Last week, Charlie Weis made Notre Dame's offensive plans very clear. On Wednesday defensive coordinator Corwin Brown offered what the defense's blueprint for San Diego State and the rest of the season.
"I think as a defense the thing that we want to do is try to keep them in that same mode, one-dimensional, which is really what you want to do with everyone, but you definitely don't want to let them start running the ball and throwing the ball," Brown said. "We'll try to shut down the run, force them to throw it and then play ball after that."
The Irish want to put the game in the hands of San Diego State's redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Lindley. In his first collegiate game, Lindley shrugged off a slow start to finish 27 for 45 for 352 yards and three touchdowns in last week's 29-27 loss to Cal-Poly. But Notre Dame is planning to take advantage of Lindley's inexperience.
"There are certain things that he just hasn't seen, he hasn't experienced. We'll try to magnify that of course, we'll try to make it uncomfortable for him of course, we'll see what happens. Those are things that we're going to do anyway," Brown said. "If there's one guy on every team that we want to get after more than anybody else it's the quarterback. We want to get after the quarterback that's what we want to do. We want him to be uncomfortable. When he leaves our stadium we want him to feel a certain way."
How does Brown want Lindley to feel on his return flight to California?
"They'd probably be saying I'm a bad guy if I said it, so I'm going to watch what I say."
Sophomore linebacker Brian Smith offered some comments about Notre Dame's defense – not Lindley –, but they give an idea of how the Irish intend to play.
"It's going to be violent, that's all I'm saying it's going to be violent," said Smith.
SMITH ON THE MOVE AGAIN?: On Tuesday Weis insinuated that Smith, who moved from outside linebacker to inside in the spring, could see some reps at both positions.
"At the end of the day, before this year's out, I think you might see him in multiple spots," Weis said. "You might see him inside. You might see him outside. You might see that this week."
Brown confirmed that Smith has worked out at both spots in camp.
"He gets itchy to go back and forth, so we try to appease him a little bit," said Brown.
For Smith, the edge still feels familiar.
"When I get outside it's like, ‘OK, I'm back, I'm back,' so I try to take advantage of it and use my speed against slower offensive tackles," he said.
Smith intends to be a threat wherever he plays.
"Whenever I'm on the field I feel like I can attack from anywhere. That's the kind of player that I want to be," he said. "I want to be a player where you don't know if he's coming from the outside, if he's coming from the inside, if he's going to drop back and look like he's blitzing. I want to be the complete player."
The sophomore from Kansas spent some time watching college football over the weekend and is ready to go.
"I saw Alabama play Clemson and Alabama's defense was just rocking Clemson. I root for defenses. I don't root for teams, I root for defenses," he said. "When I see defenses on the same page, making plays, being physical and violent I love watching that kind of football."
THE OTHER SMITH: Harrison Smith is another sophomore that can play multiple positions on the defense. Smith was shifted from safety to linebacker and that versatility has allowed him to convince the coaching staff to keep knee braces off of him.
"I don't wear them in practices, so a lot of the linebackers make fun of me because I don't have to wear them," he said. "(At safety) I can't really backpedal with the knee braces on. I wore them one day in the spring, but it didn't work. I felt clumsy. I feel sorry for those guys that have to wear them, but at the same time they do protect them during practice and keep them safe for the games."
A lot of the guys in Smith's class earned valuable playing experience in 2007, but Saturday will be the first collegiate test in a game environment for the Tennessee native. Brown talked about how the staff tries to prepare young players for the atmosphere.
"What happens to some young guys is their first time out, when the lights first come on, they blow a fuse. But as long as you play your rules and you do the things that you've done, which I kind of get the feeling that Harrison will do that because he's that kind of guy," Brown said. "If I just play may rules it really doesn't matter what happens around me. It doesn't matter if I'm in South Bend, if it's the Super Bowl, it really doesn't matter if I'm playing back in Knoxville or Kansas for that matter. What matters is the guy that's over me, what he does and what my rule tells me to do and do I apply it or not."
Smith will try to bring his steady demeanor to the field with him on Saturday.
"Just try to stay calm," he said. "Even though I haven't been there before, just kind of act like I have and just don't get too overwhelmed."
DEFENSE PREPARING OFFENSE: For an offensive line that struggled in a big way in 2007, preparation will not be an excuse this year. As the Irish defense establishes a more aggressive nature its only opposition for the last month has been the Notre Dame offense.
"We feel as a staff that anything that we do on defense that is a positive will spill over and it'll help our offense," Brown said. "If we play physical and if we play tough, which that's what we're going to do anyway, it kind of feeds and everyone I think feeds off of that. Then as a team I think we'll build and we'll grow."
Brian Smith has been impressed with the progress of the offensive line.
"They're coming along really well. They're picking up our blitzes sometimes very well and blitzes that are made to trick them where they can't have the extra guy to block us and they'll somehow find a way to pick it up. So we've seen great signs from the offensive line," he said. "We'll let them know, ‘If I'm coming like this, if you get that in the game, do this and I won't be able to get through.' We're kind of helping them out and at the same time they're helping us out."
Brown said that some of the offensive guys bring an attitude to the rest of the unit.
"I'll take (Eric) Olsen for instance, Olsen's a tough guy," he said. "You take that guy, everybody else has to be tougher because they're watching him play. I've got to choose my words right, you've got to do your business or you've got to get off the pot."
Sophomore nose tackle Ian Williams is a young guy that has had to go against Olsen everyday in practice.
"Anytime you've got a guy that's a tough guy it kind of brings something out of you because either he's going to keep punching you in the face or you've got to do something about it," Brown said. "I think that's good and Ian's grown some."
Williams said that facing Olsen has taught him what techniques he can and cannot employ at this level.
"He's a good technician," Williams said of Olsen. "Little things that I used to do just won't work against him. So I've learned to throw things out of the pad that I won't use, that I can't use. In high school I used to love swimming, in college you can't do that that much. Basically I'll catch it right (under the arm)."
BROWN TO STAY ON THE FIELD: In his first year as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Brown gave the defensive calls from the field while defensive backs coach Bill Lewis oversaw everything from the press box. With Jon Tenuta coming on to the staff for 2008, Brown will remain on the sidelines with Tenuta heading upstairs.
"It's the same like it was last year. I'll make the play (calls) and then I'll get good input from the guys up top," said Brown. "If (both coaches) are up there's certain things that you just can't feel and get communicated. If you're both down then there's some things you just don't see it the same from ground level as you do from up high. Also, you're removed from the emotion so you kind of eliminate that from your thinking."
Brown coached games from both viewpoints when he was with the New York Jets.
"When I was in New York, one year I was down and the next year I was up. When I was up I saw things differently than when I was down because I kind of get caught up in the emotion too sometimes and you've got to try to keep that out of it," he said. "I just like to be kind of in the mix. I like to be down there so that if I want to punch somebody I can punch one of the other coaches. I like being down on the sidelines so I can communicate with the players. As long as I've got good eyes up top I'm fine."