Curry is seeing a lot of new faces on the defense lately. Many of his regular partners in crime are on the sidelines, but that doesn't bother Curry. "It's always tough when you have guys going down," said Curry. "But, the good thing about being in the Notre Dame program is you have guys who will step up and play. Whoever is going to step in and play, you create unity with those guys and get them aligned. We're gaining chemistry with those guys, too. It'll add more depth for the season."
The SAM linebacker position that Curry plays is not known as a glory position. Curry is asked more to play in space, cover tight ends and he isn't as noticeable as some of the other linebackers. Again, that doesn't bother Curry. "It hasn't been hard. Since I came in and started playing that position, I kind of got used to it and it hasn't been hard. It's just the type of position I play. Being a leader is not about always being out front and being recognized. I don't have to be out front. I just want out team to win. If that calls for me never to get recognized, I'm fine with that as long as we win."
The nice thing about playing SAM is Curry is allowed to get after the quarterback now and again—something he really enjoys. Curry finished second on the team in 2003 with 4.5 sacks and is hoping to have a better total in 2004.
"I hope so," was his response when asked if he would be rushing the quarterback more in 2004. "Coach Baer knows I like to rush. I also like to play within the framework of the defense. Whatever they call on me, I'm going to go all out."
The return of Mike Goolsby at middle linebacker is also something Curry is excited about. "Me and Mike are so much alike. It's really fun to have him back in there. Goolsby and I communicate really well and get each other fired up. It's good to have another guy out there like myself in the linebacker corps because I'm not the only one out there yelling and screaming."
One area the linebackers struggled a bit in 2003 was pass coverage. We asked Curry if he's seen an improvement in that area among the linebackers this spring. "I think we have all improved because that is something we're really focusing on, pass coverage, zone coverage, man coverage and down and distance. It's something that we're all trying to improve. We definitely have put a focus on that and I think we've really improved."
With so many injuries hitting the Irish defense, we asked Curry if he was nervous with the Irish defense giving up a number of big plays in the spring. "I'm not nervous. It's just the nature of football when people go down. People have to step up, regardless of whether they're young or they've been in the program for a while. I, myself, have to step up and pick up some of the slack for these young guys that might be learning right now."
2004 could be the first year in a while where the defense would not be considered the strong side of the ball. Curry said he and his defensive teammates have talked about that and don't want to let that be the case. "We definitely talked about it. It's good to see the offense doing well against us because we know how good we are as a defense. At the same time, offense wins games, defense wins championships, so we've still got to lead the way. We've got to set the tone and shut them down so then offense can get on the field."
Will the Irish have a BCS-quality defense in 2004? "I wouldn't want to think any other way," said Curry. "We have the type of potential and talent to do it. All we have to do is go out and execute our game plan every week. As long as everyone stays positive and healthy, we should have a really good chance to do real well this year."
Much has already been written about this team, not a lot has been glowing. Many feel the Irish might be better in 2004, but not much better. We asked Curry if the gloomy outside predictions, even from their own fans, bothers the team. "It doesn't bother us. There's so much that goes on outside the program. As a team, we don't even think about it. We know what's going on within the team. They're not out here every day with us. They don't get up here at 5 AM to lift with us every day. We know what we're doing to win, to prepare and to be the best. That's all that's important to us and we don't care what everyone else is saying."
Curry's attitude is refreshing. The real test for Curry and the Irish will be to get the entire team to adopt his thinking. If they do that, 2004 could be a good season for the Irish.