As Sheldon Day moves from underclassmen to upperclassmen status, the junior-to-be defensive end will be looked at to anchor Notre Dame's defensive line this coming fall. But unlike one of his predecessors, that increase in responsibility won't necessarily come with requirement of being a vocal leader.
Day was banged up with an ankle injury for most of last season and was rather inconsistent in his 11 games played, eight of which he started. He notched five and a half tackles for a loss -- tied for the third-most on the team -- but only had half of a sack. But even over a few practices before Notre Dame broke for spring break last week, coach Brian Kelly saw Day's improvements.
And the hope there is Day will become a leader by example, if you will.
"He's not going to stand in front. He's not Kapron Lewis-Moore his senior year, that guy stands in front and you're going to listen," Kelly said. "He's not there yet, but he's certainly showing us the consistency."
Lewis-Moore may have been the most underrated presence on 2012's 12-1 Irish team, with his combination of skill on the defensive line and a booming, motivational presence. He was a model for coaches to present to players, an example of the benefits of how hard work can pay off (Lewis-Moore was one of four Notre Dame captains that year).
Kelly wants to use Day in that same role for younger players, too, hoping to use his work ethic as a model for other players to follow. With plenty of youth joining the defensive line ranks over the summer, it'll be a good example to have -- and Kelly thinks Day is up for the challenge.
"What we're asking from Sheldon Day is to give us the same Sheldon Day every single day," Kelly said. "And that's the first step."