The first guy we tracked down was Jerome Collins. Collins certainly looked in shape and is hoping to make an impact this year. "It was fun," said Collins of his summer workouts. "I worked a lot harder than I have any summer since I've been here. I want to play a lot this year so I really focused harder this summer."
Collins certainly looked the part tipping the scales at 256 pounds. Collins could see more time if middle linebacker Mike Goolsby can't play. Collins says he's ready. "We have a lot of linebackers that can play a lot of positions right now. We have depth because of that. I should be playing a lot of outside linebacker and hopefully I'm in on nickel situations to rush the passer."
Where you find Jerome Collins, usually Derek Curry isn't too far behind. The two have been roommates and they are usually together. Curry is excited about fall camp. "I expect to learn a lot this camp and hopefully get back into the swing of things," said Curry. "After summer, you feel like you don't know much about football because all you do is condition and lift a lot. I'm just ready to get back into pads and get back to football."
Curry says that the leadership has been outstanding so far this summer. "There's a lot of leaders on this team. I think our senior class has done an excellent job of leading by example and not just talking. Everybody is ready to go and I can't want to get started."
The Irish didn't finish strong last year and Curry says that this has been a topic of conversation all spring and summer. "We talked about attention to detail and that is our focus and the focus of the coaching staff. We're just focused on getting back to the basics. This team is more focused than any team since I've been here and I've been here three years now."
Curry is always a character so I asked him how many sacks for Derek Curry this year? "I don't know. I can show you better than I can tell you--hopefully a lot."
Linebacker Brandon Hoyte was also hanging around so Irish Eyes got a chance to speak to the blossoming star. "I want to go into fall camp—and I think the mindset of the whole team is the same way—I just want to go in hungry. We know how we finished the season last year and I think those thoughts are what's going to fuel us and be hungry. For me personally, I just want to win and that's the bottom line."
Hoyte is a little smaller than most of the linebackers (although he is huge for his size) but Hoyte lowers quite the boom on opposing players. I asked him how he can hit so hard. "I think that is the way this game is supposed to be played. Old school, I don't know how to play football any other way. We can speak of finesse and technique and those things are definitely useful but I think bringing that fierce mentality of hitting is vital."
Hoyte says this defense is definitely hungry. "I think everyone on this team is hungry for a position. I think everyone on this team is hungry for the NCAA title and that's what is going to fuel us."
Irish Eyes also got to the bottom of the wrestling battle between Trevor Laws and John Sullivan. Both players were hanging around and punching each other like brothers. These two obviously have a special bond between them already.
Trevor Laws can't wait to get started. "It's a dream come true man, I'm really excited to go out on the field and playing with this guys you see on TV all the time. Just going out and testing myself against them and see what kind of skills I really have. I'm a little bit nervous but I'm anxious to get going."
Both Laws and Sullivan gave us the scoop on the wresting match. "I beat him down all the time," said Laws. "That's just not true," said Sullivan. "The fact is that Trevor gave me a forearm to the head one time," said Sullivan. "We just stopped because we didn't want to get too sweaty. And then we were in my kitchen and I remember tossing Trevor and catching him before he hit the ground." "I had slippery socks on," said Laws. "I will go on record right now and say Trevor Laws will destroy me in wrestling," said Sullivan, "but football might be a different story." Laws wasn't so sure. "We'll see about that." The two obviously are going to have some classic battles both on and off the field.
Sullivan spent much of the summer working out with the team. He says that he thinks he's ready and stacks up pretty well with most of the offensive linemen on the team. "From what I did this summer, I think I did pretty well," said Sullivan. "I definitely felt like I was behind at the beginning of the summer but I thought I caught up pretty well. Mentally, I'm not where they are because I've only been in the system for a short time. I guess we'll really find that out when practice starts."
Irish Eyes also caught up with the two hopefuls for the starting center position. Zach Giles certainly looks like one of the strongest men on the team as has been reported by Irish Eyes. Giles was excited about reporting to camp and competing. "I'm ready, I'm just going to go out and do my best. I think I had a really good summer. I'm ready to go."
When Giles left spring practice, he talked to the coaches about what he needed to improve on and then he went to work. "I've worked hard on my technique and getting my foot-speed up and my hand speed up. Some of these kids are just faster so I felt that I had to get used to blocking guys like Ced (Cedric Hilliard) and D.C. (Darrell Campbell). Now I just need to do it during the season."
Giles says he hopes the battle at center is decided soon. "I think there are five guys out there playing and I want them to gain confidence in me. Either way (Giles or Morton starting) I think it's better for the team to get it decided early. If one guy takes it then it will be better for the team. We have four new guys starting and the faster we start building as a unit, the better it will be for the team. I'm just going to try to work as hard as I can to get it."
The offensive line has been the topic of discussion all spring, summer and likely will be all camp. Giles says this unit is ready to prove something. "I'll go to war with any of these guys. I'll stand up with them. I think we're young so people aren't giving us a lot of credit so we're just going to go out and prove ourselves and prove we can move the ball. We don't want to be the problem and we want to put some points up so this is where the men step up and the boys sit down."
Morton says he's also worked really hard this summer. "I know I did all I could to get ready. Everbody on the team did all they could. I got stronger, got bigger and got faster—everything I needed to do."
Morton says he's ready to go out and compete. "I don't feel nervous about it. Zach and I knew this was coming. We knew it was going to be a battle between the spring and the first game. We're more anticipating showing what we can go out there and do more so than being nervous."
Giles has the upper hand in experience and Morton knows he needs to work on the mental part of the game. "I think I need to quicken everything up. I'm doing everything I need to do by calling all the defenses and knowing my assignment. By the time I get out (of his stance), we have three seconds to set up the wall and that's not really comfortable in case someone shifts. I really think that is what I need to work on--getting my mind and speed up to the level of the game."
Notes. Coach Willingham showed up and will be staying with the team. He had his rollerblades with him and was all smiles in anticipation. He spent the entire time talking with his players.
The entire freshman class was seen hanging out with each other. They all went for a walk around campus. If missed most of their arrivals but did see Brady Quinn and Freddie Parish arrive. Parish was fired up to get going. He walks and talks with a lot of confidence. Quinn looked like a champion boxer walking to a prize fight. He's is such a focused guy and looked to be having a mental talk with himself. You could almost hear the dialogue in his head.
Carlyle Holiday showed up looking huge. That kid is huge and I don't think he wants to miss any time this year. Julius Jones also looks fantastic. He was not available to the media but he was all smiles in anticipation of playing again. Big Ced and Darrell Campbell also appear to be in the best shape of their lives as does Mark LeVoir. LeVoir probably has had the best transformation and looks to have lost any and all extra weight. He is just one big, solid guy. This was very exciting to see. Sean Milligan also looked trim and ready to go.
Irish Eyes will be there on Tuesday for the first practice. The Irish have a closed practice today and will be practicing from 3.30 to 5:30 Tuesday through Thursday. The first two-a-day is Saturday followed by one practice on Sunday.