing attack. • Finally, freshman Jaylon Smith, the nation's No. 1 linebacker recruit last season, enjoyed a coming-out party with a team-high nine tackles (two behind the line of scrimmage), a pass broken up and a forced fumble. Similar to Manti Te'o in 2012, Smith down the road will likely have a pied piper role on the defense, the man that teammates will follow and gravitate toward for leadership. However, Grace's injury also revealed how thin Notre Dame is at inside linebacker. Numbers Shortage? Notre Dame signed only one scholarship inside linebacker in 2011 (Grace), none in 2012 (Okwara was the lone recruit, but he was for outside linebacker) and one in 2013 (Michael Deeb). That has made the two inside linebacker slots maybe the leaststocked position on the current Fighting Irish roster, especially in terms of experience and production. The shortage manifested itself in the last recruiting cycle when Notre Dame was looking to sign as many as three at inside linebacker to compensate for ending up with zero on National Signing Day 2012. It seemed to fulfill that aspiration by the summer of 2012

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