Irish Players Ready For Spring

Brandon Hoyte enters his final season as the most experienced linebacker on the Irish defense. He played in all 12 games in the 2004 season and was second in tackles with 74. His experience and leadership will be very important in helping the development of the younger players in the upcoming campaign. Irish Eyes had the opportunity to talk with the senior this week.

Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte has definite goals he's set for himself heading into spring practice.

"When I look at it, it is really simple just because of the tremendous responsibility I have for this team," said Hoyte. "It's just to get better overall. I think it's to make sure that I'm a better well-rounded player so I can help in any aspect that I can.

"At the end of the day, I will know that I gave everything, and people will know that I really care about what I do, and people will know that I really care about this program. To go out there every day and show it, and not have to say anything, but go out there and show by my play and work ethics will speak volumes hopefully."

The New Jersey native says he is impressed with the new staff.

"They have a lot of excitement and a lot of enthusiasm," Hoyte said of the new coaching staff. "They are working hard to put us in the best position to achieve our goals."

We asked Hoyte about changes in the defense, and if he expected they would be hard to learn.

"We have picked up on a little bit of new things," he said. "I think the principles of hard work and principles of doing the right thing, that's something that has been here forever and the new staff has definitely taken hold of, and it's really nice.

" Personally I think just putting in the time and learning. I'm here at Notre Dame so hopefully learning a new defense isn't harder than biology or something like that. But I think just putting in the time and having the enthusiasm will get it done."

With a new staff, and a new system, we asked Hoyte what his expectations are for next season.

"The highest they can be," he said. "My expectations are that if we go out there and give as much as we can and work hard, the results should be winning. I think that all the younger guys and all the older guys buying into the system is good for all of us."

This is the 5th and final year for Hoyte as a Notre Dame player and student, and Hoyte admitted the time has gone fast.

"It is a shocker," Hoyte stated. "Corey Mays and I were sitting out there on the field and we looked around and said ‘it's us.' It has come fast just like everyone else says, and no matter what you do, it still comes fast. I have definitely enjoyed everything, but I don't like looking back. I honestly think the best things are ahead. If they're not ahead, it's only me to blame."

Fitzpatrick Set to Kickoff Spring Practice

Senior D.J. Fitzpatrick continues to live his dream as spring practice nears. The former walk-on from Marian High School in Mishawaka, Ind., again starts the season as the lead kicker for Notre Dame. In the 2004 season, he was 11-of-15 on field goal attempts and 34-of-35 on extra points. His punting improved in 2004, especially the ability to place the ball inside the 20-yard line. Irish Eyes spoke with D.J. regarding the upcoming season.

Senior kicker D.J. Fitzpatrick gave us an update on his winter conditioning program.

"It has been going great," said Fitzpatrick. "We have coach Mendoza as our new strength and conditioning coach. It has been a little different style, but we are all excited. It has been a lot of hard work. There is no doubt about that."

The 5th-year senior will have the job of grooming the younger kickers for his eventual departure and, and as an older player, will have a leadership role. Fitzpatrick looks forward to that role.

"You know I love the leadership role. I have been here going on five years now, and I'm an older guy compared to a lot of these other guys," he said. "Not only is it an obligation, but it is something I want to do. Even though I am a kicker, I'm excited to show people that I do have a leadership role on this team, and I am excited to get out there and show them."

We asked D.J. what he expects from this year's team.

"We have nothing but the highest expectations," Fitzpatrick said. "We have a great coaching staff and a lot of good returning players. As hard as we have been working, the sky is the limit for us.

"Personally I just want to get out there. There is no reason why I can't make every field goal or hit a great punt every time. As long as I can do that, it will help out special teams and the team overall. I just want to get out there and do my best and help this team as much as I can.

"I remember when guys like Nick Setta and Joey Hildbold were helping me through the ranks. It's a huge transition coming out of high school. The speed of the game and the different techniques, plus all the knowledge you have to have to succeed at this level.

"It's my job, like coach Weis once said, to get the guy almost up there ready to take your position, but don't let him have it. So it's preparing to build the program again and create depth at different positions."

Fitzpatrick will exhaust is final year of eligibility in 2005. We asked D.J. if he is interested in a career in the NFL.

"Absolutely, I am interested," Fitzpatrick said. "If I and this team both have a great year, I don't see why there would be any reason for me not to take a shot at the NFL. To get paid to play a game for the rest of your life is a great situation."

Abiamiri's Role Expands With Tuck Departure.

Defensive end Victor Abiamiri will be counted on to shore up the Notre Dame defense in the upcoming season, especially since Justin Tuck has chosen to take his talents to the NFL. Irish Eyes talked with the junior-to-be about the upcoming spring drills.

Last year Victor Abiamiri and his teammates had a preview of what winter conditioning would be like under coach Weis.

"They are exactly like what we expected. We knew they were going to be tough and they have been," Abiamiri said. "Coach Weis walks around while we are working out. The first couple of times he didn't say much, just sort of assessed us and the talent we have and evaluated where we were.

"After the first couple of times he started to get into it. He definitely is trying to toughen us up as a team because we are not that deep, and we need to be in good shape. I think we need to be tough, absolutely, because you can't play football and not be tough."

When asked why the team is going to be better this year he said, "I think we will be better and play better as a team. We will be physically and mentally tougher than we were last year."

We asked the Maryland native what he hoped to accomplish in spring practice this season.

"To improve my game overall," Abiamiri said. "(To) be a better pass rusher and become a better run stopper and to work hard and improve my consistency. Last year I might have had a good play here or there, and I just want to have consistency play after play after play."

With an eventual starting role likely for Abiamiri, the super sophomore knows he'll have a leadership role this season.

"I'm going to try and step in there and take that role of a leader," Abiamiri said. "I've paid my dues and played two years already. I think by being a vocal leader, but not just a vocal leader, but leading by example, will be important.

"I will try my best to bring along the young guys, show them how you are supposed to practice and how to play the game and bring a whole new attitude to the game." Top Stories