The Irish held their first of two practices inside the Loftus center. Dressed in jerseys and shorts and no helmets, the mood was very light on the day. The Irish team seemed very spirited in both sessions of practice.
Interestingly enough, the Irish broke their stretching session in the morning practice with some special teams drills. On the agenda was the punt team and the Irish worked on running a fake punt in the limited time we were able to view.
Shocking to us was the number of starters used on the punt team. Mike Goolsby, Derek Curry, Rhema McKnight, Mike Richardson, Rashon Powers-Neal and Jared Clark were all involved with the punt unit. Mike Richardson, Maurice Stovall, Carlos Campbell and Dwight Ellick were also used as gunners in this drill.
The second practice included some notable spectators as former Irish greats Joe Montana and Chris Zorich were in attendance. Also taking in the practice was athletic director Kevin White.
The real story of the day was the absence of sophomore Tom Zbikowski.
"I can tell you that Tommy is very much a part of our team, and that he's missed a couple of days of practice," head coach Tyrone Willingham said when asked about the absence of Zbikowski.
"Tommy's very much a part of our team, he's missed a couple of days of practice," was Willingham's response when asked when Zbikowski might return.
Irish secondary coach Steve Wilks didn't have much more to offer on Zbikowski's absence.
"He's right there in the mix," Wilks said of the sophomore free safety. "Tommy had a tremendous spring. He's still improving in fall camp, and he's going to be right there in the mix, without a doubt."
"Oh yeah, Tommy, he's fine," Wilks said when asked if he was confident Zbikowski would be with the team.
"Tommy's still a part of this football team. Tommy's fine. Tommy's a very important part of our secondary," Wilks said when asked if Zbikowski had talked to him about his role with the team.
The other notable news on the day was the presence of Montana and Zorich.
Willingham said the Irish players didn't get any advice from Montana or Zorich, but he was thrilled to have both in attendance.
"No, because they've been around us before," Willingham said when asked if either addressed the team. "They just enjoy coming out and we enjoy having them.
"Those are two pretty good football players to have walking sideline and have walked your sideline. We're very fortunate with that and I think our guys recognize them. You can see the heads turn a little bit, checking them out, wondering who they're looking at."
As of now, we cannot confirm anything on Zbikowski's status at this time. We do know he hasn't been at practice the last few days. Our calls to the Zbikowski home have gone unanswered.