Irish go Inside to Avoid the Rain

<P>The Irish moved inside to the Loftus Center for Friday's practice. Rain-and a lot of it-was the reason for their first practice in doors. The Irish worked a lot on technique and fundamentals Friday at all positions. They did start to lineup as a complete unit on offense and ran a couple of plays for the first time that Irish Eyes has witnessed. </P>

The Irish had a visitor as former Oregon Duck and now Detriot Lion Joey Harrington stopped by to say hello to the Notre Dame staff and players and to get a look at the University.

Why would Joey Harrington come visit the Irish? "We recruited Joey many years ago," said Willingham. "He was an outstanding player then and he is an outstanding player now and it's nice to have him visit our campus and our football program. What it says more than that, it really says what a special place Notre Dame is. When in his travels it's one of those places that he stopped to take the time when he could have kept going on his travels back to Detroit but he chose to stop and visit our campus and I think that says a lot about Notre Dame."

Willingham was asked if Joey threw some passes. "No, the first time I saw him I was looking at the back of his head and I'm saying ‘gosh, Coach Diedrick has got a new recruit in, boy does he look good.' I was hoping it was one of those great recruits you have come through in your office."

Marcus Wilson hasn't been practicing lately. "Marcus is doubtful as we would label him day-to-day," said Willingham.

Notre Dame struggled at times with third and short situations and Willingham said it all comes down to execution. "The word execution and which we didn't do in many of those situation. You've got to get comfortable doing it and having success. We've got to get comfortable doing it."

As the Irish headed into spring, Willingham said he didn't have an actual list of things he wanted to accomplish. "There wasn't a list of major things we wanted to get accomplished. What we want to do is get back to good, sound fundamental football. Last year we probably tried to get scheme first. Sometimes that means you avoid really working on the fundamentals where you need to. In all the areas of our football team, special teams, offense, defense, we have got to be fundamentally sound. We've put a lot of time for us to do that so that has been really our major focus."

Notre Dame will be replacing a lot of players along the offensive line and at some other key positions. Some of the veterans will be counted on for leadership and Willingham spoke about what he expects out of his leaders. "What we expect from guys that we believe are our better players, our seniors, our experienced players is to provide the pace, to provide the counsel and the leadership for the younger guys. Those guys should be guys we heavily lean on and really in a sense you say ‘don't even lean on them' because you expect them to take the lead."

The Irish coaching staff seem to be focused on teaching this spring. Willingham and his staff have gone back to the basics of teaching fundamentals and technique. Most of the players understand the scheme by now and Willingham believes they need to focus on the little things to have the kind of success they hope to have in 2003. Expect them to focus on the fundamentals the entire spring to prepare for the scheme and what they plan to do in the fall of 2003.

Irish Notes

As mentioned earlier, Marcus Wilson sat out Friday's practice. With Ryan Grant also out, that leaves the Irish with one scholarship player listed as a running back in Jeff Jenkins.

Irish Eyes got their first look at the first team offensive line as the Irish lined up and ran a few plays from scrimmage. The first unit consisted of Jim Molinaro at left tackle, Mark LeVoir at left guard, Zach Giles at offensive center, Sean Milligan at right guard and Dan Stevenson at right tackle.

The second offensive line unit consisted of Brian Mattes at left tackle, Darrin Mitchell at left guard, Jeff Thompson at offensive center, James Bonelli at right guard and Jamie Ryan at right tackle.

Irish Eyes will be at practice again today beginning at 3 PM. An update will be posted soon after practice on the message boards.


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