There’s never been any question about Steve Filer’s athletic ability. One of the premiere recruits signed by Notre Dame in the 2008 recruiting class, Filer profiled as a freakish athlete that had offers nationally as well as his choice of elite Big Ten schools.
Yet Filer’s yet to make a true impact on the field for the Irish in his first two seasons. He spent his freshman year playing primarily special teams, making 98 appearances but only one tackle. Last season, Filer seemed lost in the shuffle, the 4-3 defense a tough one for him to thrive in as either a passing rushing specialist or a traditional outside ‘backer. Filer’s athletic ability was evident on special teams, where he led the team in special teams tackles with 11, including 10 on kickoff coverage.
The coaching change and return to the 3-4 defense that Filer was recruited to play was the fresh start the Chicago product needed, and the early returns were promising. The Blue-Gold Game gave everyone a reminder of just how immensely talented Filer was, with his 12 tackles and constant disruption in the backfield all the evidence needed that the switch had flipped.
Brian Kelly confirmed as much with his comments yesterday after practice.
“Steve was more interested in what kind of skateboard he had when I got
here,” Kelly said after practice. “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.”
It’s that athletic ability that had Filer running with the number one defense, while incumbent Brian Smith took his reps with the twos.
“He’s extremely athletic. He’s earned the opportunity to go with the ones,” Kelly said. “We’re not going to play for another couple weeks, now the job is can he hold on to it.”
Filer is definitely embracing the fresh start.
“Initially I just wanted to get a new start with these new coaches,”
Filed said after practice. They came in said our slate was wiped clean,
they didn’t judge us on past things.
“It wasn’t that I was in the dog house, but coaches have the tendency to
still see certain people as certain things. Everybody does. With this
new staff, I can be a brand new player and a brand new person.”
While we’re still three weeks away from opening day, Filer’s move at outside linebacker is a continual reminder of how smart the shift back to the 3-4 was. While Filer may have leapfrogged Smith for the day, there’s no doubt that both of them, along with Darius Fleming, will get the lion’s share of reps during games, with Kerry Neal and Dan Fox adding much needed depth.
The order they see the field remains to be seen.