Stovall Ready For Opener

Maurice Stovall enters his third season as a veteran receiver who will be counted on to keep the Irish offense moving. As a freshman, the Philadelphia, Pa. native played in all 12 games, latching onto 18 receptions for 312 total yards. His sophomore year produced 22 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns, and was not quite the season fans were expecting from this talented player. We spoke with Stovall this week as the Irish prepare for the season opener against BYU.

Maurice Stovall came to Notre Dame as a highly touted recruit. Since his arrival in 2002, he has added 25 pounds of muscle and strength to his 6-5 frame. He credits the off-season program for the improvement.

"Basically as a team, we stressed overall conditioning," Stovall said. "We did a lot of pool workouts. These workouts were two and three times a week during the summer.

"The yoga helps with stretching and staying loose. The boxing helps with your hand quickness and power. This will help me getting off corner's jams and d-backs. It will also help with my blocking. The pool workouts consisted of running and working on vertical leaps."

The two-time monogram winner has proven his playmaking capabilities, but inconsistency in the 2003 campaign has caused some doubt regarding his confidence.

When asked if his confidence might've slipped last season, he responded: "I haven't lost confidence. I think it was just a matter of me not knowing as much of the offense that I do now as far as picking up blitzes and running the right routes.

"My role on the team is to execute everything I'm supposed to do. I'm a junior now and more mature. I shouldn't have as many mistakes as I've had. Every day I should have fewer mistakes and be more consistent."

The Irish corners and defensive backs respect Stovall's abilities and say he is the hardest receiver to cover due to his size and toughness. We asked the rangy wide out if this compliment by his peers was a confidence booster.

"I think I take it more of a motivation than a confidence builder," Stovall said. "I guess it could be a little bit of both, but we challenge each other out there everyday. D-backs against wide receivers, one-on-one, and if they are slacking a little I will yell at them, and they do the same with me and all of the receivers. So as far as being the hardest receiver to cover that is a motivation for me."

Last year's game against Purdue was outstanding for the former first team USA Today All-American as he had a career-high nine catches and career high total of 171 yards which included an 85-yard touchdown reception. Unfortunately for Stovall and the team, he was not able to duplicate this performance in any of the remaining 2003 games.

"It was a little frustrating," he said, "but I was a lot more frustrated because we were losing games than me catching balls. So I guess I was a little frustrated because of both things."

Emerging star receiver Rhema McKnight also became a member of the Irish team in 2002. Stovall said the two "are good friends on and off the field and work to motivate each other.

"We talk before every game - we talk all the time," Stovall said of his friend McKnight. "Just basically telling each other to pick it up this game or pick it up this day in practice. We do that every day.

"We also try to make practice fun because a lot of guys, sometimes as a team, are tired out there and you have to have some fun. It doesn't all have to be business."

Brady Quinn will be in the spotlight from the first play of the season, and much of the Irish success will depend upon his performance. We asked the junior if he has a noticed a difference in Quinn's play in the fall camp.

"As far as my point of view, I think Brady is more comfortable in the offense," he replied. "He is taking more of a leadership role being the quarterback.

"Our offense is looking stronger and we are executing better. He is motivating guys and being the leader that he should be, as he is just more comfortable back there."

Entering his third season, the vastly talented pass catcher has only been on the receiving end of six touchdown passes. It will be important for this stat to improve greatly in 2004, and we asked if he had set a goal for touchdowns.

"I can't really say right now," Stovall said. "I have to take it game by game and always do my best."

Irish Eyes believes Maurice Stovall has the capability of being a go-to guy and a difference-maker in the new season. It will be important for the team and him to get off to a good start against BYU and to be a threat every play he is on the field in 2004.


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