Spotlight: Sergio Brown
| || G || Tackles || INT || FF
Also Returning: Chris Bathon, Leonard Gordon, Ray Herring, Kyle McCarthy
Lost: David Bruton, Jashaad Gaines (graduation)
Gained: Harrison Smith (position change—linebacker), Thomas Smith (walk-on), Dan McCarthy (DNP as freshman), Zeke Motta (freshman)
Last season Sergio Brown impressed everyone with his play—enough to work his way into the starting lineup. Brown especially left a lasting impression at the end of 2008, and it will be interesting to see how he will be used in 2009.
Will he remain at nickelback despite Notre Dame's abundance of talent at that position? Or will Harrison Smith slide down to linebacker during passing downs, despite the depth at that position as well? That remains to be seen, and all Brown can do is continue to practice and play well.
Speaking of Harrison Smith, the return to safety—his natural position—has been called "seamless" by head coach Charlie Weis. Between the inspired play of Brown and Smith, and 2008 team-leading tackler Kyle McCarthy, the safety position is at the heart of what is already considered the best Irish secondary since the Holtz years.
Behind Smith, Brown, and McCarthy are three talented players in their own right. Ray Herring (of recruiting blog fame) is back for his last hurrah, but he'll have to fight off both Dan McCarthy and Zeke Motta for playing time.
On a less serious note, putting names on the jerseys wouldn't be much help to the casual fan this year. The Irish project to have four Smiths starting on defense this year (Harrison at safety, and Scott, Toryan, and Brian at linebacker), with a fifth—walk-on safety Thomas—waiting on the sidelines.