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August 14, 2001
Root, Linebackers Catch Davie's Eye
By The IrishEyes.Com NewsService
NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) – Tight end Matt Root got a big thumbs up from Bob Davie on Tuesday while big Mark LeVoir heard the inevitable.
Davie said that LeVoir, a 315-pound prep All American tight end, has moved to tackle.
"Whatever ball LeVoir was going to catch, he was going to catch yesterday," Davie said. "He knew it."
Root, however, has been one of the freshmen that has caught Davie's eye through the three practices the freshmen have had so far. He is all the more impressive because he suffered a pretty serious knee injury to his ACL in his final high school game for North Florida Christian in Tallahassee.
"Matt Root, from a ball skills standpoint—caching the ball and running routes—is an impressive guy," Davie said. "He is an impressive guy. He's 5-6, 240 pounds and probably exceeds our expectations because he's coming off the knee injury."
With the loss of Jabari Holloway and Dan O'Leary, the Irish lack experience and consistency at tight end. John Owens, who mostly played at backup defensive end last season, has some time at the position in his freshman and sophomore years, and has been impressive catching the ball. Gary Godsey, the onetime quarterback, still needs to learn the position and beef up a bit.
With the mix the way it is that position, Davie said Root has a chance to see some playing time—and not just on special teams.
"A lot depends with him on just keeping his weight up and taking care of his body," Davie said. "There's no question from a ball skills standpoint—catching the ball and running routes—he's definitely in the mix."
With the freshmen, LeVoir has been practicing at both the left and right side tackle spots. With Kurt Vollers, Jordan Black and Brennan Curtin returning at tackle, it would be wise to red-shirt LeVoir; but Davie said line coach Steve Addazio is high on him.
"Steve really likes him," Davie said. "He likes his footwork and his quickness."
MOVIN' UP: Like we told you, Rashon Powers-Neal has been working at strong safety, but Davie acknowledged Tuesday that he will probably end up at a linebacking spot.
"We're just playing him there because from safety, it gives you a good foundation for a lot of other things," Davie said. "I see him being a linebacker, probably; but right now, we have three freshmen linebackers and it depends on what happens to Justin Tuck and Corey Mays," Davie said.
Davie said Powers-Neal is 212 and "he can be 230. He's probably going to be a linebacker at some point. For a big guy, he has good ball skils. We did those ball drills with all the defensive players yesterday and he can catch the ball."
POOCH PUNTS: Speaking of Powers-Neal's potential to grow, Davie said the eyes of Mickey Marotti, strength and conditioning coordinator,are just bulging when he takes a look at the freshmen.
"Some of those guys, if they just sit next to Mickey, they gain 10 pounds," Davie quipped. "Mickey's like a damn kid in a candy store looking at these guys. He looks at Justin Tuck (listed at 6-5 and 215 pounds) and just foams at the mouth."
The three freshmen linebackers are also growing on Davie. "Those guys got a lot of personality and they are good athletes," Davie said. "I think we've really helped ourselves at this stage with the linebackers."
Walk-on D.J. Fitzpatrick, from local Marion High School in Granger, Ind., will have a chance to compete with Nick Setta and David Miller for kickoffs…
Davie said his barbecue for the freshmen was a big hit, except for temperatures that got downright chilly when the sun went down. "Some guys were whining—Matt Root and those kids from Florida," Davie said. "Though it did actually get cold last night."…
Besides the linebackers, Root and Powers-Neal, Davie also said running back Ryan Grant and Quentin Burrell have caught his eye, although Grant has pulled up with a sore hamstring. Doesn't sound too serious, though.