It's obvious to anyone that this Irish team is anxious to get back on the field after their disappointing loss to BYU last week. The road doesn't get any easier for the Irish, however, as they face Michigan on Saturday.
Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham said his team has made some progress since their last showing last weekend, but expects Michigan to throw many of the same things that BYU threw at his team last Saturday, and more.
"I think we've made a good deal, but this is also a very different football team we'll play this weekend," Willingham said of his team's progress this week. "They pose a lot of different problems that we potentially did not see last week. You always believe that when you don't succeed at certain things, the other team is going to add some of that into their package so we have to prepare for that also."
The Irish really struggled running the ball last weekend, gaining only 11 yards on the ground. Willingham was asked what his team needed to do to have success running against a good Michigan defense.
"We've got to, first of all, execute," the third-year Irish head coach said. "We've got to find a way to get a hat on a hat, and once we get the hat on a hat, then we've got to execute with the blocking. When you do that, good things happen."
The Irish struggled running the ball last week because of identification problems up front according to Willingham.
"We did a poor job of identifying the front and getting all the people in the right places, and once we got there, we didn't maintain the blocks in the manner that we should," he said. "Hopefully this week we'll be a lot better at those things."
The return of senior running back Ryan Grant would help the Irish running game, but Willingham was less than certain he'd be available this weekend.
"He practiced well today and we'll see," Willingham said of Grant's status this weekend. "It will probably be a game-time decision.."
With the uncertainty of Grant's availability, the Irish just might turn to freshman Darius Walker. Irish fans have been waiting for their first glimpses of the talented freshman, and Willingham hinted they just might see him this weekend.
"We need to find a spark there," Willingham said when asked who might start if Grant can't play. "We'll be looking at the entire group and seeing if someone can give us something."
"It could mean that" was Willingham's response when asked if that could mean a freshman might see action.
"He's doing very well," was Willingham's response when asked how Walker has been performing in practice. "He could," Willingham said when asked if Walker might see playing time.
"It's unfortunate that I have give you those answers because you don't know," Willingham continued on the subject. "The one thing you don't do as a coach is you don't commit to something, especially before you talk to your players about it."
One thing is certain, the Irish need to play a game, any game to get back on the right track for the season.
"I think right now, any game is a good game," Willingham agreed. "We need to get back out there, we need to play, and we need to have success. We face one of the ultimate challenges in the country this year, a top ten football team that has played very well. It will be very difficult, but if we play our game, we can be successful."