By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND -- Cornerback Robert Blanton is the talk of Notre Dame.
The 6-1, 180-pound freshman from Matthews, N.C., loves to talk and talk and talk.
"He's not afraid of anyone and he's not afraid to tell anyone in the free world whose willing to listen," coach Charlie Weis said. "He's a chirper."
"Chirper" is about the most polite description for Blanton, who answers questions with polite responses of "Yes sir" and "No sir," and feigns surprise when told how everyone from his teammates to his coaches all describe him as a world class yapper. He also at first denies talking trash.
"I ask them how their day is going. I make sure their family is doing OK. That's about it," he said, smiling broadly the entire time.
He later admits, though, that he likes trying to get into the heads of those he is covering.
"If you get them on a bad day you can really break their spirits with a little bit of words," Blanton said.
Weis clearly enjoys Blanton's attitude.
In a practice in October, Blanton intercepted a pass at practice, ran it back about 10 yards to where the offensive players were, dove as if he were an NFL player scoring a touchdown, then stood and spiked the ball. The offensive players didn't like it much, but Weis thought it was great.
"I thought was hilarious," said Weis, who has been urging the Irish all season long to play with emotion.
Blanton's role with the Irish defense has grown all season. He didn't play in the season-opener, got on the field a little the next week against Michigan and saw more and more playing time throughout the season. He finally starting the last three games because Terrail Lambert was out with an ankle injury.
In the regular-season finale against USC, he had a season-high seven tackles and an interception. He also had a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown against Purdue. He's expected to play a key role again when the Irish (6-6) face Hawaii (7-6) in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
The key to getting on the field, Blanton said, was learning there are different ways to play corner.
"It's not just like you can only play corner one way. There's different ways you can disguise your coverage, different ways you can play your coverage," he said. "I've learned that the more I mix it up the better I play."
Defensive coordinator Corwin Brown said he can't recall being around a cornerback as confident as Blanton is at his age.
"The closest thing is probably Ty (Law) confidence wise. I don't know ability wise if he'll be in that class. I was at Michigan when Ty came in," he said. "So we'll see what happens."
Brown said he would never tell Blanton to tone down his cockiness.
"You just let it go, see what happens," he said.
Blanton said his trash talking and doing things like diving into the end zone in practice are just his way of having fun.
"I think if you're having fun it makes everyone better. You just play better when you're having fun," he said. "If you're not having fun, you don't want to be out there, you're not going to play as hard. If you're having fun and you want to be out there you're going to be flying around and when you're flying around you're going to make some plays."
Weis said he's interested in seeing how Blanton continues to progress over the next three years.
"Because he's backing up his mouth, which that's a good thing to see," Weis said. "I really like him out there."