Lambert Looking for Playing Time

Playing in all 12 games last season, primarily on special teams, has given soon-to-be junior cornerback Terrail Lambert a sense of urgency during spring football. He is looking at these 15 practices as the time to establish himself into the Notre Dame lineup.

"I think just getting that little bits of pieces and taste of playing time last year really made me want to go after, work hard this spring, so instead of just getting my feet wet, jump in the pool this time," Terrail Lambert said following practice Wednesday.

The secondary pool is a tough one to dive into. It's already pretty full. Starting cornerbacks Mike Richardson and Ambrose Wooden, along with nickel back Leo Ferrine return. Nobody's place is secure however, considering the Irish pass defense ranked 103rd in the country last season out 117 teams. Lambert, who had eight tackles and broke up one pass in 2005, is ready to improve and compete.

First of all, being able to attend every spring practice this go around is huge for Lambert. Last spring, classes and off-the-field situations limited reps for a then green freshman. The 5-foot-11 Lambert didn't play a down all of 2004 and could have really used every minute of practice time.

"I'm here now so I am able to get the reps I need," he said. "One of the biggest things I want to focus on is just really becoming a real sound technician. Especially at my position, being a technician is probably the best thing you can be, especially at the corner spot because everything you do is technical and there is so little margin of error. So my biggest goal this year is to become a sound technician. Master that and master my craft."

Seeing the crowded depth chart doesn't bother Lambert.

"What I just look at is what can I do to fill that void that needs to be secured in the framework of our defense," Lambert explained. "One of the things that coach (Rick) Minter harps on as well as coach (Bill) Lewis and coach (Charlie) Weis himself is that we need everybody on this team. So it's like a more what can I do to help type of deal."

Starting to sound like a broken record, communication has been the biggest gripe from the coaches about the secondary.

"One of the things coach Lewis said we are going to do this spring is take each and every coverage and break it down, simplify everything," Lambert said. "I guess when we keep getting the repetition and seeing that communication is of great most importance, especially when you start adding things into your defensive package, it plays a vital role. Even the young guys on the team, freshmen and sophomores alike, are starting to pick up on that vibe that communication is vital, especially within the secondary."

Coach Weis had Lambert jump in the special teams' pool Wednesday. Outside for the first time this spring, the Irish were finally able to work on the kick-return game. Weis described Lambert's speed as "front line," and it was on display. Lambert said he took his first return opportunity to the house. That's one more touchdown than the struggling kick-return game had all of last season.

"I love having the rock in my hand," he said.

Lambert didn't get much of chance to show the coaches what he could do as a returner last season. Right before the opener against Pittsburgh, Lambert cracked his wrist and thumb on the top of Ferrine's helmet while trying to block a field goal during practice. He was in a cast for half the season. Lambert was quick to say that cast didn't hamper him from cracking the rotation last fall at cornerback.

Lambert has also been working as the visor on the punt-return unit. His role is to keep the gunners from getting to the returner and open up a crease. Tom Zbikowski brought back two punts for touchdowns last season.

"Hopefully we will take more to the house this season," Lambert said.

Lambert has three years of eligibility remaining. In the two years he's been here, he can see a big difference in his development as a football player, especially at cornerback.

"I've come a ways but I still have a long way to go," he said. "I'll always be my worst critic. There is always going to be room for improvement. I'm just trying to move in the right direction every day, get better every day I step on the field. Top Stories