Spring Musings: Outside Linebackers

Irisheyes.com concludes its spring 2012 wrap-up of the team's position groups with O'Malley's thoughts, questions, answers, observations and full-scale review of the team's outside linebackers.

For complete reviews of the rest of the Notre Dame position groups exiting Spring 2012, click the links below:


Wide Receivers

Offensive Linemen

Tight Ends

Running Backs



Defensive Linemen

Inside Linebackers

Job Share, I Promise

Four months remain before Notre Dame and Navy kickoff their respective seasons in Dublin, and there are two standard answers I encourage Irisheyes.com readers to use/steal/expand upon when asked questions by fellow Notre Dame fans:

  1. "Both of them"
  2. "Probably not the same one that finishes it."

The questions? You can figure out #2 on your own, but for #1, its: "Who'll start at Cat linebacker, Prince Shembo or Ishaq Williams?"

Both will likely start multiple games. Both will be featured as the Cat linebacker in the defense's 3-4 fronts and as pass rushing defensive ends in Bob Diaco's Nickel and Dime sets. Both will be part of the various blitz packages, long-yardage situations, and who knows what else that's on tap for Year 3 of Diaco's D.

The key for Shembo: return to health from toe surgery (head coach Brian Kelly said he isn't worried, so I won't…until July). For Williams? To continue on his spring path of accountability and maturity befitting a 5-star prospect and potential three-year defensive starter at Notre Dame.

Limited Dog Days Ahead?

The battle between junior Danny Spond and redshirt-freshman Ben Councell will continue through summer's involuntary workouts, August camp, and likely September.

Spond's coverage skills appear to be a tick ahead of Councell's; the latter's size/speed ratio and "suddenness" per Brian Kelly, help him stand out at a vexing position.

But at present, the winner of this battle earns the right to be referred to as a starter and appear on the field, vs. most teams, on 1st Down and in a handful of other defensive situations. Other than that, and until someone proves himself in a way predecessors Kerry Neal and Prince Shembo could not, safety Jamoris Slaughter will glide down from his safety position to do the heavy lifting.

Until Spond, Councell, or a linebacker-to-be-named later proves capable of every-down duties, it'll be Slaughter who matches up with opposing tight ends and slot receivers when it counts. In other words, against Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, USC, and potentially against Navy, Purdue, Michigan State (the defense played with fire in its use of a true Dog linebacker during last fall's victory over the Spartans), Miami and BYU. But hey, against Pittsburgh in South Bend, and then out in Chestnut Hill a week later, the base 3-4 front can line up and party (hit the guy in front of them) like its 1989.

Roster Rundown

Standout: No one entering 2012

Indispensable: The loss of either Prince Shembo or Ishaq Williams for an extended period would likely impact the other's production/every down effectiveness as the season progressed

Proven BCS-Bowl Level Performer: None but both Shembo and Williams could be at season's end.

Most Important that he Improve from 2011: Williams

Spring Star: Williams

August/September Sleeper: Ben Councell

Quote to Note: "I think that if there are some guys that have shown themselves a little bit more, I think (one example has been) Ishaq Williams. Ishaq has really impressed me with his sense or urgency. I thought that last year there was a lot of thinking, now he is reacting. He's been a guy for me that has really caught my eye. I really like the way he's playing."
– Head coach Brian Kelly at spring's conclusion

5th-Year Senior: None
Senior (Eligible through 2012): None
Juniors (Eligible through 2013): Prince Shembo and Danny Spond
Sophomore (Eligible through 2014): Ishaq Williams
Sophomore (Eligible through 2015): Ben Councell
Incoming Freshmen: Romeo Okwara
2013 Pledges: Likely Jacob Matuska, though he could grow into a defensive end as well.

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