News and Notes 8-22-2005

*The freshmen of the Notre Dame football team met the media for the first time Monday afternoon in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex Auditorium. Up until this point, head coach Charlie Weis has shielded the group away from the spotlight. Today, however, the press got their chance to asks questions about fall camp and the transition to college football.

Most of the media immediately flocked to David Bruton. The safety has been getting some reps with the first-team defense in practice. Bruton spouted out the company line about playing time action.

"It's so I can learn the defense and get a little experience with Tommy (Zbikowski).," Bruton said about his time with the first-team. "I pretty much have just been trying to make the plays and try to learn everything. To be honest, I didn't expect it. I just wanted to help the team as much as possible. If I had to be on the scout team I wouldn't mind."

Bruton is one of a small handful of freshmen that might see action on either defense of offense. Most of the first-year players repeatedly said today they just wanted to "get on the bus" as contributors to special teams and help in anyway they can. Bruton may be an exception to that rule and count on him somewhere in the secondary mix. He said camp hasn't been easy for him or the others.

"Yeah, it actually has been more than I've ever experience before," Bruton said. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot of running and conditioning, a lot more physical contact that anything."

*Weis awarded three scholarships after practice to walk-on players who have stood out for their performances during the summer conditioning period and fall camp. Senior cornerback Brandon Harris, senior wide receiver Rob Woods and junior defensive lineman Casey Cullen were the three honored with a free year of college education. The head coach was going to award only one walk-on a scholarship at the beginning of camp but with the recent defections, the number got boosted up to three. Weis wanted guys who could help on game day.

"What guys can we take to the game that may not be in the two-deep on offense and defense that we think we can put on the field to help us win?" Weis asked when thinking about who to give the scholarships to. "That's really what it came down to. All three of these guys we see playing a part on special teams. I went and researched grade point average. I went and looked at character to see if they were in any trouble with the university in addition to what I thought of them as players."

All three of them have particular strengths, Weis said, and the team cheered loudly after practice when they were announced. Woods has a 3.95 grade point average in engineering and Weis wants to surround the team with winners. He thinks Woods is one of these guys. Cullen, the coach said, has been impossible to block or stop at practice and will be on three or four special team units. Harris, a potential return man, has impressed Weis from day one.

"Since the day I've got here, he's stood out as far as how hard he works and how fast he runs," Weis said. "He's a bit raw and inexperienced. He came here on a partial music scholarship and I told him he could take that partial music scholarship and throw that baby away. I'm picking up the tab for you this year."

*Today was the last day of training camp for the Irish. Tomorrow, the players begin classes on campus and the 20-hour week will take effect. On Sunday night, the team held a scrimmage for two hours with referees officiating the action. Situations, dictated by Weis, were thrown not only at the players. He did not bother to tell his coaching staff either to see how they would react. An encouraging note for Irish fans: on the first possession, the first-team offense moved the ball 99 yards against the second team defense for a touchdown. Weis likes where his team is with less than two weeks to go before the opener at Pittsburgh.

"With a week and a half to go, I think we have the foundation set where we can now go ahead and game plan each week and put ourselves with a chance to win," Weis said. "We have enough offense and enough defense. We understand who are personnel is. There is still some jockeying between a second and a third guy here.

"We still have a couple of things we have to put in, some situational ball that I haven't covered yet. For example, tomorrow we are going to truly practice end of game plays, jump ball plays. So the first time it happens, these guys won't be like ‘what do we do know coach?'"

*Wide reciever Matt Shelton was donning a green jersey at practice today and was not in pads. The junior spent the early part of practice pedaling away on an exercise bike. Shelton suffered a late-season knee injury last season and did not practice during the spring. He has been taking it easy throughout fall camp coming back from the injury.


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