News and Notes: 8/31/2006

*Darius Walker isn't the only one going back to his home state. Fifth-year senior Mike Richardson will be making a journey back to the Peach State this weekend when Notre Dame travels to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech on Saturday night.

Richardson is from Warner Robins, which is about 100 miles to the southeast of Atlanta. In high school, he played both wide receiver and cornerback and was only the third four-year starter in Warner Robins school history. Now, after four years at Notre Dame, Richardson will get a chance to play close to home.

"It's good to go back home," Richardson said, who said he's had to battle to get extra tickets. "I'll be close to my family. I have a lot of my family coming to the game. It's good to be in this atmosphere like this."

His family sure will get their money's worth. Richardson is part of a secondary that will try to atone for last year's showing by working to shut down Preseason ACC Player of the Year Calvin Johnson. The 6-5, 235-pound Yellow Jacket wide receiver gives fits not only with his size but his speed as well. Johnson has been the main topic of conversation this week among Notre Dame players and the secondary will get their shot at quieting all the hype.

"He's a real good receiver," Richardson said. "We have a challenge on our hands. They have a lot of skill players all around. We're going to have to be on our game."

For Richardson, he'll try to keep it even keel emotionally on Saturday night as he plays in front of a lot of familiar faces.

"You try to take it as another road game," Richardson said. "You can't really focus too much on going back to Georgia because wherever you go, most of the people who care about you are going to be watching you. It's not that much of an added pressure."

*The flashbulbs will be sparkling on Saturday night in Atlanta following every move and throw by Brady Quinn. If there's a pre-season Heisman Trophy list, the Irish quarterback is on it. In years past, we've seen gimmicky ideas by colleges to pump up their players for the sport's highest individual honor. An example of this is when Oregon put a huge billboard up of Joey Harrington in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis knows one way to attract potential voters: win.

"With these magazines and all the other one-on-one deals that people try to get to when it comes to that, I said once the season starts - and this week is the season - the best way for him to get noticed is by how he plays," Weis said. "It's not how he talks. It's not by how he interviews and not by how he looks. It's by how he plays. I was all for getting any pub out for the kid, just as long as when it was time to play ball, we could play ball."

Quinn should have a good time playing ball with the weapons he has coming back. All-American Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight are two pretty good targets for him to aim towards. Problem with the passing game? Hand the ball off to Darius Walker, who ran for just under 1,200 yards as a sophomore in 2005. Quinn has the tools around him to make the Heisman dream a reality. He's just looking forward to kicking off the season this weekend.

"I'm just trying to stay calm," Quinn said. "You don't want your emotions to play a large part in it. At the same time, this is everything you've been working for. It's the climax of your senior and college career. I'm excited to finally get it started and see where we stand against a tough team like Georgia Tech."

*The offense and defense have been battling the past three weeks in practice. Everyday, they go head-to-head against each other to prepare themselves for the opener. Most would assume that Quinn and company do as they please in practice. The experience factor on defense, though, has switched it up a bit from last year.

"The biggest thing is that they've improved dramatically across the board," Quinn said of the defense. "I would say for us it wasn't a better camp because of the improvement they have made. When we go one's vs. one's, you can really see how much better they've gotten. There's not one specific area that you can pick out. They've improved so much and created problems for us. It's been challenging in camp. We've had our good days and they've had their good days. It's almost been a wash for the most part."

"I think we've made a few more plays than last year," safety Tom Zbikowski said. "It has something to do with the experience we have on defense now. I don't want to say we were struggling last year but there's definitely been improvement."


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