Walker Fine Tuning His Game

The questions for the Notre Dame football team rest on defense. The offense is loaded and is ready to make a run at last year's record-breaking season. What can they do for an encore in head coach Charlie Weis's offense? It's only spring time right now but running back Darius Walker knows there is room for improvement.

"Our goal is to improve from last season," Walker said. "It's encouraging that a lot of us our back. We're kind of growing off the chemistry from last year. It's beginning to increase and the camaraderie is elevating because we know how each other plays, their style and know what to expect. It makes things easier."

Walker made things looks easy last season. The 5'11", 205-pound running back from Lawrenceville, Georgia had a career year in 2005. The sophomore ran for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. He already ranks 13th on Notre Dame's career rushing yards list. Walker saved his best for last. In the contest against Stanford with a Fiesta Bowl berth on the line, he ran for 186 yards, including the game-winner with under a minute remaining to secure travel plans to Tempe. After shrugging off any notion of a sophomore slump last season, Walker is eyeing a monster junior season.

"I want to elevate my game and the offense's game," Walker said. "Coming off the performance we had last year, there are some areas we can improve in and areas we can be better in. Personally, I want to do everything better. Not just run between the tackles but run outside and inside and route technique and pass protection. Spring time is a good time to work on the mechanics and the basics."

There were times where Walker's carry total was limited. Against BYU, he ran the ball seven times for just 17 yards. There's a good reason for this. The Cougars were blitzing on almost every down and it left mismatches in the passing game. Weis beautifully exploited this tendency and quarterback Brady Quinn and wide receiver Maurice Stovall had career days. That's how the game plan shakes out sometimes. Walker will get 20-25 carries a game and then have a BYU-production type performance. It's all about wins and losses under Weis and finding the weakness of defense. Walker is 100 percent fine with this philosophy.

"I think if you understand football, you realize each game is different," Walker said. "Football is a game that you never know what's going to happen. Strategies that go into a game plan vary from week to week. I understand that as a player that there will be some games where I'll have to run the ball a bit more and then other games where the defense has not-as-good corners and safeties. It'll call for less running. Being a running back calls for you to do it all."

The running back position could be the deepest on the team. Walker is the starter while Travis Thomas backs him up. The senior saw his share of carries increase last season as he ran for 248 yards and five touchdowns. The third string spot appears to be early enrollee James Aldridge. He more than likely held this place on the depth chart before the transfer of Justin Hoskins from the Irish football program.

Spring ball is for fine tuning and staying injury-free. The offense has the luxury of a bevy of returning starters from a unit that averaged 36 points per game and 477 yards a contest in 2005. Walker sees bigger and better things for the group next season and knows Weis will be the first one to keep them on their toes.

"Coach Weis does a variety of things, which makes him an enjoyable coach," Walker said about Weis keeping the focus. "One of the things he does for us on offense is letting us know how important the little things are. It's about technique. It's about blocking and understanding coverage schemes, understanding defenses and where the ball might go on this play. He does a good job of letting us know about the little things, which should elevate the entire offense."


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