This article is a part of our 2013 Player Projections series. During the summer months Blue & Gold Illustrated will be evaluating players on Notre Dame’s projected two-deep depth chart — reviewing their careers to this point and discussing expectations for the year to come.
Irish linebacker Danny Spond started 11 games last year after a serious injury in August.
OLB Danny Spond
6-foot-2 | 248 pounds
Experience: Played in 29 games, started in 11
Stats: 53 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one interception
Outside linebacker Danny Spond’s junior season was as big of a surprise as any performance last fall. It rivaled the 12-0 regular season record in unexpectedness.
Spond started spring practice a year ago in a battle for the starting spot with sophomore Ben Councell, who was considered a better athlete and a better fit for the prototype of Notre Dame’s Dog linebacker position. Spond, with underrated athleticism and experience, won the starting job in August. But by the end of training camp it looked like the Colorado native’s football career may have been finished.
Debilitating headaches temporarily paralyzed Spond and left doctors scrambling to explain what was keeping an otherwise healthy 20-year-old from functioning properly. He saw a specialist in Michigan and with a regimen of medicine was back in the starting lineup by the third week of the season.
He quickly settled into his role as a regular starter and finished the 2012 season with 39 tackles. He also helped the Irish pass defense weather a very thin year on the depth chart. At times, the 248-pound linebacker played essentially as a cornerback in zone defenses, which allowed Notre Dame to effectively play nickel or dime defensive packages without filling the field with inexperienced defensive backs.
“There’s not a guy in the [starting] 11 that does things more right than him on a regular basis,” defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said. “He’s one of the most right guys we have from an assignment and technique score, which we do every play. He gets two grades. There is not a higher-graded player week in and week out than Danny Spond.”
2013 Job Description
Spond opens training camp as the starter again at arguably the deepest position on the field. Councell and incoming five-star talent Jaylon Smith will fill in behind him. All three still have room to improve at the position.
As a high school quarterback, Spond came to Notre Dame with little linebacker experience and has taken big steps forward in each of the past three years. Diaco said he thinks Spond will continue to make gains as he heads into final college season.
“He’s just getting bigger, faster, stronger,” the coach said. “He’s only really three years in. He played a little bit of backer in high school but not much. He gets better and better at playing linebacker.”
Both outside linebacker positions will be strengths for the Irish in 2013 and the coaching staff will do its best to put them in a position to showcase skill and depth to help the defense. Spond operates without drawing much attention to himself and his teammates will count on him to quietly put together another strong year as a senior.
What make a good year?
If Spond can simply hold off the talented players behind him and maintain his hold on the starting job this year he will have to be doing something right. Councell and Smith are both likely to get some work during the course of the year, but Spond should be able to keep his spot if he continues to grade out as one of the best on the team when it comes to fulfilling his assignments.
With a little more experience and depth in the secondary this season, Spond should be able to focus more on being a force on the edge of the line of scrimmage. As he continues to get stronger, he can get more involved in stopping the run, which would be a good step forward for him and the Irish defense this year.