Corwin Brown is not actively looking for a leader for the defense, he is waiting for one to emerge.
"You don't really look for that guy, you just kind of throw it out and those guys kind of surface on their own," he said.
Brown said that leadership can come in a number of different ways.
"The true leaders, they lead by example. Some guys talk a lot, some guys it's their actions, some guys they hold guys accountable," he said. "What a leader does is he does what's necessary to get the group going."
Brian Smith, who will be a junior in 2009 after seeing significant time as a freshman and sophomore, is the kind of player that many believe will emerge as the unit's leader.
"Brian's a guy that from a playing standpoint, he's played enough that his play should speak. Now he's just got to bring the other side to it," said Brown. "I think what happens, especially when a player is a young guy, you play and that's what you're thinking about. You might not necessarily think about, ‘OK, now I'm the leader and now I've got to make sure that the young guys are doing what's right. I've got to make sure that we're playing hard and we're setting the tempo and that we're caring about each other.'
"‘I've got to make sure that we watch TV together sometimes, I've got to make sure that we study together sometimes. I've got to make sure that if a coach gets on a guy, that as teammates we get around that guy and say, ‘Hey, it's going to be alright. We made that same mistake, they used to get on us too.'"
Smith may not have thought about all of those things before, but they are certainly on his mind now.
"I've kind of taken it upon myself that we're going to instill that in our minds that every time we step on the field no matter who we're playing against our offense, Nevada, no matter who, we're going to try to dominate," he said.
Smith has no problem with the pressure of guys looking to him as a leader.
"I welcome it with open arms," he said. "Anytime you have guys that look to you as a leader, it's a great honor and I'm not going to let my guys down at all so I'm taking it on with open arms."
Smith agrees with Brown in that his experience on the field will help him earn respect.
"You could say that I'm a veteran. I've been on the field since my freshman year, I've been in combat," he said. "Some guys don't know what to expect and they look to the older guys that have been in combat, so I fit that role and I'm taking it on."
Smith learned a lot from two-time captain and fellow linebacker Maurice Crum, who took Smith under his wing.
"Mo taught me a lot, now I'm just taking everything he really taught me and applying it to how I play," said Smith. "How I get the other guys up and how we just have that cohesiveness as a defense. It's been a lot of fun taking on that role."
Smith believes that his personality will help him grab the team's attention.
"I'm just loud and obnoxious and do anything to keep guys on their toes and keep them up," he said.
Smith was the emotional leader of the team a year ago and that is unlikely to change.
"As far as playing on the field, we don't have any more of a heart and soul of the defense than Brian. He was a little bit that way last year, even though Mo was the revered guy that everyone looked up to," Charlie Weis said. "He just plays with passion and he has fun doing it too."
But Weis is not ready to call Smith the defense's leader just yet.
"It's too quick for me to judge where this is all going to end up, but you would hope that he'd be one of the guys that would continue to move toward the forefront," Weis said. "We'll see by the end of the spring. The arrow is pointing up right now; there's no wavering on that one. You'd have to say, the arrow is pointing clearly up."