Enrolling Early Paying Off For West

Spencer, Okla, native George West was one of the very first freshman Irish players to ever enroll early into Notre Dame. The 5-foot-8, 188-pound West made the journey to South Bend six months sooner than most of his 2010 classmates, and while he wasn't initially overly excited about the early move, he couldn't be happier now with his decision.

"It was tough, but at the end of the day you've got to grow up," Irish wide receiver George West said about his choice to enroll early into Notre Dame. "One day you've got to leave. I could've said ‘I want to stay and experience a little more,' but I didn't want to look back on it and say "I wish I would've went.' I came here, and I think it was a very good decision for me."

The first few months were tough on West.

"It's a lot of gloomy days in the winter," he said. "The sun isn't always out in South Bend, but you find a way. We've got a close-knit group of guys that you can talk to if you're down. You always have someone you can talk to. I never lost touch with my mom's cell phone number, so that helped as well."

The former first-team all-state wide receiver said making the decision to leave friends and family sooner was just part of his maturation as a person.

"It was about growing up and being a man," he said. "You've got to get away. You're not going to live with your parents you're whole life. You've got to get away and meet new people. You have to let go. I felt it was a real positive thing."

West also believes it's helped a great deal on the football field.

"Anytime you get to practice with college coaches, and practice with other great players, it's always a positive thing," he said. "You get to see how you should react as a receiver. The coaches let you know what you should be doing coming in and out of breaks—getting off the line—everything is positive. Every little thing makes a difference when you're out there playing.

Irish wide receivers coach Rob Ianello agrees and thinks the extra practice time has helped West mature as a player, and believes it will benefit most any player who decides to enroll early.

"George probably caught more passes in his first practice than maybe his whole season, so you're just getting a chance to learn your trade, and learn it earlier," Ianello said. "The difference between any early enrollees between spring practice and August is appreciable, and certainly a year later it's appreciable.

"You can see it in their confidence. You can see it in their demeanor. You can see it in everything they do that relates to being here.

"I think his confidence is certainly better. He knows what to do. He knows the drill. He's a freshman who's now in his second spring practice. There's a certain amount of confidence about him. The more doing instead of thinking is going on out there, and that can only translate in continued development for any of the guys."

Those extra practices also allowed West to get on the field quickly as a freshman. In fact, he started the very first game of his career as a kick returner.

"It's let me know how game situations are," West said. "Let me know how the speed of game is, playing in a big game like USC, some of the best players in the nation. It kind of lets you know what to expect, and where you need to have your game the next time you go out there."

Now West will try to earn a starting spot as a wide receiver. The second-year player spent a good amount of time last season learning from two very good wide-outs last season in Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight.

"It's about going out there and practicing and having a chip on your shoulder every day," West said when asked what he learned from McKnight and Samardzija last year. "Every day they had a swagger like ‘I've got something to prove.' I think it's something that a receiver has got to have. It's not about being cocky, but it's about being confident."

It's seemed to pay off as well for West as he as has been seen at spring practices lining up with the first team when the offense comes together to run plays, but the freshman receiver says he's taking nothing for granted at this point.

"Coach emphasizes every day that we need to stay hungry," he said. "We understand that, and we know that we need to show every day that we're improving. We've got a lot of great players out there that are wanting to play. I've just got to keep impressing the coaches and hopefully I'll get to play. "It's about improvement. Either you're getting better or you're getting worse. You never stay the same. So I take it day to day as me getting better. If I'm getting better every day, I feel that at the end I'll accomplish a lot at the end of spring."

West is a smaller receiver, listed at 5-foot-8 and 188 pounds, but he says size isn't an issue for him when it comes to getting open.

"I've been doing it my whole life. That's how I got here," he said when asked if his size has held him back from seeing the field more. "But at the college level there are a lot of experienced cornerbacks, so you've got use every technique that your coaches talk about. You've got to use those things in game situations.

"It starts with speed and quickness, and being very precise with your routes. You can't come off the line really banging a cornerback because they're going to try to step up against you because you're smaller. If you use your speed and quickness, and you run crisp routes, it's hard for them to stop you.

"With size, some cornerbacks feel like it's easier for them to get their hands on you. I'm smaller, but I can use my speed to get around them. There's some positives you can have as a smaller receiver."

And West has been working on his size. He can't do much about the height, but he has gained some weight—now weighing 188 pounds after reporting to Notre Dame at 172 pounds.

"Actually, I'm a pretty strong guy, believe it or not, but I've kept my speed," he said. "I've tried to stay in the best condition that I possibly can. I like to run. Running was never a problem for me, so I kept my speed up. I got stronger over the winter. It wasn't something that they needed to emphasize with me because (lifting) is something that I've always liked to do."

So far the hard work has paid off, but West knows he has a long way to go before being named a starter for the 2007 season.

"I think it's just listening to the coaches and taking everything to heart," West said when asked what he needs to do to land the starting spot next fall. "I'm just trying to show them that I'm very attentive, and I'm trying to show it on the field. I'm trying to put what I learn into action."

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