News and Notes 8-14-2005

*The Notre Dame football team practiced outside today on the wet fields adjacent to the Hammes Bookstores. Special teams were an emphasis today as the Irish spent 45 minutes of their three-hour practice going over issues pertinent to the unit. A full crew of officials was there to oversee the action and offensive line coach John Latina appreciated their presence.

"Today was a special teams emphasis," Latina said. "We do some things and get some things on film so we can teach after. On our special teams, we wanted to make sure our alignments were proper with the officials being out there. It was good to have the officials out there. We'd like to have them out there as often as possible. To have the kids know their presence is out there, I think is a good thing."

Head coach Charlie Weis has stressed this past week the importance of special teams and how they can turn around a team's fortunes the quickest. These constant references to the unit's value and taking almost a third of the practice to work on this phase of the game doesn't make these words ring hollow.

*Sophomore Junior Jabbie has switched positions from cornerback to the offensive side of the ball. Jabbie was working with the running backs at the beginning of practice and might settle in there. It will be tough for him to see action with Darius Walker, Travis Thomas, Justin Hoskins, and Jeff Jenkins being a solid foursome at the position. It also thins out an already suspect secondary by one body but Jabbie apparently wanted to test the waters.

"He came and talked to Coach Weis and asked for the change to offense," defensive backs coach Bill Lewis said. "He was at practice today working with the offense."

*Speaking of the secondary, Lewis is trying to rework a unit that surrendered 280 yards per game last year through the air. Irish fans have been fretting over the potential depth chart of the defensive backfield. According to Lewis, no such depth chart exists.

"No, we haven't reached that point," Lewis said about formulating one. "There will come a time, and we haven't exactly pinpointed when it'll be, you kind of finish the training camp part of the preseason and begin preparation for your opening game. What we're really doing is working to put out football team together. There will come a time when the depth chart does mean something. There will be a first unit at some point. There will be a second point."

Whether this is coach talk or not remains to be seen. Lewis wants his players coming to practice everyday competing hard for the spots. He said there are no givens and doesn't want the players falling into a comfort zone. The situation appears to change everyday.

"We've told them the depth chart is an ever changing thing," Lewis said. "It's a day-to-day practice. There will come a point when that chart means something. I think we've developed a good rapport and a good understanding that we got the guys competing each day and each practice."

*Weis made reference to the fact that the players were in great shape at the beginning of preseason practice. The head coach also said it was "a modern miracle" that all the offensive linemen passed their conditioning test. Latina knows today's game is different and being just big and strong won't cut it anymore.

"I think a lot of kids try too get big and strong," Latina said. "That's important. They spend a lot of time in the weight room. But when you are going against the types of teams and the caliber of athletes that we go against, your big strong offensive linemen better become athletic as well. We try to do something everyday to improve their athleticism and quickness and balance. It's very important."

With the talent levels and speed resources at USC, Michigan, and Tennessee, three teams on the Irish schedule this year, Latina's point has hit home with his linemen.

*D.J. Fitzpatrick has been named to the Lou Groza Preseason Watch List. At the end of the year, the award will be given to the nation's top kicker. The senior is one of 30 players on the list and they were picked because of their 2004 performance and 2005 expectations.

Fitzpatrick has been a key component on the Irish's special teams. The senior has connected on 22-of-28 field goals inside 50 yards for his career and was 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) last season. Fitzpatrick is eighth on Notre Dame's all-time made field goal list with 23. Top Stories