Trent Walters worked wonders with the secondary last year. Irish Eyes asked him how he was able to get his team to play at such a high level. "I think the key thing is that we had leadership and they bought into what we're selling," said Walters. "We came in here and they tried to do everything we told them to do and they were able to execute. We got on a roll and Shane Walton made a lot of big plays. Success begets success and that's what happened. What we're going to try to do is piggyback on the success of last year and see if we can get the same thing done this year."
The Irish played a lot of both zone coverage and man coverage last year. Walters says the staff just goes with what is working at the time. "We played a lot of zone and man last year and we try to mix it up. We were close to 60 percent, 40 percent and sometimes it was 40/60. We try to create a balance and we're hoping to do the same thing this year. I think the key thing is whatever is working and your successful with is what you try to do. If we find that we're having more success this year with man then we'll have to play more man this year. We just kind of begin the season and teach how to play it and how well they play determines what we run."
Walters says that his unit should be solid again. He must find a way to replace two fine players in Shane Walton and Gerome Sapp but he says those stepping in have talent and just need experience.
Garron Bible is the likely candidate to take over the strong safety spot. Walters feels he's up to the task. "We're making real good progress," said Walters. "Garron (Bible) played some last year and has some experience. He had an excellent spring and has started out real well in the fall. He's got a lot of learning to do but he's made good progress."
Jason Beckstrom is the most likely candidate to take over for Walton. Walters says Beckstrom is playing fine and just has to get back into playing football again. "Jason Beckstrom played a lot two years ago but he got hurt last year. He's a little rusty but it's a matter of time, getting experience and practice time but he'll come around."
Quentin Burrell is one player that has really made a move. Walters thinks that Burell will push current senior and starter Glenn Earl for playing time. "I think he's going to push Glenn. I think the key thing is we need position competition. The guy that emerges number one is going to be better if he's got people to compete with. Right now we've got excellent competition at the free safety spot with Glenn Earl and Q (Quentin Burrell)."
Walters also said that the staff is trying to find the best players to start and then look for those that can fill in. "Right now we're just trying to decide on a first unit and then we'll try to find the best players to fill in the other spots. We need to find a nickel and then find a dime and play extra guys. Right now we're still in the finding stages of that."
Irish Eyes watched fall camp last year and has had the opportunity to watch some fall camp this year and one player that impresses us is Mike Richardson. Richardson is learning the position after playing wide receiver in high school but he is always around the ball and appears to have excellent recovery speed.
Richardson has impressed Walters and he says he has the talent but just needs to become more consistent out there. "He's made good progress," said Walters of Richardson. "Michael had some development last year and there is a lot more he needs to work on. I think he's going to be a real good player for us but we'll have to see how he progresses in fall camp."
Four more players that don't get a lot of mention are Carlos Campbell, Dwight Ellick, Lionel Bolen and Jake Carney. All seem to have a ways to go before becoming factors. "They're all making progress," said Walters. "Dwight Ellick had a good spring and he's playing real well right now. We just hope he continues to make progress and has a chance to compete with Beckstrom."
"Jake Carney had a little setback, he's doing O.K. We just need to see him make some progress this fall camp. He's got potential to be a good player but we've just got to see it first. He's got to develop."
"Lionel has been around. He had some experience last year. He might be pushed by the freshman Parish this fall though."
Carlos Campbell just made the switch to corner this past spring. Walters says he has some work to do as well but could be a factor. "I think Carlos is going to be able to help us. He didn't do a lot in the spring as far as hitting but he worked hard over the summer and I see a lot of improvement from this spring."
The returning starters are Glenn Earl and Vontez Duff. Walters says he expects both players to have great years for Notre Dame. "He's a hitter and a natural at free safety and we don't anticipate moving him to another position," said Walters of Glenn Earl. "We think he's going to play to his potential and be the best player he can be and will have a really good year. Vontez should have a good year too depending on where they throw the ball. I expect all the seniors to have a good year. They know what we are doing and they should all have good years."
Walters certainly has the talent needed to field a solid secondary. His success last year should give Irish fans confidence in the secondary for 2003. This unit probably has the most concerns but Walters didn't seem too concerned about his group of players. Irish Eyes feels that the secondary should be solid if not spectacular in 2003.