It was a wonderful fall day--cloudy, temperatures in the 60's--as Notre Dame took to the practice field. Dwight Ellick, the veteran corner, gave us this report of the scrimmage which had a full officiating crew on hand.
"The scrimmage was pretty good. I know the defense had a very, very good day," Ellick said. "Before we went out for the scrimmage, coach Baer and coach Wilks challenged the secondary to step up and make plays.
"We did make some mistakes, but overall we played really good. In fact the entire defense did really good the whole scrimmage. We didn't let the offense score. Every now and then the offense moved the ball, but when it came down to it, the defense stepped up and didn't let them make any big plays."
Ellick said a number of defensive players stepped up and had big days during the scrimmage.
"Freddie Parish had a big hit. Carlos Campbell made some plays. Justin Tuck, Derek Landri, Mike Goolsby, Derek Curry, and some of the other guys played well and made some big stops," the former Florida state champion sprinter said.
We noticed the senior didn't mention his own performance. "I did pretty well, but there are things I need to do. I'm never completely satisfied with my play," Ellick said.
The apparent dominance by the defensive team in the scrimmage is encouraging and gives hope that this year's defense is poised to have a great season. But it also makes us question if the offense really got stuffed or if they just didn't play well.
"I don't feel they executed to the best of their ability the whole day," Ellick said of the Irish offense. "But a few times in the four-minute and two-minute drills they did pretty good. There were some places they could have done better and this shows there is room for improvement. They did have some bright spots, but the defense had the best day."
The former high school running back has won three monograms since joining the Irish, and barring an injury, should easily earn his fourth in 2004. He is considered by most to have won the right corner spot. However, the speedster from Tampa isn't taking anything for granted.
"To be honest with you, a lot of people say I'm the starter at right corner, but I think coach Baer and coach Wilks will definitely tell you there is a lot of competition at both corner spots," Ellick said. "We are all interchangeable. People say I'm the right corner, but at the same time, I play field and boundary and so does every corner on the team.
"I feel Preston Jackson, Carlos Campbell, Mike Richardson and I are all definitely, definitely competing to play. And you have the younger guys like Isaiah Gardner stepping up, too. Preston Jackson and I have the most playing experience out of the group, and this gives us a little edge, but everyone is playing at a high level right now.
"It is the same thing with the safeties. There is a lot of competition and my impression of them is that every single one of them is very athletic. Quentin Burrell, Tom Zbikowski, Freddie Parish, Lionel Bolen, Chinedum Ndukwe are all big guys, especially Chinedum, who is 6'3", 224 lbs. I wouldn't be surprised to see three of these guys on the field at the same time."
Very soon the Irish secondary will be challenged in game situations and they will face teams with outstanding receivers who are big playmakers. Ellick is expecting this kind of action but believes going up against his own teammates every day is a good test.
"Our receivers are looking real, real good," Ellick said. "Last year our receivers were young; and the leading receivers, Maurice (Stovall) and Rhema McKnight, were both sophomores. Jeff Samardzija has really stepped it up and so has Carlyle Holiday. All of these guys can make big plays. I think our receiving corps will be the strength of the team."
During his career, the business management major has seen a turnover in the secondary coaching position. He gave us insight about the coaching styles of Trent Walters, who left following the 2003 season, and his new coach, Steve Wilks.
"They are both great coaches," Ellick said of Walters and Wilks. "I have learned a lot from both of them. I was sad to see coach Walters leave, but happy we got Coach Wilks.
"I think the biggest difference in their coaching style is that coach Wilks is a lot more hands-on. He stresses every little point, which helps you, as sometimes it is the small things that beat you. Coach Walters stressed the small things, too, but not so much in detail."
Special teams is another area Ellick has contributed. Even if he is a starting corner, he looks forward to the being on special teams.
"I'm a competitor. I am going out there to compete and do whatever is necessary to get the job done," Ellick said. "The guys who are known as crazies are the wedge busters who get down there and would run through a wall if they had to. I do run down there hard and lay a hit on somebody, but I am not a crazy."
Irish Eyes believes that Dwight Ellick has the ability to be an impact player and leader in the Irish secondary. Ellick has the most experience as a starter at cornerback and the Irish will have to count his experience to lead the young secondary. We expect Ellick to have an impressive season in 2004.