Quotes From Saturday's Practice

The Notre Dame football team completed their eighth practice of the spring on Saturday. This particular practice was almost solely devoted to special teams. Head coach Charlie Weis understands the importance of special teams and believes the fastest way to turn a program around is through good special team play. The media was permitted to watch Saturday's two-hour practice from the press box. Irish Eyes talked with some of the players after practice.

JUNIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN TREVOR LAWS
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What did you think of today's practice?

"It was a pretty good special team's practice. I'm on the D-line so our part was mainly PAT blocks and field goal blocks. We did pretty good, and we are coming together out there."

After two weeks of practice how would you describe the team's progress?

"The first two weeks have been real good. Practice has been tough, but it has been real productive out there especially installing the new offense and stuff. The defense is starting to gel, especially the interior."

How is the team adjusting to the new defensive schemes?

"The defense is a lot different than last year and right now everything we are putting in is coming together nicely. Next week we are putting in the blitz packages and this will add to the full scheme package."

What do you expect to gain from spring practice?

"I just want to get better. You can always get better, and I want to have a dominant spring. I'm getting ready for the season and working hard to be a dominant player. I want to get bigger and stronger and learn the new system so I can do my best. Right now I weigh about the same as last year's 285, but I'm a little leaner and feel really good."

Where are you in the rotation for playing time?

"There are a lot of good players on the D-line. Victor (Abiamiri), Brian Beidatsch, Derek Landri, Travis Leitko, Chris Frome, and myself. We have a lot of talent right there and I think it is a healthy rotation. Everyone is competing right there every day against each other. We all want to play and make the team better."

Have any of the young defensive linemen stepped up at this point?

There are a lot of young up-and-coming players. Brandon Nicholas has been playing really well lately and Coach has him rotating in with the ones right now. Justin Brown playing on the outside is really playing well right now."

What is your opinion of the new coaching staff?

"They are great coaches. I mean Coach Weis commands so much respect. because he is such a great coach. My position coach is Jappy Oliver, and I have learned so much from him already. It has been great so far."

Is the offense ahead of the defense at this time?

"It's tough to say. The offense definitely has a lot of new stuff in. Coach Weis has a lot of new schemes and different kinds of stuff that we have to play against. So going against an offense like that is tough and different but the defense is playing real well too. So I'm excited about the play on both sides of the ball."

JUNIOR DEFENSIVE BACK TOM ZBIKOWSKI

Did you like the practice format today?

"Yes. Today's practice was all about special teams and full go. Coach was showing how important special teams are and all phases of it. We had four or five field goal situations. We had punts and everything. It looked good and was a lot of fun to get out there and mix it up with the other players."

Does the amount of time spent today really hammer home the importance of special teams?

"Yes, definitely, he keeps telling us the fastest way to rebuild a team is special teams, and we are trying to rebuild this team as fast as we can. We spent a whole hour of practice on special teams and it's going to hit home."

Did you request punt return duty or were you volunteered by coaches?

"Well, they gave us the opportunity when we went to conditioning and said there would be tryouts so I jumped at that, trying to get the ball as much as I can."

Do you think it's a good fit for you?

"Yea, I think it's a good fit. Just finding a seam and basically hitting it as hard as I can, that's kind of how I run."

Do you expect to return kickoffs too?

"I'm just a punt returner right now."

Coach Weis said he likes to coach guys like you. What are your thoughts about his coaching out on the field?

"He's real intense. I love the way he coaches. He makes sure you are doing things right and perfecting everything. He is a perfectionist, so that is the way you have to play football."

He's not too hard on you?

"Naw, I grew up with plenty of that."

There are a lot of new faces in the defensive backfield. How do you feel it's going so far?

"It's looking good. There's a real talented group right now. The young guys are real talented and with the new system, everyone is on the same page. They are learning the system along with everybody else so they're the same as everyone else; they just have to get that experience. We are trying to go live as much as possible and as fast as we can and they're picking it up good. It's going to be a good unit."

SOPHOMORE LINEBACKER MAURICE CRUM, JR.

Is it hard adjusting to the new defensive scheme?

"I'm adjusting fairly well. I'm learning fast and getting my reps in so I would say I'm doing well."

How was the position you are playing different from last year and what is the adjustment like?

"The adjustment is that I am more toward the field. I play a lot more on top of the receivers versus tight ends and running backs. So I do a lot more running."

Are you more linebacker than safety or more safety than linebacker?

"It depends on down and distance. So I guess I would be both."

This position requires you to be a little bit more athletic than chasing guys around, what's that been like so far?

"Not bad because I did a lot of it in high school, so it's just trying to get back to being used to it. Once I get that, it will be natural."

Are you and Ndukwe trying to learn this position?

"Yea, you could say that. I'm getting used to it and he moved from the safety to the linebacker spot so we're learning it together. What he doesn't know, I usually know. And what I don't know, he usually knows. So we go back and forth."

How difficult is it to make a change in position like this?

"It's not too difficult because usually the guys who play it usually have the ability to play our position. So, it's just a matter of understanding the technique and what you are supposed to do."

How complex is it when you have to play pass and cover runs?

"At first it was tough learning, especially with a lot of draws and screens you can get confused very easily. But if you read your keys, there are certain things that tip you off."

Do you feel the responsibilities of that position fit your skills?

"I think so. I can play any linebacker spot, but I like this one in particular because I played a lot of that in high school, so I'm kind of used to it."

What position were you playing in high school?

"I played a lot of safety and a lot of linebacker. So I did in between the two, so it's a good fit."

How important was the red-shirt year for you?

"It was very important. I came in at 208 and I'm like 222 now. I understand college football more now - the pace, the tempo. I've got it all down, and like I said, I've put the weight on and I'm handling stuff a lot better."

SOPHOMORE RUNNING BACK DARIUS WALKER

Does Coach Weis's teaching style help you think the game through and be able to make decisions on your own out there?

"Exactly, I think some of that is rubbing off on us, in a sense we want to know the game like he does and know how a play is going to turn out before it even happens."

How do you gain from having three tight ends on the field at the same time?

"From a running back standpoint, I think it would benefit any running back having three tight ends because of the extra blockers. It's kind of like having extra linemen out there. I love my wide receivers to death, but I would rather have a tight end blocking for me than a wide receiver."

Is coach Weis's knowledge of football unusual - is it bigger, is it more detailed or fine-tuned than other football people you have been around?

"I would definitely say so at this point from my view of it. I would definitely say he has a deeper knowledge and understanding of the game. I think a lot of that probably can be attributed to him because he didn't play the game and him not actually being a player; I think he would have to think harder than people who played the game."

Does he really seem to be a good teacher? Does that seem to be the difference that sometimes he understands exactly how to show you guys exactly what to do and what needs to be done on the offense?

"Definitely, that's true. Coach Weis knows the game in and out, and not only does he know it like that, he knows how to simplify it for us. Simplifying it makes it easy for us to learn and makes it easy for everybody to learn."

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