The practice today was in shoulder pads, helmets, and shorts and the format was the same as it has been all spring. In the time we observed practice, it was obvious the players were more relaxed as they closed out spring drills. At the end of practice we had the opportunity to speak with freshman tight-end John Carlson about spring ball and his performance.
According to John, "It was a great experience as this was my first time in spring ball. I think it's kind of wrapping up my first year and I think it was good to help me understand the offense better. I think we all got closer as a team. It will be fun on Saturday, kind of a climax of spring ball, putting the pads on and seeing what happens."
When asked about goals for this spring John replied, "I think you always have to have goals and one of my continuing goals is to become a better player in every aspect of the game. I need to become a better blocker; better receiver; I need to get stronger, a little bigger; more familiar with the offense; and I just want to improve in every aspect of the game this spring and continue this summer and onto next fall. It's a continuing process."
John compared spring ball to fall practice by saying, "To me it was completely different. In the fall I was on the service team for the defense, and I understood that role. And that's what I did, I ran plays off the cards, and I didn't understand the offense very well because I wasn't dealing with offense very much. So it was fun this spring to get into the mix a little bit; start to get a handle on the offense. I definitely feel more comfortable now. A jump from small-town high school football to this is incredible. Coming into this last fall, I was wide-eyed and things were zipping by and I didn't understand things as I should have. Right now I feel more comfortable with the offense. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel good where I'm at."
John gives a lot of credit to his teammates for helping him adjust to Notre Dame football, "My first year overall, Billy Palmer, a fellow tight-end, taught me a lot. He's an upperclassman and knows the offense really well. He jokes around a lot; he's a great guy. Whenever I need help, he's always there. All of the guys are like that. They're all going to help you out. Billy Palmer has kind of guided me my first year, definitely a mentor."
Carlson told us he is impressed by the offense, "I think we're coming together as a team. I think we're a closer group. We've made some strides; we keep improving. We need to work hard this summer and just keep our eyes on the goal." He feels the defense is equally impressive, "They come to play and they work hard as the offense does. It's always a battle in practice every day."
There has been a lot written and said about the talent in this freshman class and the bond that they have, but Carlson feels to be successful it will take a team effort, "I don't think one class is going to win a championship. You need every class to act as a cohesive unit to be successful, and I think this spring we've come together and my class and the classes ahead of us - I think we've come together and I think we'll be a pretty good football team."
John agrees with Coach Willingham that the team needs to get its confidence back, "You've just got to keep working hard. You've got to put the past behind you but not forget about it. You've got to remember that stuff and be motivated by it; work hard but not dwell on past mistakes. You need to move forward; keep working hard; and as long as you work hard enough and put the time in and understand everything, it will help you have confidence that you can do the job. That's our part; we have to do the job."
This semester will be ending soon which means the beginning of summer conditioning for this soon-to-be sophomore player. "Coach Marotti will give us a program lifting and running. I'm going to follow that to a T and play some basketball. I'll lift at my high school probably and work out with my brother and friends at home. It's fun to do it as a group. Hopefully I'll get to the cities a few times and work out with some of my football teammates there, like Mark LeVoir, Ryan Harris, Rashon, Marcus Freeman. Hopefully we'll do that - but I'll be working out at home a lot."
When the Irish basketball team was hit with injuries this past season, Coach Brey asked Carlson to become a member of the team. When asked if basketball could be in his future again, he replied, "If it fits into place with what I'm doing with football and both sets of coaches see it working, definitely I would. But football is my priority, and it's up to the coaches, obviously. We'll see what happens."
Irish Eyes believes this articulate and gifted athlete will be a top performer for the Notre Dame football team in the near future.
The Irish added more to the walking wounded as John Sullivan mightbe on the sidelines for the Blue-Gold scrimmage. He didn't participate in practice. Brian Beidatsch, Trevor Laws, Jamie Ryan and Travis Thomas also look to be out for the game.
Wide receiver Chris Vaughn was seen again at practice. Expect a number of the committed players from 2004 at the game this weekend, as well as a number of recruits. We will have more on that following the scrimmage.