Coach Tyrone Willingham seemed to be in good spirits after practice. He seemed pleased with the effort and what they had accomplished this week. "I think our guys enjoyed the practice session today. I think they had a lot of fun and hopefully at the same time we made some progress forward."
Watching the 2002 Irish, it was clearly obvious the team attitude had changed. They were confident and they were having a lot of fun playing football. Willingham says that is the type of attitude he wants to see out of his team. "It's just joy," he said. "It really starts with a love of life. I hope all our guys really enjoy this life that they have and then football becomes and extension of their joy of life and then they play the game with a great deal of enthusiasm and a great deal of joy."
Cornerback Jason Beckstrom had to sit out last year with an injury but he has returned to practice this spring. Willingham talked about what he hopes Beckstrom learned while watching from the sideline last year. "I hope the first perspective is one of hunger. I think Jason would be the first to say that he is eager to get back in and get back involved and really be a part of having this team have success. I think a player gains a great deal of experience from just sitting and watching other guys do it sometimes if you have the right mindset and I think Jason had that. I think he was well-prepared in terms of what he should look for in order to make himself a better player in that experience."
Overall, Willingham seems very pleased with the week of practice and the effort his team put forth on the field. "I think it has been a good week for our team. The things we wanted to accomplish, I don't dare say we accomplished them yet but I would say we've started in that direction. We wanted to work on fundamentals and that was a major part of our emphasis and that will continue throughout spring practice. Then of course you are always looking to better yourself with your schemes and your understanding. We said in the passing game we want to find out spacing, we want to learn how to do things better and I think we've made a good start at that."
The Irish are lacking depth due to injuries this spring. Ryan Grant, Mike Goolsby, Gary Godsey and Marcus Wilson are not practicing. Others are limited in how much they can participate. Willingham said those losses do not affect how he wants to practice or how much hitting his team will do this spring. "We've never been a team that does full scrimmages a lot. We think we can accomplish just as much in what we call our thud situation. It's a normal practice for us so no, having different guys injured doesn't change our pace. What we say is it provides another opportunity for another young man to step in and show what he can do."
Willingham also spoke about scrimmaging and when the Irish would be likely to scrimmage. "It always depends on what you really call a scrimmage. We will have scrimmage-like elements you could say every day. Our team situation is a scrimmage-like situation but we don't do the full tackle, we don't take people to the ground. At the same time we are practicing game situations and to us in a sense that's a scrimmage mindset."
The Irish did do more hitting Saturday than they had in previous practices. The entire team seemed very positive and excited as they walked back towards the stadium to change. Willingham was in good spirits so it appears that things are going as planned.
The team has Sunday and Monday off and will return to practice on Tuesday and Irish Eyes will be there giving you the insight into what is happening with Notre Dame spring football.