"We just move guys to give us some flexibility," Brown said.
"The way things worked, they were just trying to put guys in a position to make plays and see where guys fit in Coach Brown's new scheme," Smith said.
Even on the roster for the Blue-Gold game, Smith is listed as an inside linebacker. But there's no denying that the junior has made an impression at the outside spot. Smith, who is listed at 6-3, 244-pounds, was placed on the Gold team for Saturday's contest. The squad features starters Tom Zbikowski, Trevor Laws, Maurice Crum, Jr. and other players who've been running with the first-team. There is a good possibility that when the Gold team goes out onto the field for the first series, Smith will be occupying one of the outside positions.
"I think this spring has been real exciting," Smith said. "With Coach Brown in now, I have a good sense of playing football. The main goal of spring was to do whatever it was to help the team and try to get on the field either through special teams or defense. It was my job to come out and line up wherever and play as hard as I can and work harder to get a spot."
Whether it's on the inside or outside, the differences in the two positions don't vary a lot, according to Smith. It's all hard-nose action at either spot.
"I don't think there are different skills," Smith said. "Playing linebacker is playing linebacker. No matter how you cut it, you have to be physical and be able to run around. Those things translate no matter where you are on the field."
Smith's career at Notre Dame has not been full of achievements. As a freshman, Smith's biggest play came when he made a tackle on Michigan's Steve Breaston on a reverse in the Irish's 17-10 win over the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Smith appeared in eight games in 2005, registering only three tackles.
Last season, Smith was a non-factor. As a sophomore, the Irish linebacker did not record a single tackle and was lost in the shuffle.
"Last year was a learning experience," Smith said. "It showed me things I needed to do this off-season. Coming in this spring, I wanted to work that much harder to get a place on defense or special teams. It was a motivating factor."
Smith did not want another season riding the bench. The Highland Park, IL native wanted to be part of the action on the field. Smith dedicated himself right after the Sugar Bowl loss to LSU.
"Things really started for me in the off-season," Smith said. "I came back doing the running and lifting and there was a good opportunity for me and the other guys. Through the weight lifting and running, it was three straight months of just pushing each other to see how far we could go. Let's see how much better we could get and do things that would ultimately help the team."
After the weight lifting and running, Smith had to become adept at learning the new defensive scheme. Gone was Rick Minter's base 4-3 style, replaced by Brown's 3-4 personnel defense. Smith knew their would be some extra time trying to get the new scheme down pat.
"The learning process is to learn as much as you can," Smith said. "In every meeting and every practice, you try to take away as much information as possible. I sit back and try to process everything I've learned to make myself a bigger factor on this team. I try to put myself in the best position possible to be successful."
It also helps that Smith truly believes in Brown's ability to turn around the defense.
"I feel like he really cares about people and wants to see us do well," Smith said of Brown. "It's a motivating factor for us. It makes you play that much harder for him and the team."
Smith and Brown share a similar characteristic. Smith hails from Highland Park, IL, just north of Chicago while Brown played high school football in the Windy City. Smith has seen some of that fiery Chicago passion on the field this spring. As for the places where each man grew up, there's a subtle difference that's been pointed out by a former Notre Dame linebacker.
"I think it's Chicago-area because Corey Mays used to say he's from Chicago and I'm from the suburbs," Smith laughed. "I tell people I'm from north of Chicago. Not too many people know where Highland Park is."
Regardless of where Smith calls home, the junior may have found a home at outside linebacker and achieve his goal of contributing to the Irish defense in 2007.