April 19, 2007

Smith plays way into starting conversation

Notre Dame's players don't talk much about starting jobs.

But ask Toryan Smith if he deserves a shot to run with the first team next season, and the sophomore can't duck the question that so many of his teammates have avoided. The 6-foot-1, 244-pound linebacker knows he's a long way from taking a Sharpie to his name on the depth chart, but Smith likes his position heading into the Blue-Gold Game.

"Ain't nothing set in stone right now," Smith said. "Me personally, I've been progressing. I've made some things happen. I think I should be in the conversation."

He'll be in the de facto starting lineup on Saturday, working alongside captain Maurice Crum at inside linebacker for a Gold side comprised of what figures to be the first team defense. The squad also includes Trevor Laws, Tom Zbikowski, Ambrose Wooden and Terrail Lambert, in other words, every one of Notre Dame's returning starters.

Climbing into that select company means beating out Joe Brockington, who's also logged first team work this spring. Brockington started nine games last season, finishing with 59 tackles and one sack. Smith notched just nine stops of his own in nine games, working primarily in goal line situations, mop-up duty and on special teams.

Considering the competition, never mind the fact Smith's freshman high point came on a special teams hit during training camp, he knows his first team stay could be short.

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