Hord Hoping For More

In the back of his mind, on every rep, receiver D.J. Hord thought about his Achilles heel, and how it kept him out the whole 2006 football season. Coming back from it, Hord played gingerly and cautiously during Notre Dame's spring camp, not wanting to re-injure himself. That frustrated the junior. So did the dropped passes and slowly seeing his opportunity slip away.

Hord hung in there. This summer in team 7-on-7 drills, Hord stopped thinking about his Achilles as much. Now he is completely over it. It definitely shows.

It's night and day for Hord when comparing the entire practice the media got to watch in the spring, and the entire practice the press got to watch last Saturday. Gone were the drops, frustration, and receivers coach Rob Ianello giving him a hard time. Hord snagged every pass thrown his way. Some were a couple acrobatic grabs including a sweet catch on a ball thrown behind him.

Head coach Charlie Weis has said that David Grimes and George West are the top two receivers on the depth chart, but that the position is feeling pressure from the bottom up. He thinks there is a lot of guys that can play, will play, and with the way Hord's fall camp is going, he is one of them.

"I'm starting to get more and more confident as we go because I am getting more trust in my left ankle," Hord said before Tuesday's practice. "It's good to go now."

"He's progressed very well," Ianello said. "You have an injury like he had, you take steps to get back. He's taken those steps and he's progressed very well. I know he's got plenty of room to grow. He's challenging himself. Like every receiver trying to improve everyday. He's no different than any of the receivers going out there trying to establish themselves, trying to take advantage of opportunities, trying to find a role for themselves on the team. That's what he's trying to do like all the other receivers.

A U.S. Army All-American coming out of Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo., the 6-foot-1, 196-pound Hord played in six games as an Irish freshman. He didn't catch a pass but returned seven kicks for 123 yards (17.6 average).

Hord, not classmate Grimes was the touted receiver of their class. But while Grimes's 28 career receptions is the most of the returning receivers, Hord's career has been riddled by injuries. He was also banged up his freshman year. Hord sees this upcoming season as possibly his last chance to make an impact.

"I've been hurt two years already so if I get hurt again I'm pretty much done," Hord stated. "I have to step it up."

Also trying to step it up are sophomore receivers Robby Parris, Richard Jackson and Barry Gallup Jr. Then there is freshmen Duval Kamara and Golden Tate looking for game-day reps. Not only are all those players trying to prove they deserve to start, but show that there isn't going to be a drop off in production with Maurice Stovall, Rhema McKnight and Jeff Samardzija graduating from the program.

"We feel that a lot of people are doubting us right now," Hord said. "We're playing right now with a chip on our shoulder that we have something to prove. Right now, everybody is like with Jeff, Ray, and Mo gone, what's left? For us, we want to try and go out there and prove there is something still here."

Hord hopes that he is proving that he deserves a starting spot this season. He showed that he was up to the task with that impressive open practice.

"Camp is more than one practice," Hord said. "You have to be consistent and have to have consistent practices. Just because I had one good practice doesn't mean I'm starting now. I have to keep it going."

***There might not have been a player more excited to put the pads on and finally start hitting last Friday than junior fullback Asaph Schwapp. The 6-foot, 261-pound lead blocker played during the spring, but is eager to get the season started after missing the final 11 games of the 2006 season with a knee injury.

"The thing with me, just fullbacks in general, it's hard to really show ourselves without pads on," Schwapp said. "Fullback is a physical position, so I think how we show what we have is with our pads on."

In just a short time, Schwapp and sophomore Luke Schmidt have shown that the Irish fullbacks will be more physical than in seasons past.

"It's really been interesting," offensive coordinator and running backs coach Michael Haywood said. "Our fullbacks have become more physical from the previous year. With the type of offense we're running, they've done a really good job attacking inside linebackers, outside linebackers in a 3-4 system. They've also done really well on guys in space, working on blocking secondary defenders and attacking in jest, and they've done a really good job."

Because of his knee, Schwapp hasn't been able to max out on the squat rack, but his bench press is as impressive as ever. During the summer, he threw up 515 pounds.

"There might be a couple defensive linemen," Schwapp said when asked if anybody else on the team could bench that much.


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