Former walk-on Josh Schmidt has worked hard in the off-season. He's been competing with senior Rashon Powers Neal for the starting fullback spot this season.
"The competition is pretty tough," Schmidt said. "Rashon is a great fullback and great athlete. He has great hands and great speed. He's the starter right now; the coaches decide that stuff. So it's just a matter of going out and playing hard. I think Rashon brings a lot more to the table than I bring, because he has a lot more speed and the experience he's had playing tailback.
"Rashon is a good guy. We get along really well. There's nothing off the field that takes away from us competing on the field. Rashon's a phenomenal athlete; you don't find guys that big that can move like that. He's got everything, which makes him very good."
"I think I can catch the ball well," Schmidt said when asked what he brings to the table at the position. "I go in and block as hard as I can on every play. I definitely need to keep improving my size and strength so I can become a more effective blocker. I know that sometimes I don't bring enough to the table to get the job done."
Schmidt also added some extra weight over the off-season which should help him in his blocking this season.
"Coming into camp, I weighed about 230 pounds, which is 10 pounds heavier than I was this time last year," he said. "I definitely feel a little more confident in that respect; just having a little more to bring to the table and on the field. I'm stronger than I have ever been so I'm not just gaining fat."
For the Irish and Schmidt to have success this year, the Irish offensive line will have to do a better job of blocking. We asked Schmidt if he's seen some improvement in the front five for the Irish.
"I think it's looking great," Schmidt said of the offensive line. "The experience some of the guys got last year has really helped in their progress this year. The line is doing a great job in all phases of the game - run blocking, pass blocking, and getting better overall."
Schmidt says his primary goal for 2004 is to be on the field as much as possible in the fullback position. But, he says he also likes being out there on special teams.
"Hopefully, I will be on the specials this year," Schmidt said. "No matter how tired you are during the game or practice, special teams always require a whole lot of energy. It's all about speed. You can't be selfish and look at special teams as not being important because they are an important part of the game and the guys want to go out there and give 100 percent all of the time.
"You definitely have to be a little bit crazy, running down the field at full speed trying to blow up a wedge. It definitely helps to have a little craziness."
We asked Josh what it was like coming in as a walk-on and how he goes about helping the younger players.
"I can remember very vividly when I first walked on, there were a lot of guys who took me aside many times and gave me encouragement," Schmidt said."As far as my role with the running backs, I just try to encourage the young guys to keep their heads in it. There is so much thrown at them right off the bat, so I'm just trying to take time to make sure our two freshman running backs feel like they have some upperclassman they can come and talk to. If they're struggling with certain things in the offense, or no matter what it is, I am going to help." Irish Eyes expects to see Josh continue his hard-nosed, blue-collar style of play in the 2004 season. We believe he is committed to giving his best every down and will do all he can to make the Irish successful this year.