Competition Drives Talley

The defensive line was criticized at times last season for failing to produce a stiff enough pass rush against opposing quarterbacks. This year, head coach Charlie Weis said improving this area was near the top of his concerns in spring practice. Emphasis on creating a forceful pass rush has resulted in competition among Irish players to impress the coaching staff. Defensive end Ronald Talley has a simple approach he's taking this spring.

"I look at it like every position is open," Talley said. "It doesn't matter if you play on the right side or the left side. You have to put up. If you don't up, then shut up. That's how I look at it. I'm in pretty good position to do what I need to do and prove myself as a starter."

Senior Victor Abiamiri has a firm grip at one of the defensive end spots. It's the other side where the position battle is raging. Last season, Chris Frome started six games opposite Abiamiri before sustaining a season-ending knee injury in the loss to USC. In six games, Frome recorded just one sack.

Enter Ronald Talley. The 6'4", 261-pound Detroit native started five of the final six games at defensive end for Notre Dame. The only contest he missed, Stanford, was because of an injury. Talley also racked up just one sack. With Frome still recovering from knee surgery and out this spring, it's Talley's time to shine. He's in competition with junior Justin Brown, who saw action in all twelve games last season, and Dwight Stephenson, Jr.

"There is a lot of competition," Talley said of spring ball. "Things are going good. A lot of guys look ready and working out as hard as they can. We all push each other and that's how it should be. Everybody has big time goals for themselves and big time dreams of things we want to accomplish as a team."

Talley said the friendliness level is all business once they hit the practice field.

"This is different than friendship," Talley said. "We are all out here to be the best. Only one of us at a time can play and all of us are trying to be that person. It doesn't take away from any types of friendship."

In spring ball, there is one little stumbling block between Talley and the quarterback: 6'5", 292-pound left tackle Ryan Harris. The senior offensive lineman his entering is fourth-year as a starter and has maybe the biggest job of anyone on the team: protecting the blind side of Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Brady Quinn. The wars with Harris in practice bring out the best in Talley.

"That's definitely going to make me better," Talley said of the battle. "We don't really keep records. It gets intense. We go at it like we don't like each other. It's just that. Ryan is going to the NFL after this year. What I'm trying to do to him is beat him up and he's trying to do the same thing. It's a lot of competition."

Weis, after citing the emphasis of a better pass rush, has been impressed with what he's seen so far in spring practice.

"The problem has been that I've been too encouraged," Weis said. "That's good and bad. It's good for the defense and bad for the offense. There has been up-tempo play with the guys who have played before. The first four guys have done a real good job of getting off the ball.

"What we've done, instead of stunting the night away to get guys free, we've been emphasizing more straight rushing in this camp to see who can actually beat people. You can trick a guy into getting open but sooner or later you're going to have to beat a guy one-on-one."

Talley had some help from a family member this off-season. Talley's uncle, Jose Turner, is a guiding influence in his life when it comes to football. Turner, coincidently, went to the same high school in Detroit as former Notre Dame star running back Jerome Bettis did. Talley said he learned everything about the game of football from his uncle and with his mother also pushing him, he expects to perform at a high level this season.

"The expectations for myself are high every time I get the opportunity," Talley said. "I try to seize the moment. The only critics I pay attention to are my mother and uncle. My mother tells me about myself, especially when I don't do something right or someone was blocking me. My uncle and I sat down and watched all the tapes from last year. We graded every play." Top Stories