Mr. Versatility

Darius Fleming arrived on campus last fall like most freshmen: A little shy; a little nervous; and not quite sure of his role.

Two of the three qualities listed above no longer apply, as IrishEyes spoke with a self-assured and focused Darius Fleming. The sophomore from Chicago is now looking to establish himself among a group of talented defenders.

And though "unsure" wouldn't aptly describe his approach to his position and role this season, Fleming definitely must remain flexible to change…at a moment's notice.

"I would consider myself a hybrid," Fleming said. "I still might rush off the edge and I'm still going to be a ‘backer. I'm with both guys right now."

Fleming recorded three tackles and one sack (for a loss of eleven yards) in Notre Dame's 49-21 Sheraton Bowl victory over Hawaii, adding pressure to punter Tim Grasso on a first quarter punt block by Irish safety Sergio Brown

As a sophomore embarking on (a bit of) a position switch, Fleming could have used the extra seasoning provided by spring practice, but a shoulder injury kept him sidelined while he's teammates battled for starting roles.

"The coaches were just cautious about me," Fleming said. "They wanted me to sit out, rest and get healthy, because I didn't think I was a 100 percent.

"They just wanted me to rest and just learn the plays, and since I was learning a new position (he could) see it from the sidelines; (but) just not be out there."

The linebacker unit's leader, junior weakside ‘backer Brian Smith welcomes the reinforcements of August.

"Darius…I've never seen someone play D-Line and come grasp the LB position so well. He was out all spring but he took notes and was very attentive so now it's like he never missed a beat. Now he's ready to play – he's champing at the bit; all the guys that missed time in the spring, like Kerry (Neal), too – they're ready to go."

Ready to Roll

In the world of player/coach pairing, the Notre Dame football program appears to have found its ideal regarding Fleming and Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Jon Tenuta.

"Coach Tenuta is a guy that likes to get after it," Fleming said. "He likes to go after the quarterback. He likes to bring people. We drop and everything and it depends on who we are playing against and what he wants to do, but coach Tenuta isn't a guy that likes to sit back and wait."

Judging from his nervous energy when Irish defensive players greeted the media, neither does Fleming.

"I haven't put on pads since Hawaii, so it's definitely exciting to able to get back out there and play with the guys. I mean September 5th can't get here fast enough. We're just excited to go on. Ready to show the world what we got."

September 5 better hurry, because this two-headed monster is about to snap.


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