Mar 20, 2011, 3:08 PM EST
Part six of twelve previews analyzing a dozen players essential to the Irish making a BCS run next season. Check here for the first five: Braxston Cave, Sean Cwynar, Jonas Gray, Trevor Robinson, and Theo Riddick.
Will this be the year for Steve Filer? Ever since the Parade All-American picked Notre Dame out of Mount Carmel in Chicago, fans have waited for the uber-athletic Filer to make his mark at linebacker. But in his first three seasons with the Irish, he’s only made a dent as a special teams standout while battling to see the field at outside linebacker.
The coaching transition gave Filer a chance to reinvent himself and he took advantage of it.
“Steve was much more interested in what kind of skateboard he had when I got here,” head coach Brian Kelly said last preseason. “He’s not that interested in skateboards anymore. He’s interested in playing football, and that athletic ability is starting to show itself on the football field.”
Stuck behind Kerry Neal and Brian Smith at the ‘Dog’ linebacker position last season, Filer enters his senior year with his position up for grabs, and a chance to seize a job once spring practice starts this week.
After briefly taking the lead in the race for the outside linebacking spot opposite Darius Fleming in August, it was Kerry Neal that came out of nowhere to win the starting job, relegating Filer to mostly special teams duty as the season wore on.
Filer played in every game of the 2010 season, matching his 2009 season where he played but did not start in every game the Irish played. His 14 total tackles trailed only Dan Fox and Prince Shembo among defenders that didn’t start a game, and Filer once again spearheaded the special teams charge for the Irish.
100 word preview for Steve Filer in 2011:
There’s never been a question about Steve Filer’s athleticism, but time is running out for him to make an impact on the Irish defense. The door is open for Filer to walk through it, but the depth chart is filled with worthy competitors for the vacancy created by Brian Smith and Kerry Neal’s graduation. It’ll be up to Filer to convince defensive coordinator Bob Diaco and Brian Kelly that starting a veteran makes more sense that a group of young players headlined by Dan Fox and Danny Spond, with a talented freshman like Ben Councell on his way to town.
Importance in 2011:
Somebody is going to have to step up and play well at the ‘Dog’ linebacker position, and Filer’s appearance in the starting 11 won’t make or break this edition of Diaco’s defense. That said, you don’t have to watch Filer jump out of a pool to know that he’s probably the best equipped to take the job. We’ll know by next week if the staff thinks Filer should have the first shot at it.
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