When Corwin Brown did not find his bicycle where he left it the other day, he had a prime suspect. After Brown found it in a meeting room, he said that he "would have something extra for anybody who hit Sergio (Brown)" at practice Monday.
The only problem for the defensive coordinator was that Sergio Brown had a little "something extra" too, running Ray Herring over in tackling drills. Herring did not get the chance to redeem himself as the drills switched before he got another shot.
"A little prank happened, somebody stole Coach Brown's bike and put it in the meeting room and he automatically thought it was me," Sergio Brown said. "He was talking crap and having everybody challenge me, but I think I stepped up."
For the record, Sergio Brown denies any involvement with anything to do with his coach's bike.
"I don't know nothing," he said.
One thing Brown will learn about soon enough is getting on the field in an important role for the Fighting Irish defense. In his first two years in South Bend, Brown was primarily a special teams player and was admittedly discouraged after the 2007 season.
"You always have doubts, but I looked at myself like what do I have to do to get better to be on the field?"
Brown didn't just ask himself, but he asked his coaches, namely Charlie Weis.
"(Weis) gave me the basics. He told me I had the ability, he told me that I had to step up," Brown recalled of the meeting shortly after the season. "I was like real depressed, he could tell, but he gave me some motivating words and was just like hang in there.
"I was a little frustrated, but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel."
The staff noticed from Brown's time with the scout team in 2007, that he performed better when he was closer to the line of scrimmage, so they toyed with putting him there in the spring.
"I got in there in the spring too, but it wasn't much. It was more like 7-on-7 (in the summer), playing around, Mo Crum went and talked to the coaches and that was it then," Brown said. "He was my agent, he was my mediator."
Just like the Notre Dame staff did with the move of Harrison Smith from safety to linebacker to get the best athlete on the field, the coaches have included Brown in a substantial number of nickel packages so far in camp.
"It's more of a change of roles from safety, getting closer to the line," Brown said. "It took some getting used to. Me and Harrison's positions are kind of different, because I'm not as close (to the line of scrimmage) as Harrison. I still get to move around more.
"It's more responsibility because I'm closer to the ball, so I've got to be more aware. I'm closer to the run and I've got to keep everything that's around me because I'm in the middle of the corner and the safety and the linebacker. So, I've got to keep my head on a swivel at all times."
Brown admitted that the change took some getting used to, but is thrilled in the way things have turned out so far.
"It's wonderful," he said. "You get happy and comfortable. It was frustrating the last couple of years, but now I see myself getting more involved and I just love it. It's a lot more fun to be the person on the other side of the scout team. Everything is better."
TENUTA LIKES HIS LINEBACKERS: Linebackers coach John Tenuta is impressed with the group of players – young and old – that he is coaching.
"Our guys are playing fast and the speed of what we've done in practice and all of our group periods and individual periods," he said. "I'm very pleased and impressed with my guys and my unit with what they've done in practice."
He's especially happy with the progress of his unit.
"The guys that were here in the spring, a lot of those guys have matured just through the summertime," Tenuta said. "Obviously, I'm very impressed with the freshmen that have come in here and started to learn the scheme. Now (they) go on and get in a line and now the ball's snapped and now they're going to try to maintain their gap responsibilities or if they're a coverage guy, who they have to cover. But they're flying around to the ball, so obviously the older guys, it's bled down to the younger guys and the younger guys understand that we've got to play fast."
For this coaching staff, that is important because they do not want players confused on the field.
"I think that, obviously as simple as you make it, then they play fast. Obviously the object is for them to play fast," Tenuta said. "You don't do too much, but you do enough to stop what your opponent is doing. Our guys are relatively picking up everything that we do. There's a lot of carryover and a lot of things that we do based on our fire zones to our man dogs. So, a lot of things come into play and guys are playing fast."
The decision to move Brian Smith was an easy one, according to Tenuta.
"I just think that he's the most productive guy there right now and that's why he's there," he said flatly.
Toryan Smith is listed behind Brian Smith on the depth chart, but could still have a chance to contribute.
"Just based on four days of practice, Toryan the last two days has had two very, very, very productive practices," Tenuta said. "The best guys will play based on the package, based on the situation. He's still in the fray and we'll just go keeping go, as ball gets going here and get ready to go play in the first game."
NEAL LOOKS BACK: Sophomore Kerry Neal appears to have a firm grip on the starting Will position and he and classmate Brian Smith have thought about how far they've come in a year.
"It's amazing how much you learn over a year. Myself, I was just out there young, just running around trying to make these plays," Neal said. "Now I can point out what the offense is about to do. Last year, I really didn't know.
"I was talking to Brian. We were watching the third team like, ‘Remember last year, we were on the third team. We've come a long ways.'"
Neal says that the sophomore linebackers are close.
"We communicate, me and Brian are real tight, so before the play, we'll be like, ‘C'mon Brian let's make this play,'" said Neal.
The sophomore is also taking a freshman under his wing.
"Me and (Darius) Fleming are real close. It meetings, he sits right in front of me or right across from me. I try to guide him and teach him everything I know," Neal said.
Like most freshmen, Neal points out the speed and size of the other players as the biggest difference between high school and college.
"Everybody is pretty good in college ball at every level, first team, second team, third team, everybody's pretty good," he said. "Just the speed of the game in high school, you're probably bigger, stronger, faster than everybody. Once you get to college, you've got to tackle this 6-8, 330, I mean he's just as quick as you are almost."
In Notre Dame's defense, the Will linebacker could have his hand in the dirt or play standing up on any given play and has the responsibilities of both a defensive end and linebacker.
"It's both put together, I'm outside linebacker slash D-end," said Neal, who said he is more comfortable with his hand on the ground. "My stance is pretty much a sprinter's stance. I'm just getting off the ball really quick, staying low to the ground."
When asked about his goals for the season, Neal initially said he had none, but later offered some lofty ones.
"I want to continue to learn and get better each and everyday," said Neal, before adding. "I want to have more sacks, at least eight to 12 sacks."
WILLIAMS ALSO AIDING ROOKIES: Sophomore nose tackle Ian Williams is also offering some help to the new freshmen. Williams says that he knows what they're going through.
"For me, it was a big adjustment from high school to college. I was 17 at the time of camp; it was adjustment getting used to long days. Camp and bigger guys, it was a big change," he said. "I told them just work hard, do what you've got to do. Certainly they know that you can play because you're here. Just do what you did in high school, just make it better technique-wise. And you'll play some."
IT'S STILL A 2: Sophomore wide receiver Duval Kamara had #60 on for the fifth straight day, an indication that he has still not reach the staff's desired weight of 219. Weis isn't showing any signs of letting up on him either.
At Tuesday's practice while the receivers were working on releases, Kamara used his strength to get past freshman cornerback Robert Blanton, but Weis piped in with a comment for wide receivers coach Rob Ianello.
"That's not fair Rob, he's got a 70-pound weight advantage," Weis said.
Later in the practice Weis was trying to get the offense together and busted Kamara by saying, "C'mon 60, we need another tackle over here."