News and Notes: 12/20/2006

*The last time the media got to interview Brady Quinn was on the night of the BCS Selection Show. The college football nation had just been informed that Notre Dame would play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on January 3rd against No. 4 LSU. A lot has happened since then. The Notre Dame quarterback has been on a whirlwind trip on the awards circuit.

First, it was the Home Depot College Football Show Award in Orlando, FL. Quinn won the Maxwell Award given to the nation's best player. After that, it was a journey to Baltimore to pick up the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, bestowed to college football's best senior quarterback. Finally, a trip to New York City saw him play third fiddle to Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and runner-up Darren McFadden. It was an outcome that didn't surprise him.

"It's something you can't control and obviously you can't worry about it," Quinn said about his third-place finish. "I went there, again, not really looking for anything or expecting anything and just looking to have a good time, enjoy the city and enjoy the moment. It was an opportunity to be there with so many other Heisman winners and tremendous athletes.

"So again, it was a great experience. I was just happy to be there. And I think the biggest thing with me was just being able to get back here and get ready for this Bowl game."

Now, in his final game in an Irish uniform, he prepares for a LSU defense ranked No. 2 overall nationally. The strength of Quinn and the offense is the passing game. Notre Dame averages 273 yards per game through the air. The Tigers will counter with the third best pass defense in Division 1A while totaling the sixth most sacks in the nation. Quinn, who has yet to win a bowl game, will have one more shot against a formidable defense.

"It reminds me of Tennessee last year, just because of the way they're able to get so much pressure on the quarterback just with their front four," Quinn said. "They don't have to bring a whole lot of pressure. They do at times, and again, even when they're bringing pressure, they're obviously making big plays and forcing turnovers.

"Their secondary allows them to match up with a lot of different wide receivers and put pressure on the quarterback and they're not really losing anything. A lot of teams are afraid to match up with our guys outside because of what our wide receivers are able to do if they catch it and what they're able to do downfield. I don't think LSU is afraid of that based on the athleticism that they show in their secondary, how they've done so far this year."

Next season, someone other than No. 10 will be underneath center for Notre Dame. Head coach Charlie Weis will have an entire spring to pick a replacement from Evan Sharpley, Zach Frazer, Demetrius Jones and incoming early enrollee Jimmy Clausen. But Irish fans will be seeing the last of Quinn in the college game. The senior, who holds 36 school records, is a consensus top-5 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft in April. The leadup to the Sugar Bowl will provide more reflection and analysis on his Irish career. Even he's beginning to think about the past four years.

"I've thought about it a lot, especially during exams and while you're studying," Quinn said. "When you take those study breaks, your mind a lot of times wanders to football, and that's the one thing that's kind of missing during that week off where we really just kind of lifted and ran a little bit. I've had a lot of time to think about it, and it's tough.

"It's weird to think about how much you've put into one place and into a team and everything, and now how you're going to be moving onto something else. No one likes change and I'm not saying that I'm not going to look forward to whatever happens in the future but I'm definitely going to miss Notre Dame."

*Tommy Zbikowski was baited into giving an answer. But the senior safety would not bite on the question. Zbikowski is part of a group of players who are eligible for a fifth-year. The experience and leadership he would provide to a young 2007 team would be invaluable. Still, the waiting game on his decision continues.

"No, I'm still getting ready for the bowl game," Zbikowski said when questioned about whether or not he's made a decision. "I haven't put much thought into it. I'm really getting ready for the bowl game, just getting ready for the game."

*Travis Thomas made the switch from running back to linebacker this year and the process is going on 13 games. For the year, the senior has 33 tackles, including five for losses. Thomas still saw time at running back, carrying the ball 11 times for 76 yards and two touchdowns. That's good for an average of 6.9 yards per rush. Thomas, who is eligible for a fifth-year but has yet to make a final decision, doesn't know where he'll be for the 2007 season.

"We'll talk about that after the bowl game and during the spring," Thomas said about possibly moving back to running back. "But right now I'm a linebacker and just focusing on the game plan for LSU."


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