As a senior quarterback, there isn't a whole lot left for quarterback Pat Dillingham to learn about the Irish offense. Now it's all about the execution.
"Being a senior you pretty much know the offense so it comes down to executing," Dillingham said. "You either go out there and make the right decisions, the right reads, and do the plays right, or you screw up.
"The freshmen are going through a lot of adjustments being away from home, trying to picking up the offense, learning the guys on the team. As a senior, you already know all that so you can focus on how you play, and it makes it easy."
Brady Quinn has been ticketed as the starting quarterback since early in the 2003 season. Dillingham is the No. 2 quarterback for now, but realizes the talent of the young freshmen behind him. This is not a new situation for the senior and he accepts and takes his role seriously.
"You always have to be prepared like you are going to play," Dillingham said. "I have learned that through my career. I have had ups and downs and all of that is going to help me this season, and I am excited about that.
"I'm excited about the way the team looks, as I'm sure everyone is, and we're all ready to get going. I'm getting a good number of reps, getting in there, just kind of getting better every day."
We often hear players and even coaches comment about the size and detail of the "player's bible"--the playbook. The information and details contained in the playbook would overwhelm many fans as it is often difficult to keep up with the formations seen during games.
When asked if the offense was difficult to learn, Dillingham smiled and responded, "It takes a while to pick up the offense," he said. "It's almost like a second language and that's how the coach refers to it sometimes. Once you really get the basics down, there are a lot of variations of the basics.
"When you know what you are doing, you can change little things here and there but it's pretty much the same play. So it might look kind of complicated with shifts and motions and whatever, but it really is not that complicated, actually."
The team has completed its first week of practice and Dillingham is excited about what he's seen from the Irish so far.
"This first week of practice--guys just playing together; a lot of guys stepping up who are going to have bigger roles this year," Dillingham said. "They know they have to pick it up and they worked hard this summer. We have some good freshmen coming in and I think everyone is excited-- they are competing out there--and it is good to see."
The former walk-on quarterback says he's also been impressed with a lot of the regulars so far in fall camp.
"Up front, (John) Sullivan has been looking real good and it will be good getting him out there. On the edges (Maurice Stovall) has gotten stronger, bigger, and faster and looks good. Jeff (Samardzija) should play a big role this year and Rhema (McKnight) continues to get better. In the backfield Ryan (Grant) and Travis (Thomas) look awesome. Everyone is stepping up now and it is exciting."
"Every day we work on different things and we're polishing them up," Dillingham said of fall camp. "We're not taking any steps backward and every practice we are making progress. I'm happy about how we look and I don't think there is anything to look down on.
Dillingham also says he's been impressed with the Irish offensive line so far and believes they will be a strength of the team.
"The offensive line is shaping up," the Portola Valley, Calif. native said. "I think we look good. Sullivan up in the middle and then we have a lot of experience on the edges. We have some seniors in there and then we have some depth because a lot of guys got thrown in there last year. The O-line should be a real strong part of our offense. The coach always says everything starts up front. We've got a good group up there, so we should be good."
The senior quarterback says the Irish will spend the next few days fine-tuning the offense, and then it's all BYU.
"For the next couple of days, we'll be finishing up installing the offense and getting it in," Dillingham said. "After this week, we'll start focusing on BYU. Right now we're just getting everything together and making sure everyone is on the same page, and then we'll go from there.
Dillingham's competition for playing time will come from the two freshmen quarterbacks, Darrin Bragg and David Wolke. He has seen these two rookies from day one and is impressed with both.
"Darrin (Bragg) and David (Wolke), they're good kids," said Dillingham. "They have strong arms. They were thrown in there from the beginning; the coaches didn't give them any time to ease in.
"Right when they got here, they were running some plays. They're not scared. They get in there and compete and they have good arms. It's just a matter of picking up the offense which takes time for anyone, but they're good, I've been impressed with a lot of plays they've made.
"Darrin is actually from Bellarmine High School, which is a big rival with my high school (St. Francis HS) and they are only about 20 minutes apart. So that is something we can talk about. We're together all day so I just give them advice on freshmen year and how to deal with the homesickness. I help them pick up the offense and tell them not to get down when they screw up and little things like that."The Irish definitely had a sub-par season in 2003. We asked Dillingham what the primary goal is for the team this year and what it will take to have a winning and successful season. "Winning! That's what the coaches are here to do, that's what we're here to do," Dillingham said. "That's what everyone in the Notre Dame family expects. To win, we have to focus, we have to compete, we always have to play within ourselves and be the team we know we can be. If we go out and play the game we can play and execute I don't think we can be beat. It's a matter of going out and doing what we know how to do.
"We can't worry about what the opponent is going to do. We just have to make sure we don't make stupid mistakes, compete, and execute and we will have a successful season. Ever since the coaches have been here, the one goal has been to win so they're not happy with anything else."
There is one word to describe Pat Dillingham--classy. His career in an Irish uniform has seen him make some great plays and some costly ones. He is not the most talented quarterback on the team, but he certainly is a hard worker and is dedicated to doing whatever he can to make this team a winner. We think Dillingham will remain the No. 2 man at quarterback for the foreseeable future.