Running back Justin Hoskins missed most of spring ball for unexplained reasons, plus the sophomore was trying to recover from a groin injury and he says he's glad that is behind him now.
"It's been tough mentally and physically," Hoskins said. "I wasn't allowed to practice with the team, meet with the team, lift with them, run with them. So I really didn't get to learn what the new offensive system was all about. I'm not blaming anybody but myself, but when I walked into fall camp I felt like a freshman."
The speedster has put the controversy behind him and is getting more comfortable with the offensive scheme each day.
"Actually I'm learning this one a lot better than I did last year," said Hoskins of the new offense. "I've been sitting down and studying the playbook a lot and that has really helped. I think knowing how to look at a playbook now from last year has really allowed me to get a better grasp of the terminology and other stuff. It is so much different from high school."
The Michigan native was all smiles when asked about the injury that hindered him in the spring.
"I'm real healthy now," he said. "I didn't feel one-hundred percent until August. I messed up my groin in the bowl game, but I'm one-hundred percent now. Summer conditioning was tough, real tough but lifting and running a lot helped me."
The Irish have several quality backs challenging to get in the rotation and Hoskins said, "There's a lot of competition. But now that I can show off my speed and the fact that I'm learning the plays, I think I can start moving up the depth chart. Everybody is out there trying to get a starting position, so we're just out there battling each day, but it is a lot of fun."
Coach Michael Haywood, Hoskins position coach and the Irish offensive co-coordinator, gets high praise from the former Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year.
"Our coach expects the best out of us," Hoskins said of Haywood. "He has coached some good backs like Cedric Benson. He always expects a lot from us and we expect a lot from him, so we are out there trying to do everything he wants.
"I like him a lot. He gets on me when I mess up here and there, but that is understandable because he wants everybody to do everything 100 percent and full speed and execute the plays right."
The talented running back expects to see action again this season on special teams and has also set another goal.
"The coaches have been looking at me as a punt and kick returner and I have been getting a lot of reps there," he said. "Speed and agility are my strengths. I can just take off and break someone down. I have a second gear that gives me a quick burst.
"In a game, my adrenalin is so high that it gets me moving real fast. I want to get reps as a back and not be just a special teamer so learning the playbook is big. I want to score touchdowns. I didn't score a touchdown all last year and I feel naked without scoring so that is one of my goals."
A running back is only as good as the guys up front and Hoskins likes what he sees of this year's offensive line.
"Big, big improvement," said Hoskins of the 2005 O-line "They are more unified as a whole - executing and getting off the ball and controlling the line of scrimmage. They are really looking good."
The expectations for the Irish in 2005 are simple according to Hoskins, "Just going out and winning. It is a whole new coaching staff and a brand new start for everybody. We want to win for the seniors, of course, and we want to have a much better season than last year so we are looking to win all of our games.".