The Irish are inching closer to their first game of the season next Saturday against BYU. At this point, questions still remain at key positions. Irish coach Tyrone Willingham addressed some of those issues after Wednesday's practice.
After a poor year in special teams in 2003, the punting situation still remains unanswered according to Willingham.
"It's still a competition between Geoff Price and D.J. Fitzpatrick," Willingham said of his punting situation. "We don't know how it is going to shake out, or when it will shake out, but hopefully we'll know something by the time we start the ballgame."
Price has shown a powerful leg in practice, but consistency looks to be the issue with him from what we can see. Willingham was asked if consistency is the concern with the punting situation right now.
"When you start to work your way backwards, I say, that's the issue," Willingham said. "What you would love to have is spectacular. If we get spectacular, I will probably be very happy. But if you can't get spectacular, what you want is consistency. We haven't got spectacular yet, but we're still hoping, working, and wishing."
Another concern would be the backup quarterback situation. Senior Pat Dillingham will likely end up with the role, and Willingham had a lot of positive things to say about Dillingham after Wednesday's practice.
"It was amazing that some people might have forgotten Pat Dillingham," he said. "Certainly we didn't as a coaching staff. But we are probably as excited about him today, than ever because I think Pat has kind of looked and said ‘there is a challenge out there for me and I think I'm man enough to step up to it.' So I think he has improved his play and I've been very pleased with what he has done, particularly this last week."
Willingham wouldn't go as far as naming Dillingham the backup at this point, however.
"I don't think you have to make all those decisions right now, but he has played like a number two, or better," Willingham said.
Willingham also didn't close the door on wide receiver Carlyle Holiday playing a role at quarterback if something were to happen with injuries in the future..
"Well, there are so many variables that we have to contend with, therefore, we have to make sure that if anything ever happens to Pat, that we need to have him ready and poised because if something happens, we say, as football coaches, you are only two snaps away from playing if you are in that No. 3 slot. So you have to make sure that you're ready to go."
The third-year Irish head coach also said Holiday hasn't taken any snaps under center this fall and has worked strictly with the wide receivers.
"No, we haven't given him any snaps because we have concentrated on him being a receiver because we think that's the right thing to do," Willingham said of Holiday. "But we always make sure, or try to make sure, we position ourselves for what is best for the team."
Holiday is also involved in Irish special teams according to Willingham.
"We have him involved in some of the special teams. I think right now he is probably the backup returner to Rhema McKnight. And we'll probably have him handle some other responsibilities whether it's a one or a two on a lot of the special teams."
Also a concern is the health of incumbent starting tailback Ryan Grant. The senior running back was seen at Wednesday's practice taking a more active role in practice.
"He is starting to get back," Willingham said of Grant's health. "We didn't put him in any team plays, but still he is being active and is starting to get closer to the lineup."
The Irish hold one more scrimmage on Friday evening inside Notre Dame Stadium before turning their attention to BYU. Willingham admitted the scrimmage could impact the depth chart next week.
"In some cases, yes it does. As some players are getting their last look before we start solidifying our two-deep and start our game preparation," Willingham said when asked if the scrimmage impacted who would play next Saturday.
The Irish appear to be getting healthier. Linebacker Brandon Hoyte appears to be getting closer to seeing action. Justin Tuck and Kyle Budinscak looked to be sitting out at least parts of practice on Wednesday, but that has been for precautionary reasons. Offensive linemen Jamie Ryan and Brian Mattes are involved in practice a lot more, although Mattes doesn't look 100 percent at this point.
Only Grant's status appears to be the main concern at this point heading into game week next week.