Freshmen expected to make impact for Irish
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - It might not take long for Notre Dame's freshman class to have an impact.
The depth chart released Tuesday for the season opener Saturday against Temple lists Jaylon Smith, who last year won the Butkus Award as the nation's top high school linebacker, as a starting outside linebacker, and has six other freshmen.
They include 6-foot-5, 317-pound Steve Elmer as No. 2 at right tackle; 6-5, 291-pound Hunter Bivin at left tackle; and Corey Robinson as the backup at one wide receiver slot.
"They're a pretty remarkable group of kids, both on and off the field," coach Brian Kelly said.
The Irish are ready to start the season after seven months of turmoil since losing, 42-14, to Alabama in the national championship game.
"Certainly getting back on the field for our football team after a loss is the best recipe for any football team. It's been a long time since we played that last game," Kelly said.
The 6-2, 230-pound Smith beat out junior Ben Councell for the job after Danny Spond's playing career came to an end because of debilitating headaches. Kelly said Smith doesn't seem to make the same mistakes twice.
"That's a hallmark of a guy that's going to play a lot of football for us," Kelly said.
Former Irish standout Manti Te'o didn't get into his first game until the second quarter in 2009 and didn't start until the fifth game. Kelly, who took over the Irish a season later, said in watching the tapes he didn't think Te'o was ready to start when he did. Asked about that Tuesday, Kelly said it was an unfair comparison between Te'o and Smith, saying there's a difference between playing inside and outside linebacker, and the two played in different defenses.
"Jaylon is asked to do a different job. He plays so well in space, very smart player, plays instinctively," Kelly said.
Robinson, the son of former NBA standout David Robinson, has shown in practices that he can catch anything near him. But at 6-4, 205 pounds, he doesn't yet have the strength to be an every-down player.