The Irish started their third practice with some special teams work on Wednesday. Kicker Nicholas Setta looked like the old Nick out there today with booming kicks and excellent accuracy on his field goal attempts. He will be the kicker and should be a very good one in 2003.
Today was a good day and a bad day for a lot of Irish players. Starting quarterback Carlyle Holiday made a number of impressive throws today but also made a few bad throws. Consistency is what offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Bill Diedrick is looking for and Holiday appears to be much closer than he was but not quite there yet.
The Irish ended their practice with a little 11-on-11 today and the defense clearly had the upper hand. The Irish quarterbacks were on the run most of time during this drill but the good news is that often times they made something happen. Holiday, Chris Olsen and Brady Quinn showed a knack for making plays on the move—something Diedrick has to be excited about.
Willingham was cautious praising his team today. "I thought it was a good day in some aspects and some areas were not probably as well as I'd like them to be," said Willingham. "Overall I thought the team moved around fairly well."
Quite a few freshmen saw a lot of action today. Players like Freddie Parish, Victor Abiamiri and all the freshmen wide receivers were given quite a few chances today to impress the coaches. Willingham talked about why so many freshmen saw action today.
"As you get closer to game time and they're not up in that two-deep, it becomes very difficult for them to get involved," said Willingham. "We like to involve them for two reasons. Number one, they need it for their development. You usually figure that they really don't know as much as our veteran players do so the more you get them (experience) the farther along they come. Also, we need it because you need to get your veteran players to stay as fresh as possible. The more freshmen or newer guys you can work into your rotation, the more it allows your team to still get work but stay a little fresher in terms of their legs."
Irish Eyes reported earlier this month and again today that we didn't feel Mike Goolsby was going to play this year. Willingham was asked what Brandon Hoyte's role becomes if Goolsby isn't ready to go. Willingham made it clear that neither Goolsby, nor anyone was guaranteed a starting position. "We have to be very careful. Often we assume that certain things are guaranteed for certain people. In the game of football, you've got to earn your stripes. You have to do it in practice so there's no guarantee that Mike would have been the starter. I say that in general, not speaking to Mike but speaking to all the players on this football team. Everybody has got to earn it—there are no guarantees. Coach Willingham tells the team he doesn't care who plays along as it's our best player."
Willingham was clear that he wasn't sure who would've earned the right to start at middle linebacker. "You don't know who would've have earned that right because Brandon Hoyte did some good things last year just like Mike did. If Mike is down then the most likely person that steps into that spot will probably be Brandon."
Gary Godsey is coming back from an ACL injury. He looked to be fully healed and moving well but suffered a setback today. "Gary suffered an injury this day or re-injured to a degree," said Willingham of Godsey's injury. "We don't know what that degree is or do we know if it's truly injured. We'll take a good look and see what it is and make that decision or the announcement as to what the status is."
The defensive line is returning plenty of talent. Willingham was asked if this defensive line had the opportunity to be one of the best he's ever coached. "We just want them to realize the talent that they have. Anything that doesn't get them to that level is very difficult for a coach to deal with. I think you determine that by their play. Hopefully at the end of the season you'll be able to write a great story that this is one of the all-time best defensive lines that's played at Notre Dame. We hope that is the case."
Omar Jenkins looks to be placing himself into the playmaker role. Jenkins has simply gotten better every single year he's been at Notre Dame. Jenkins has improved his speed this year and should be the main target for Carlyle Holiday. Irish Eyes has no idea what his actual 40 time is but Jenkins hit the afterburners today and left everyone in the dust.
Along the same lines, Maurice Stovall and Rhema McKnight had very good showings today. Stovall's hands and size are improved. He made an amazing fingertip catch on a long ball that would've made Sportscenter. Not to be outdone, McKnight made a number of diving catches today of his own and looked quick out there.
The freshmen receivers continue to impress Irish Eyes. All four possess something that really stands out. Jeff Samardzija looks every bit the Ed McCaffrey comparisons but may run even better. He is just a natural out there and we haven't seen him drop a ball. Chinedum Ndukwe continues to impress with his body, hands and speed. A player to watch out for is Chase Anastasio. He has that wiggle and burst that the great ones have. Also, Ambrose Wooden is slight in stature but boy is he quick. Our first impression is that all four appear better than we thought they would be.
More freshmen that have impressed. Freddie Parish will not sit long. He is going to play and play often and early—likely this year considering how much time defensive back coach Trent Walters spends coaching him up. Victor Abiamiri, Greg Olsen, John Carlson, Travis Thomas and John Sullivan all had great days on the field.
Julius Jones looks to be better than he's ever been. He is showing more lateral movement than previous years and still has that blinding speed even with the extra bulk. Brother Thomas Jones has to get an assist but Julius certainly put the work in. Congrats to Julius and best wishes on a good year.
Making Some Noise. Derek Landri
We are not sure if he is 100 percent but I would sure like to see him at 100 percent if he isn't. Derek Landri is starting to make some noise.
Chris Frome sat out all of practice today and was riding the stationary bike. No status was given after practice.
The Irish practice again tomorrow at 3:30 PM and take the day off on Friday for media day.
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