The cool fall-like weather has the Irish players smiling and Rashon Powers-Neal said it feels good to be out on the field again. After carrying the ball 77 times as a tailback in 2002, the fullback/tailback is hoping to earn more than his four carries he was given at fullback last fall.
The Irish are using the new split squad format and Powers-Neal says he's enjoyed the new practice format so far.
"I like it a lot because we get a ton of reps out there, and it seems like we're out there with a small group of people and it's kind of like hands-on work," Powers-Neal said. "It's not like a lot of explaining of stuff and a lot of chaos, it's more quick-paced and you get right down to it and it goes a lot faster."
At his new weight, Rashon definitely has the look of a fullback and there doesn't seem to be an ounce of fat on him. He has a reputation as a hard worker and we asked him about the conditioning program this summer.
"I think it really went well," Powers-Neal said. "We did a lot of work on game-type speed things and a lot of things to get us ready for the game--a lot more conditioning to get our bodies into shape for the kind of physical activities that we'll be going through in two-a-days and throughout the season. I think I did very well and made some positive strides."
This will be the fourth training camp and season for Powers-Neal and the St. Paul, Minn. native says he's excited for the season to start.
"I almost feel like an old vet in the program," Powers-Neal said laughingly. "It seems like I've been here a long time. It is a great advantage. I know how everything works now, I'm kind of in the flow of things, I understand the offense relatively well so I can pick things up quicker than most people. It's great being here with these guys and it's great to see how everybody has progressed over the years."
When he mentioned how everyone has progressed, we wanted to know if he considered himself the starting fullback.
"There's a lot of competition," he said. "Josh (Schmidt) is right behind me. He's been playing really well. He had a great spring ball, too, and he is doing really well out there now. I think we're just kind of pushing each other right now; I play good and he catches up with me. He plays good and I catch up with him. So we're pushing each other to be the best."Being a senior, Rashon realizes he will be expected to be more of a leader this year with all the players, but especially the younger players. The former Minnesota All-Stater says he tries to lead by example on the field.
"I'm not one to do a lot of hootin' and hollerin', you know," he said. "I just go out there and play my hardest. If people see me playing my hardest and doing the things the right way, then hopefully they will follow.
"I'll correct someone if I see them doing something wrong, but I just go out there and lead by example.
"As for the young guys, I just tell them to relax. Just relax and take their time to figure out a way to understand the offense for themselves. So they can pick it up easily by learning their stuff first. I give them a lot of praise, I don't get down on anybody. I help them to do things the right way by starting off the right way."The Irish have their first game on September 4th against BYU. The 6-2, 243-pound fullback says the Irish are going to have a great season this season, starting with a victory over the Cougars in their first game of the season.
"It's going to be a big win," Powers-Neal said of their future victory. "Every one is a big win. We'll just have to come out and play our hardest and kind of set the tone for the season. I think if we come out there and play really hard and play up to our potential, we're going to have a great season and great things will come of it."
Irish Eyes has spoken often with Rashon Powers-Neal during his career, and we are always impressed by how he handles and responds to our questions. We also sense that he is on the verge of having a big season. He is definitely stronger and seems to be focused on doing whatever it takes to win.