Staying Aggressive

<b> Jeff Womble</b> has watched enough film of Notre Dame freshman quarterback <b> Brady Quinn </b> to be impressed. "He's good for a freshman quarterback," said Womble, who will return to Florida State's defensive line Saturday against the Irish after missing the past two games (Virginia and Wake Forest) with a partially torn right bicep muscle. "In a couple of years, he's going to be a lot better. He can throw the ball pretty good if you give him time.

He only seems to get rattled when guys are all in his face, batting his passes down and making him try to get out of the pocket. As far as him sitting back in the pocket, he's a pretty good quarterback."

Quinn has opened eyes with his poise and confidence, having completed 82 of 176 passes for 987 yards and five touchdowns with eight interceptions.

Quinn's strongest performance came in last Saturday's defeat at Boston College. He completed 23 of 39 for a career-best 350 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Quinn's yardage total was the most by a Notre Dame quarterback since Nov. 25, 1978, when Joe Montana threw for 358 yards in a loss at USC.

The BC game also reflected Quinn's growing knowledge of Notre Dame complex offense as he distributed the ball to 10 different receivers, the most for the Irish in four seasons. Quinn made his first career start at Purdue on Sept. 27, completing 29 of 59 passes for 297 yards and one touchdown with four interceptions.

Quinn has had to work behind an Irish offensive line that has been retooled since last season. Four of the five starters from last year were selected in the NFL Draft, taking with them more than 80 combined starts and nine combined seasons of starting experience.

Not helping matters is that Sean Milligan, the lone returning starter with 19 career starts, has missed the last four games due to injury. Left tackle Jim Molinaro has the most experience on current starting line (10 career starts), while right tackle Ryan Harris is just the third Irish freshman to start on the offensive line in the last 30 years.

Still, Womble remains wary of the Irish.

"They are big and long-armed," Womble said.

"You have guys like that, a lot of times they don't have to be the best athletes. They are so big, and kind of wide with long arms, they get their hands out there and get a hand on you and try to keep you at bay. I think we have to just attack them, get up field and put the pressure on them."

Having to rely on more youth than it traditionally desires, Notre Dame has struggled most of the season -- the Irish are ranked 103rd nationally in total offense and 73rd in scoring defense. Last year against FSU, Notre Dame capitalized on three Seminole turnovers during a four-minute span in the fourth quarter and shut down FSU's productive running game.

"They are physical but they also are real disciplined," Womble said.

"They are going to hit you with you with the same plays but they are going to wait for that one person to be out of their gap, or that one person not to come down on a dive, or something like that, and they will break the big play. Last year most of their points came off of long runs, long touchdowns. They just wait. They keep their game plan. They don't get rattled and keep chipping away, chipping away until somebody on the defense makes a mistake or gets out of place."

Womble expects the Irish to rely on the run to set the game's tempo. If the Irish look to run, keep an eye on senior running back Julius Jones. Jones turned in the finest single-game rushing performance in school history Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh, piling up a school-record 262 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns.

Jones broke the nearly 25-year-old Notre Dame record of 255 yards by Vagas Ferguson at Georgia Tech on Nov. 18, 1978.

"I've been saying to myself they will want to try to beat us with the run," Womble said.

"Try to out-physical us. They probably look at a lot of film and say, ‘Oh, these guys are fast and stuff like that.' They have a freshman quarterback, so I don't think they want to put too much on his hands. I think they are going to try to pound No. 22 (Jones)."

Womble, who says he continues to regain needed strength in his right arm, is thrilled to be returning to the Seminoles' lineup. Much has been made of the Irish tradition and mystique this week, and Womble is looking forward to the trip to South Bend, Ind.

"I didn't want to miss this one," Womble said and smiled.

"But everything so far has been good. I've been working on coming off the ball. I have to try to make up for some of the strength I don't have back yet. I have to make up for it. Just watching the ball. Make sure I come off the ball and be aggressive."

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