Let the Hitting Begin

<P>Notre Dame resumed spring practice yesterday and the hitting had begun. The Irish weren't in full gear but the shoulder pads were on as the Irish prepared for their first hitting session of the season. </P>

Coach Tyrone Willingham said the Irish stepped up the tempo on Thursday and he was pleased with the results. "I think with the addition of pads, the practice tempo will change a little bit which is a welcome sign. We have to be one of those football teams that plays with a great deal of passion and I think with the addition of pads our men felt that and kind of stepped up the tempo a little bit. Were we as execution perfect as I would have liked to have seen, absolutely not but it was a great beginning to move towards that process."

Willingham talked about some of his younger players and how they might contribute to the team. A lot of eyes are on Chris Olsen as some Irish fans anticipate he will take the number two or even number one quarterback position on the depth chart. "With Olsen, there is no question as a quarterback, it's a pivotal position for us as a football team. Therefore, anything that Chris can add to us makes us a much stronger football team. What I am hopeful of is that he will continue to improve, get better and hopefully challenge for our number one spot because that will make us a stronger football team."

Derek Landri is another player Irish fans hope to hear more from in the future. Landri reported to Notre Dame as the most heralded player in the 2002 recruiting class. Landri suffered a broken leg prior to reporting to Notre Dame so his progress has been slowed. Willingham talked about Landri and what he hopes to see from him this spring. "Derek is not able to give us all he is capable of giving us right now, "said Willingham. "When that day comes, we are eager to see him perform and perform well."

Willingham was asked how much Landri's injury has hurt in his development as a player. "I don't think its hurt him at all. In many cases, your freshmen are red-shirted anyway. What he really missed was an opportunity to get into the system a little deeper but with his understanding of the game of football, I'm quite sure that will come along rapidly."

Offensive line has been the topic of spring and Willingham also spoke about offensive center Zach Giles and offensive guard Mark LeVoir. Both will be competing for starting positions along the offensive line. "The biggest thing is they have a sincere desire to be good players. They did that during the winter. They were always in the offices, they were always making the extra effort to include themselves and what's happened is that has been extended to the field, they are starting to do all the little things. I think with that attitude they have got a chance to prove themselves and be quality players in our system."

Ryan Grant hasn't been able to practice this spring as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Willingham says he doesn't see that as a setback for his team. "I don't look at anything as a setback. One player is not there, that's an opportunity for another player to pick up the ball and run with it. We want Ryan to be involved, we want him to be there but at the same time, if something should happen to Ryan in the first ballgame we expect the next guy to step up and carry it and rush for 1200 yards."

The Irish were without the services of Marcus Wilson today as he sat out of practice. Gary Godsey, Mike Goolsby and Ryan Grant also sat out of practice. The Irish practiced today with one scholarship player listed as a tailback in Jeff Jenkins.

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