SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Notre Dame linebacker Brian Smith loves walking into the meeting room and hearing defensive coordinator Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta, assistant head coach for defense, talk football.
``I see them talking and they're sitting there putting ideas together, it's like two great minds making one great defense. It's going to be great,'' Smith said.
Although it remains to be seen how good the Notre Dame defense will be, Fighting Irish players are excited about the new aggressive schemes.
Just like last year, the Irish are using a 3-4 scheme that calls for an outside linebacker to sometimes line up as a down lineman who might rush the passer or drop back in coverage. This year the other outside linebacker frequently will be a converted safety as the Irish attempt to get more speed on the field.
``We expect to make a lot of plays, help our offense a lot, help our team a lot,'' safety David Bruton said.
Defense is not something the Irish have been known for recently. They haven't ranked in the top 30 in total defense or the top 40 in scoring defense since 2002. The Irish could do little against the run during last year's 3-9 season, giving up 195 yards a game, the third-worst total in 61 years.
Coach Charlie Weis learned how difficult Tenuta's defenses were the past two seasons calling plays against him while he was Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator - especially last year when the Yellow Jackets held Notre Dame to minus-8 yards rushing and had nine sacks in an embarrassing 33-3 loss for the Irish. Both games the Irish were perplexed by his blitzing defense.
It wasn't just the Irish. Tech last year led the NCAA in sacks with 48. That's seven more than the Notre Dame record set in 1996 and well above the 18 the Irish had last year.
The Yellow Jackets ranked in the top 20 against the run in each of the past five seasons - something the Irish have done only twice since 1994 - and ranked in the top 30 in total defense and scoring defense during that span.
``I'm a firm believer that you always dictate to them, don't let them dictate to you,'' Tenuta said.
Although Weis said from the outset that Brown would call the plays, some observers wondered how well Brown and Tenuta would work together. After all, the 38-year-old Brown was coming off his first year of calling plays for the Irish and the 51-year-old Tenuta had 15 years experience as a defensive coordinator.
The men say they have had no trouble meshing philosophies. Brown likes having an experienced voice he can call on and enjoys talking football with Tenuta, who also has coached at Georgia Tech, Ohio State and North Carolina.
``I've really grown in a lot of different areas, not just in calling blitzes, or calling plays. It's a lot of areas. J.T. has been around a lot of guys,'' Brown said. ``I like to hear about those guys, those schemes, those games. There's been a lot of that. Just talking a lot of football.''
Brown believes Tenuta will help with game preparation, teaching techniques and just talking about different philosophies. Tenuta said Brown allows all the defensive coaches to share ideas.
``You blend together and you do what's best for the program and the players to be successful,'' he said.
Tenuta said the key for the Irish to be good is to playing instinctively.
``In football you've got to play fast. My philosophy defensively has always been, 'If you think, you stink,''' Tenuta said. ``So obviously within the scheme of what we do, if you can play fast you're going to make some plays.''

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