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Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell

Notre Dame linebacker Ben Councell talks about the loss of Danny Spond from the team because of medical reasons, what he focused on during spring practice and the chance to be a starter this season. By Tony Krausz, The Journal Gazette

Councell is up to the challenge

SOUTH BEND - Notre Dame junior Ben Councell understands the demands of playing at outside linebacker spot.

Councell, along with former Bishop Luers star Jaylon Smith, are competing for the starting position left vacant when last year's starter Danny Spond had to stop playing because of medical reasons.

"It's a position where you have to be big enough to come down and set the edge and do combat with the big linemen, 300 pounders. But you have to be speedy enough to drop back and cover the slot receivers," Councell said Monday of the linebacker spot the Irish refer to as "Dog" or "drop."

"I'm excited for whatever the coaches' role is for me. I want to lead on the field, and I want to play some football."

Councell played in 12 games last season, recording 10 tackles.

He has added 35 pounds since arriving as a freshman, and he has gotten used to carrying around the added mass.

"I was always pretty quick and pretty fast for my size, and having that additional weight, you just start noticing your knees after practices swell up and your lower back starts cramping up and stuff like that," Councell said. "With the strength coaching staff here, they are really good, and during the summer, we worked really hard and a lot of agility drills. We've got all of that under control."

Councell and Smith will likely be competing for the rest of fall camp for the starting spot in the Irish's first game against Temple on Aug. 31.

Councell said he is looking forward to show what he and Smith can bring to the outside linebacker position.

"He's a great player," Councell said of Smith "I learn from him. He learns from me. It's a great duo. I'm excited for the season and to see what happens."

For more on Councell and Smith, read Tuesday's Journal Gazette.