Talley Eyes Starting Spot

In fall camp for the Irish football team, two veteran groups battle each other for hours. The offensive line, which has four players with 370 minutes of game time or more, and the defensive line, who returns all four starters, duke it out on the practice fields to see who'll win the line of scrimmage. One of those participants, junior Ronald Talley, says the competition is pretty even.

"They win some and we win some," Talley said. "They're experienced and we're experienced."

Talley is one of a group of guys fighting for the right to start at the other defensive end spot opposite Victor Abiamiri. In addition, Chris Frome and Justin Brown are in the running for playing time. Frome was the starter last season until a knee injury in the USC game ended his season.

Enter Ronald Talley. The Detroit, Michigan native earned his first start the following week against BYU and had a monster day, registering seven tackles and one sack. He finished the season with 23 stops. His classmate, Brown, racked up 12 tackles in 75 minutes of playing time. Frome is back and healthy. It's anyone's guess as to who'll line up vs. Georgia Tech on September 2nd. Talley tried to work hard in the off-season to prepare for the competition.

"I think I've ironed a few things out," Talley said about his overall game. "I've got better. The defensive line as a whole has got better as far as our technique. We've been improving.

"I focused on everything. I improved my strength, of course, and my conditioning. With the type of season we have coming up and the way camp is, those were the two most important things."

A point of emphasis in the spring time was to better the pass rush. In 2005, the Irish totaled 31 sacks. But with a secondary unable to stop the deep pass, some put the blame on the pass rush as well. Obviously, head coach Charlie Weis and staff saw something to this point as he addressed it in spring ball. Talley took the words to heart.

"It's all motivation," Talley said. "It's 100 percent motivation. They're basically saying to step my game up along with everyone else.

"We've been doing a lot of pass rush things along with the run stop. We're going over technique. When you lose your technique, there is a higher risk to give up big plays.

"We want to get to the quarterback as many times as possible. We always want to stop the run. As far as the defensive line goes, we want to do everything."

Talley can look to the other end position for hope. There are a lot of expectations for Abiamiri at left end this season. He showed flashes of brilliance in 2005 when he totaled four sacks in the win over Stanford. But in the eleven other games, Abiamiri had just four sacks. There is an aspect to his game that Talley really admires.

"He's pretty explosive," Talley said. "That's one thing about Victor. That's something that Coach Jappy (Oliver) always teaches us is explosiveness and getting off the ball."

As for Oliver, the defensive line coach, he tells it like it is with his players.

"He's a fair coach," Talley said. "He says things as they are. If something is right, he'll say that. If it's wrong, he'll say fix it."

The competition among the defensive and offensive line continues. Tonight, the team heads into Notre Dame Stadium for a scrimmage. The coaches want to see who performs when the lights and pressure are on. It could be Talley's chance to separate himself for Frome and Brown. It'll also be a chance to show the six freshmen offensive linemen whose job it'll be to block Talley that they have a lot to learn, including tackle Sam Young.

"To be honest, a lot of our freshmen are good," Talley said. "They all battle. We know about the older guys. But the younger guys, they're pretty good.

"Sam is tall with real long arms. He's strong. To be honest, they're all strong but Sam is taller and stronger. That gives him a pretty good advantage to his game."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories