The Insiders

Our summer Stream of Consciousness series resumes with thoughts on a quartet of upperclassmen linebackers plus the new kid on the block for 2013, Michael Deeb.

For Stream of Consciousness thoughts on 60 previously previewed Irish players entering 2013, click the links below. Inside linebacker Jarrett Grace -- not included in today's column -- was previously discussed in link No. 2.

10 in the Trenches: Both sides of scrimmage

Sunday Sampler (Hodgepodge)

Five Freshmen

Six on the Spot

The Returnees (Injured Irish from 2012)

Three Key Juniors

The Quarterbacks: Three to Make One?

Senior Trio

Through the Ranks: one per class

Early Impressions? Four in need of a strong summer/August camp.

Three Sophomores Ready for Impact

Relative Rookies: Redshirt-Freshmen Debuts

Rookie of the Year: The Prime Candidates

5th-Year Senior Carlo Calabrese

Newly-minted Butkus Watch Award finalist returns to full-time starter this fall -- at least that's how I see it in the current Calabrese/Grace/Fox triumvirate…Change his "body composition" entering his fifth season according to defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and the proof will be in the pass coverage as Calabrese's expected improvement in terms of his ability to shuffle, slide, and defend in zone coverage could prove crucial…Hitting and "block destruction" aren't a problem for the 245-pounder that lines up and wins as a four-point stance defensive end in goal line packages…

If Calabrese remains at the Will linebacker spot, he'll battle and inevitably split time with classmate Dan Fox (below). If he shifts to the Mike, that playing time tussle is with rising junior Jarrett Grace…After months of deliberation, I now believe Calabrese will receive the most game day snaps of the three, especially over the season's first four games…

Unlike (literally) every other starting/regular linebacker on the squad, Calabrese looked like he belonged on the field on January 7 in Miami, a revelation both surprising and promising for his final year.

5th-Year Senior Dan Fox

Has his shoulder healed? If so, he's the Will starter and an essential 12-week cog in a veteran front seven built to keep points off the boar. If not, it's Calabrese and Grace for a trying September…Fox played two-thirds of 2012 in need of shoulder surgery and it rarely showed in his aggression or impact…

Earned five honorable mention (Navy, MSU, Miami, Stanford, and Pittsburgh) and one top 10 player (Oklahoma) nominations in our Irisheyes.com film reviews last fall…Alabama was not one of his finest hours…Love him in coverage as an inside 'backer and if healthy -- and improved -- Fox could be a three-down player, remaining as one of two 'backers in the nickel defense…His read-and-strike hit vs. Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor on an overtime screen pass was one of the "D-Boyz'" unheralded plays of the season (check the 12:00 mark of this comprehensive Notre Dame video).

Highly regarded by the staff and especially Diaco who noted of the ailing Fox last April: "Fox is rehabbing and he looks good through the medical staff and the strength & conditioning staff and their work, he really hasn't lost much weight, strength, speed, he really looks pretty good. Although he's not doing football, I don't think there's going to be this huge leap to get him (up to par in the fall). So even not participating, he's had a nice spring.

"It'll be good to interject him back into a leadership role as an older player and a guy that's been around here for a long time and has a lot of reps under his belt. That'll be positive. It's hard when you're detached from an on the field production standpoint to really take on that leadership role. So we're looking forward to assimilating him back into the group and seeing how that takes shape."

Head coach Brian Kelly noted that Fox would likely focus on the Will 'backer spot this season though as Diaco noted previously, he has the acumen and skill to play the Mike if needed…Fox joined Calabrese (and Prince Shembo) as Irish 'backers on the 2013 Butkus Watch List.

Senior Kendall Moore and Junior Joe Schmidt

Who wins the fourth two-deep role, the long-time, enigmatic reserve Moore or the newly-minted scholarship player Schmidt? If the spring is any indication (it's usually not), Schmidt has the lead.

Said Diaco of the then preferred walk-on junior: "Joe Schmidt's a guy that when you look at Joe from a frame standpoint in a bit out-of-profile in (comparison) when you look at all those inside linebackers roll-out. But for what he is deficient there he makes up for in his intangible traits. He's getting to the ball fast, he's very very bright, he's an instinctual player, he has good initial quickness, and he really understands his assets and liabilities so he can use them to his strength during the play and he's done that this spring."

Diaco did not mention Moore when discussing seven other Irish linebackers during a comprehensive interview covering the defense's efforts during the spring, though in fairness to Moore, Diaco didn't discuss certain starter Danny Spond, either…

A focused, in-shape Moore will beat out Schmidt for the two-deep role in August, but the senior has little margin for error if he wants to avoid exclusive special teams and scrimmage mop-up duty for the third straight season….Both players are eligible through 2014; Moore will have to earn that fifth on the field this fall.

Freshman Michael Deeb

It's been awhile since I've been this excited about a freshman defender I assume will redshirt in Year One…Deeb has future leader written all over him, now its time to prove he can run at a level befitting a national champion, not just an underrated inside 'backer…Will be the new poster-child for undervalued three-star players should he ascend to a starting or regular role in 2014 when Calabrese and Fox are gone…Should he struggle vs. the nation's best, he'll likewise be the rallying cry for recruit-niks that prefer their 'backers with five stars, thank you…

At 6'2.5 and 238 pounds (as of NSD), could Deeb force his way onto the field in a special teams role? I'd love to see his eligibility preserved -- Notre Dame has plenty of options for their run teams, though Kelly noted this year, the best will play, regardless of starting or backup status, and Deeb's aggression seems to be a much-needed fit…

Seems to possess great instincts, but those are often tested at the next level when opposing plays are crisper, blockers are bigger, faster, and angrier, and running backs are future pros, not biology majors…There's an acclimation period for most freshman linebackers (consider how out-of-place the immortal Manti Te'o looked in 2009) at least those not named Luke Kuechly, and a crucial aspect of Kuechly's touted "instincts" was his 4.5 flat 40-yard dash speed…

One sobering note: considering the program's sputtering recruitment of current inside 'backer prospects for 2014 and beyond, if Deeb doesn't develop as planned, the position will be one of great concern on the field next (not 2013) fall…He's set to start next to Jarrett Grace in Year 2 -- it'd be nice to see glimpses prior.

I'll be surprised if Deeb isn't a very good college linebacker by November 2015...


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