Young Players Making an Impact

<P>Coach Tyrone Willingham said the Blue-Gold game was a time for players to show their athletic ability. Some younger players took advantage of that opportunity and had solid games for their teams. Irish Eyes spoke with some of these players to get their reaction to their performance. </P>

Bob Morton is competing for the starting center position and he had a solid game. Morton was seen a number of times opening holes and holding his own against some of the better interior defensive linemen on the Irish squad. "It was a lot of fun", said Morton. "Usually you are working with Jim Molinaro, Mark LeVoir, Sean Milligan and Dan Stevenson and to have that change a little bit, definitely you have to make sure your technique is perfect. You're not going to have the stability on both sides of the line because those guys are battle-tested. Guys we haven't molded with, we had to mold with real quick."

Morton and Dillingham had some problems with the exchange. There were a number of dropped center exchanges. Morton wasn't certain what the problem was but knows it will be taken care of. "Pat and I have talked about it we don't really know what the problem is. We have some film so we're going to look at the film and we're going to fix the problem over the summer and it's not going to happen again, I can promise you that."

Morton feels he has improved a great deal since spring practice began. "I think I proved that I could get out there and play a bit. (I) Showed the guys that I'm in this battle. It's going to be a big summer. I showed all of them that I'm committed to this 100 percent and next year is going to be one heck of a time."

Morton is pleased with his progress but feels the offensive line has areas they can improve and that includes himself. "We really need to work on becoming a unit. Jimmy Mo (Molinaro), Dan Stevenson and Sean Milligan, they've all been in and gotten playing time at that level. We really need to come together as a cohesive unit and not be five individual players but really be one offensive line."

Morton's injury has limited him in his physical training. Morton admitted that he isn't in the best shape because of the injury and plans to work on that over the summer. "I would have to say that I was not in the best game shape and that's something I definitely need to work on. 60 minutes out of my day is really not a whole lot. When you think that I'm getting tired after the first 25 (minutes), that's a shame and that is not what football is about."

Defensive lineman Derek Landri is in a similar situation to Morton. Landri enrolled last august nursing an injury and hasn't really been able to play full speed until just recently. Landri said that his injury has also hurt his physical condition. "I came back about half way through spring practice. Even then I was trying to get used to everything and the pace of the game. Slowly but surely it's going to come around."

Landri said he isn't sure how much he has improved in the limited time he has been able to practice. "I don't know, I'll have to watch film. If you are not improving then you're in trouble. I would like to think I've improved a little bit."

Landri's limited time has made it hard for him to make progress. Learning technique has helped him but there is no substitute for getting out there and mixing it up. Landri struggled early in the Blue-Gold game but really improved in the second half. "It's just getting used to everything that was going on. At first you're just trying to figure out everything that is going on and by the end of the game you're just going." Landri was being modest because he clearly improved in the latter part of the game and Irish fans saw glimpses of the potential he possesses.

Landri knows he needs to make improvement this summer in his physical condition because of the injury but he also feels he needs to improve in all areas. "I think it's everything. If you don't work at everything you're going to lack one thing and get beat at that. I need to get bigger, strength-wise, mass-wise and I need to get quicker as well. There's a whole different type of technique from high school so you always have to work on your technique."

Landri did pretty well against some of the better lineman on the Irish offense. He held his own against many of them but Landri isn't satisfied at all with that. "I don't like the phrase ‘held your own' because that is not accomplishing what you wanted to. As far as I go, I think I was lacking a lot of things just because I haven't been through that situation in a while. Other than that, I think it wasn't too bad."

Nate Schiccatano also had a solid game. He made a number of solid runs and ran with power earning praise from Tyrone Willingham after the game. Schiccatano will likely be a fullback in the spring and that is fine with him. "Running backs like getting the ball," said Schiccatano. "I like doing all three things, catching the ball, blocking and running the ball. I think that's some of the things that I bring to the table."

Schiccatano admitted he was nervous out there. "I was pretty nervous out there. Last night I was thinking in my head how it was going to be out there. I just didn't know quite the feeling when you are actually out there. When you get the ball and actually running and being on the field."

Schiccatano is realizing a dream, as he has always wanted to play for Notre Dame. "It's an amazing feeling, it's hard to describe. Thinking when you're a little a kid, always wanting to be here and working hard and it's just a great feeling knowing that a lot of hard work paid off and making it this far."

Schiccatano did have some nice runs but he felt he could've done more. "A couple of runs I thought I should've had more or could've broke it more. I know I was hesitant on the reads but I'm pretty happy."

Fullback will be his spot in the fall and Schiccatano plans to work on that over the summer. He said playing both running back and fullback probably hindered his development at fullback this spring. "Probably this summer, I'm going to get the with coach a couple of times and go over the fullback position. This fall, (I will) work on my blocking a lot. I came in the spring thinking fullback full time and then with the injuries they switched me to running back. I was trying to learn the fullback during spring practice but switching over to running back, I know I learned a lot more and got more grasping of the offense."

Chris Olsen has fought all spring for the number two spot at quarterback. He had a solid game in the Blue-Gold game and feels he has made some progress during the spring. "I think I've made pretty good strides this spring. I was a lot more comfortable out there. I knew the pass routes, I knew the pass protections and I knew my hot reads and I was able to audible a lot better."

Olsen admits he struggle early in spring practice but it all started to come to together for him as the spring went along. "The beginning of spring practice, I don't know if I was frustrated or just trying to do what I learned in the off-season. I was a little more of a robot. By practice six or seven, I got a lot more fluid, doing things by instinct, knowing about the protection, what guy is going to come free and what guy I had to avoid so I think it made it a lot easier."

Olsen got into a groove in the second half. At the end of the third quarter, he was 6-for-8 in passing for over 100 yards in the second half. Olsen said he was just a little nervous in the first half. "There were a little jitters out there again out there for the first time. (I was) Just trying to get used to who you were playing with. We were a little out of synch. Once we got out there with the Blue offense in the second half, things started rolling, we started making some plays and we scored on three straight drives."

Olsen probably made a statement in the game about who should be the number two quarterback. Coach Tyrone Willingham has said that one game will not undue the performance of 14 practices but as Willingham has said, there is no substitute for game experience. Olsen certainly showed toughness and the ability to make plays and that will likely count for something. Top Stories