They are always mentioned together and play side-by-side on the field.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Notre Dame defensive tackles Derek Landri and Trevor Laws are frequently mentioned together.
Ask coach Charlie Weis about Laws and he talks about Landri, too. It's the same when Weis is asked about Landri. The two are back to back in the media guide, side by side on the field and inseparable in the mind of their coach.
"I think that those two guys feed off of each other. That's why I always put them together, because they have a lot of similar qualities," Weis said. "They're not the 300-pounders that a lot of other people play with, but they're athletic, quick, tough football players, and they've made significant improvement as far as play-making from last year to this year."
Their play also gives Weis confidence heading into Saturday's game against Navy (5-2).
Laws, who had 33 tackles last season, is fourth on the team in tackles this season with 35. Landri, who had 43 tackles last season, is fifth in tackles with 29 for the 11th-ranked Irish (6-1).
Quick on their feet
"They're real quick guys so it's hard for big guys to get a hand on them or even small guys to get a hand on them," linebacker Maurice Crum said. "They've got a motor. They can chase the ball down just like I could. It's great to watch them play."
A common threads for their success this season are weight and health. The 6-foot3 Landri, who gained 20 pounds in the offseason to get up to 283 pounds, was hampered by a left shoulder injury the past two seasons but now is healthy. The 6-1 Laws, who lost 10 pounds in the off-season to get down to 283, was slowed by ankle problems last season but is healthy as well.
"We're pretty close in weight," Landri said. "It just depends on what meal we had that day."
Weis said what impressed him about Landri is he didn't lose speed despite the extra weight.
"It's probably the biggest I've seen him, but also the quickest," Weis said. "He's a fireplug type of guy. He has a high-energy level."
Weis has similar comments about Laws, a state high school wrestling champion.
"He's got very good quicks. I think a lot of that has to do with his wrestling background," Weis said. "He doesn't stay blocked very long, and I think that's why he's making a bunch of plays."
The two have different personalities off the field. Laws has dreadlocks and is known as a free spirit. Landri has a buzz cut and appears more serious, although his friends on the team say he has a great sense of humor once you get to know him. Landri is quiet, while Laws likes to talk -- especially on the field.
"I'm one of the more chatty guys out there," he said.
The two accept the fact that Weis seems to group them together and admit that one plays better when the other is having a good game.
"We definitely feed off each other," Laws said. "When he plays well, it helps me, when I play well, it helps him."
Defense playing better
Defense was the weak link for the Irish last season, and it continues to give up too many big plays. But the defense started playing better in the second-half comeback against Michigan State four games ago, with Landri and Laws receiving much credit for the turnaround.
"I really saw it late in the game Michigan State, when Landri and Laws and all of those guys were making plays in critical situations in the fourth quarter where they were making tackles," safety Tom Zbikowski said.
Since then, the Irish have been giving up just 63 yards a game rushing -- but that was against Purdue, Stanford and UCLA, three teams not known for their running games.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.