Ellick Earns First Start

<P>Junior cornerback Dwight Ellick recently got his first lengthy game experience playing cornerback. Ellick reported to Notre Dame playing most of his high school football as a running back but was switched to corner his freshman year in college. Ellick has gradually moved up the depth charts for what will be his first start against Pittsburgh. </P>

"It was fun," said Ellick of his first playing experience. "I went out there and competed. Unfortunately we didn't get the win. I've been preparing every week like I would be playing a lot. Unfortunately after the first game, I sprained my MCL. I had to miss some days because of it. When I came back, I came back healthy and strong. The coaches believed in me and put me in there."

Ellick says the move to cornerback has been difficult for him but he's worked hard to get to where he is now. "I worked on my technique a lot. If I had played more DB (defensive back) in high school I think my technique would've been better. Just working on my technique, being a lot more physical and getting a lot stronger. I would probably say attitude as well."

The Tampa, FL native said he never doubted he could start at Notre Dame. "I've always been a cocky, confident type of person. Even when I came in and my technique wasn't that great and I wasn't that strong, I still felt I could play. I would say ‘why not me?' That could be me out there. There was never a time when I doubted myself."

Defensive backs coach Trent Walters says he's noticed a big improvement in Ellick and he's earned the start against Pittsburgh. When asked if Ellick would be starting, Walters nodded yes.

"I think he gotten tougher, physically tougher," said Walters of Ellick. "I think the other thing would be that he's gotten more consistent in his coverage technique. In the spring and this fall he's shown more consistency in that area of knowing where to line up, what to key and how to execute the coverage."

Ellick felt he should be starting all along but Walters says he hadn't seen that on the field until recently. "I used to tell him ‘you talk a good game, you've got to play a game.' He talks about wanting to start and want to do this, then I say ‘you say one thing but I don't see you reflecting in your practice, in the classroom, in your knowledge and things like that.' The last two weeks he's really improved."

Ellick says he will go about the rest of the season as if he is the starter at cornerback. With Vontez Duff leaving next year, Walters will have to find someone to handle the opposition's best receiver. Ellick says he hopes Walters will look to him. "I look at the rest of the season as I'm the starter. I'm going to prepare every week, compete every week and start every game. I'm going to carry that into next season. Hopefully next season the coaches will look to me like they look to Vontez (Duff) this year. No matter who they have on their team, they'll want to match Vontez up with their best guy. We feel we can line number 34 up with any receiver on the other side and he's going to shut them down. Hopefully next year the coaches and my teammates look at me with that same respect."

Ellick says he wishes the coaching staff looked to him to be that guy right now. He knows he has to improve but he says he wants to go against the best receiver. "When the coaches say, ‘Vontez, we're going to line you up with him all game,' I look at it as I wish they were saying that to me. My time will come. It could be sometime this year or it could be next year. Every time I go out on the field, I look at it as this is their best receiver and I'm going to shut him down."

The Irish defense will have the difficult task of facing Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford and the nation's leading receiver in Larry Fitzgerald next Saturday. Ellick says the secondary looks forward to the challenge. "Me personally, and the rest of the defense, we're definitely looking forward to the challenge. They have a high-powered offense--they like to go deep a lot. It seems like their offense goes out there and thinks they can dominate everybody, they're a very confident offense. I think we can go out there and compete with them at every position. We're going to go out there and do our thing."

Ellick agrees that Fitzgerald is one heck of a player. He said he thinks Fitzgerald has the right attitude and that makes him a great receiver. "I'd probably say attitude. He's not the fastest guy in the world but he's a big, strong receiver. Some of the catches that he makes, I basically think he makes those catches because of attitude. You see some guys go out there and they don't have that attitude like ‘I'm going to catch every ball that comes my way.' He definitely has that attitude. I think that is what makes him a good receiver."

Ellick certainly has the attitude to play the position. He's not lacking in confidence and that is half the battle at cornerback. His first start will be against a very good offensive team. Ellick and the rest of the secondary will have to execute very well if they want to have a chance to win the game.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories