With spring practice beginning on Tuesday, and three tight ends exhausting their eligibility at the end of 2004, someone will have to step into the roles departed by Billy Palmer, Jared Clark and Jerome Collins. Sophomore John Carlson will likely be one of those guys.
We spoke with junior tight end John Carlson after the first spring practice. The Litchfield, Minnesota, native played in all 12 games in 2004. He had six receptions and was a mainstay on special teams. The talented Carlson will be competing for a lot more playing time in the new Irish offense.
Carlson said new Irish coach Charlie Weis put his stamp on the program early by changing the new strength and conditioning program.
"Personally, I feel like I have made some strides, but I am not where I want to be yet," said Carlson of his first winter lifting program under new coach Charlie Weis." We have spring ball to work on some skills, and summer ahead of us to really fine-tune our conditioning.
"I feel I'm on my way. We're doing a different program now. We're doing a lot more Olympic lifts and heavier squats and bench press. It's just a different philosophy, and I feel it's going to produce dividends in the end. I feel the whole off-season was positive. We have made some changes, and we are moving forward, and we are making strides."
The junior-to-be tight end said he was just happy to get outside today and working with the new coaching staff.
"It was warm, sunny, and you could feel the wind blowing; it was good to be on the field," he said. "There were a lot of mistakes all over, but it's a place to build upon, and I think we're headed in the right direction.
"My goals are centered around the team," Carlson stated. "I'm hoping that we can come together and become a real cohesive unit. And that we pick up a lot of momentum in the spring and going into the summer, and I think that will lead into next fall and show on the field."
The Litchfield, Minnesota, native is taking the new playbook and offense in stride.
"Obviously, there are some changes, and we are doing some different things this year than last year. I feel like I am taking the same approach to learning the system as I did the last one. Just trying to get the terminology down and picking up on the techniques and schemes.
"I feel like we have a strong tight end corps, and I'm just looking forward to the tight end position contributing to the team and winning some games."
Competing for playing time is what Carlson is most looking forward to this spring.
"It's exciting, it's a challenge, and I think we're going to make each other better at the tight-end position and good things are going to come of the competition," he said.
With the new coaching staff in place, Carlson said getting to know the new coaches has been a bonding experience for both he and his teammates.
"They are all very knowledgeable, and obviously from day one, they have been professional and have the right attitude and hopefully we will pick up on that as we head into next year," Carlson said of the new staff.
Irish Eyes believes Irish fans will see a lot of John Carlson on the field in 2005. Charlie Weis knows how to utilize talent and athleticism, and Carlson possesses plenty of both.