Victor Abiamiri knows about expectations. Not many Irish players have had the type of promise that Abiamiri possesses. The always smiling Randallstown, Md. native said he was thrilled when he found he'd be playing as a true freshman.
"I had hoped I'd get on the field," said Abiamiri of his freshman season. "I worked hard and that was my goal. I didn't know that I would, but coach Mattison told me I'd be playing and to get ready."
The super sophomore did get ready and logged some quality minutes with the Irish defense. Still, Abiamiri was far from content with his freshman season.
"I wasn't really satisfied with how I played last year," Abiamiri said. "I know I have a lot of work to do. I know people say I have a lot of potential, but none of that will happen if I don't work harder. I just wasn't satisfied with how I played. I know I can play a lot better."
Abiamiri was recruited to be the next great harassing pass rusher—something the Irish have had far too few in the recent past. The former first-team USA Today All-American ended up starting five games as a freshman and recorded his first sack of his career in 2003. Ironically, he feels his pass rush is where he needs to improve the most.
"I think I can definitely play the run better," Abiamiri said. "I don't think my pass rush was up to par last season. I'm definitely working on that. I need to come off the edge faster this season and make a big impact."
Complicating matters for his pass rush, Abiamiri is now having to learn how to play both defensive end positions.
"They're flip flopping me on both sides," Abiamiri said. "In our scheme, you've got to be versatile because you never know who's going to go down. You've got to know both sides and I think it's better for the team to know both sides.
"It's definitely hard learning how to play both sides. I feel I'm better on one side over the other, but I can't tell you which side that is—that's a secret. Spring ball helped me out a lot. It helped me get used to play on both sides."
Looking at Abiamiri, he looks like an NFL player right now as just a true sophomore. The player known as "Vic" by his teammates says he feels faster than he's ever felt at 270 pounds.
"I didn't think I would be up to 270," said Abiamiri. "That's about 30 more pounds than when I got here. That's just a credit to our strength and conditioning coaches. I'm definitely quicker and faster than when I came in. I think it's attributed to them."
The experience Abiamiri gained last season should pay huge dividends and make the sophomore a much more productive player in 2004. He believes he's past the freshman jitters at this point.
"It added nothing but confidence for me playing last year," Abiamiri said. "It was tough going against those guys because they were bigger and stronger, but it gave me a lot of confidence that I can now play against anyone. I'm bigger, stronger and quicker so I think I can play with anyone now."
With two new starters along the interior defensive line for 2004, we asked Abiamiri how the Irish defensive line was doing against the run in fall camp.
"One of coach Mattison's main things is stopping the run," he said. "That will open us up for getting some good pass rushes in. We're definitely a run-stopping team. We're confident we can do that and be one of the top D-lines in the country. That's not a problem for us right now."
With the high expectations surrounding Abiamiri, he's also set high goals for himself and says he has only one personal goal for himself this season.
"I want to be an All-American," Abiamiri said. "If I can do that, that means I've helped this team a lot. Whatever it takes to do that, that's what I want to be."
Potential can be a terrible word for some players, but Abiamiri doesn't seem bothered by the expectations. We believe it won't be long until potential turns into production for this future All-American.