Still Work To Be Done

As Notre Dame practiced in full pads for the second time all spring, defensive coordinator Corwin Brown stated that things are going well on the defensive side of the ball. He did concede, however, that there is still some work to be done.

"We've got some work to do," Brown said. "I think that eventually we will be ok, but we've got some work to do. We've got some things that we need to clean up, and eventually get on the same page. You know, kind of sure up some things. It's been ok."

If it seems that Corwin Brown doesn't want to applaud any of his players quite yet, it's probably because of his determination to expect his players to continuously improve. The former New York Jets defensive backs coach is just as intense in practices as he was when he played for the Michigan Wolverines, and later in the NFL during his eight-year career.

Brown also isn't one to sugarcoat a player's progress, but he offered words of encouragement about Gary Gray and what has become his first true experience of spring ball.

"He's a young guy, and he's got a lot to learn, which I kind of expected," Brown said. "But he'll be ok."

Although some of the younger players, including Gray are gaining knowledge of the program and the ins and outs of the defensive schemes, Brown is also going through a learning process in which he is figuring out how some of the younger players operate.

"I'm learning about a lot of those young guys, especially those that didn't play much," Brown said. "You kind of see their thought process, how they think. You know, starting to get to know like what will get them in trouble, what they do best. So that's a good thing."

Gray, who took a red-shirt year because of surgery on his left shoulder, spoke a bit about the aggressiveness and intensity Brown has brought to practices, a change of pace from the guidance that now retired Bill Lewis used to offer the freshman.

"Coach Lewis doesn't yell as much as coach Brown," Gray said. "But he and I see eye to eye. Coach Brown always pushes me, so I like that."

Safety Kyle McCarthy, who looks to be the favorite to replace Tom Zbikowski as the starting strong safety headed into the spring, couldn't agree more with Gray.

"Practices have been very physical," McCarthy said. "Saturday was a very, very physical practice. Today was no different. There's some guys fighting for spots and we're really popping each other out there."

Although McCarthy admits that he's not all that eager to attend practice every day, it would appear as though Brown's intensity and work ethic has rubbed off on the junior.

"I'm kind of excited for it," McCarthy said of spring practice. "I mean, there's guys out there fighting for spots, and it brings out the competitor in you, so you get excited. But then again, its spring ball. You're not really dying to go to practice every afternoon, but you got to do it. We're excited to get out there and compete."

The main aspect coach Brown seemed to stress throughout his press conference was the need to improve. With McCarthy, it's no different.

"Well, like I said, everybody, for the most part, they've done things well," Brown said. "There's still room for improvement. He's a guy that he didn't play a ton last year, he played some. So any time you're in that situation, experience is always the best teacher. The more experience he gets, the better he'll be."

Coach Brown knows that there is no time to waste, with spring practice essentially a third of the way done. As a result, the defensive coordinator has made plans of what he expects to accomplish each and every day the Irish head to practice.

"You can't afford to waste days, or waste time," Brown said. "It's one of those deals where every time you're out, there are certain things that you're trying to get accomplished. When you don't get accomplished what you set out, it's almost like you can't get that day back."

One player that has risen through the ranks since his freshman year has been Darrin Walls, who will start opposite Terrail Lambert next season as a cornerback. Walls was thrown into competition against Georgia Tech two years ago, and had to guard Calvin Johnson after an injury in the Irish secondary caused a shortage of players. Ever since then, Walls has become one of the premier defensive backs on the team, and coach Brown is seeing a greater emphasis on physical play from the junior-to-be.

"He's playing more physical, but you know, it's just like anything else, you want him to constantly press the issue," Brown said of Walls. "Because you really don't know how high his ceiling is. I've been around some pretty good corners, played with them, coached them, so he's got a high ceiling, but he's got to press the issue to get there."

Brown's recollection of those notable defensive backs recalled a comparison of Walls to a former University of Wisconsin and NFL standout.

"With his style of play, you know, he kind of reminds me of Troy Vincent," Brown said. "I watched Troy a lot in college and then in the league. He's got a lot of tools, so we'll see."

The sophomore laughed off the comparison, and humbly claimed that he's just trying to be himself on the field.

"I'm just out there trying to do what I've got to do," Walls said. "I mean, I'm just trying to be me."

Walls did say that he thought Brown's previous experience as a safety has been an asset to the Irish defensive backs, due to the massive amounts of technique Brown has amassed in his years playing and coaching.

"I think it helps a lot, with him playing safety," Walls said. "I mean he knows what safeties have to do and the conditions of playing corner and safety and that helps a lot and he knows a lot about the game. With him back there, we've learned a lot."

However, Brown did make it clear that he will play the most physical players available on the team, without exception. As a result, the practices have clearly been more physical than those leading to last spring.

"Oh they've been more physical, already this year." Brown said of the practices. "I think that's good for us because it allows us to kind of establish ourselves and set a tempo, and set a tone, and set a bar to how we want to play and what we want to do."

With the emergence of a greater physicality in practice, Brown has also learned a great deal about some of the players.

"When you're playing patty-cake, you really don't know what guys are going to do," Brown said. "But when you allow them to go hit somebody in the mouth, guys that do it, its good, so that's a good thing."

In addition, Brown had nothing but positives to say about coach Weis' increased presence in the defensive meetings and overall supervision in practice.

"Yeah, cause he's in meetings now, and watching your drills now," Brown said. "There's a presence that's there, which is always good. When the head coach comes in your meeting, that's good. When the head coach is watching your individual drills, there are no negatives to that. None. Because it puts the players on alert. It makes sure the coaches are doing what you're supposed to do, which you should be doing it anyway, but there are no negatives to that."

Returning to the continuous theme of the press conference, the need to improve, coach Brown simply wants to get it perfect.

"Technique-wise, you know, like running pressures and running stunts," Brown said. "I want it perfect like right now. We want guys when they blitz to blitz perfect right now. You know, the right departure angles, running the right gaps. If I'm a cover guy, I want to transition at the right time, I want to be on top when I'm supposed to. I want to pass things when I'm supposed to."


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