IE Notebook

Today's notebook includes a look at the development of sophomore kicker Brandon Walker and the pressure of kicking for his teammates on Tuesday. Also, what does Weis think of his returners and his long snappers? And an update on J.J. Jansen's prospects with the Packers and #60.

Charlie Weis took advantage of the presence of reporters at Tuesday's practice to put some added pressure on sophomore kicker Brandon Walker.

"The more I can put him in pressure situations, the more I'll be able to see. His leg strength has never really been the issue, it's the confidence of, ‘OK, I've already been there, done that,'" Weis said. "I wanted to have him kick in front of (the media) yesterday because if he missed it the whole free world was going to know it, just like if he made it."

Weis announced to everyone that if Walker made the 41-yard field goal the team would be excused from conditioning, but added, "I better see what I want to see or else we'll be out here for a long time."

The snap was high, but holder Eric Maust was able to get it down and Walker drilled it.

"That's just my job," said Walker, who noted that he does not worry about the snaps. "Once the ball gets down, my job is to kick it through. I'm not really worried about what happens before the ball gets down, as soon as the ball gets down on the ground it's all up to me."

Walker's teammates showed their appreciation by chasing him around the field, although Weis did not think they did a good enough job and had them do it again.

"As great as it was to make it, having Chris Stewart fall on you is not that great," Walker said.

Walker tried his best to get away, but knew the attempt was fruitless.

"If I can outrun David Bruton, I shouldn't be kicking," said Walker, who was then asked if that would reflect on Bruton. "Well, there's no question that he should be starting. Maybe, I'll have someone block for me, but that's all I can do."

Some of the coaches were not quick enough to get out of the way either, as Steve Quinn, Kyle McCarthy and Pat Kuntz chased down and tackled Corwin Brown.

"It didn't look like Corwin got away from the pile, and Corwin's a veteran," Weis said. "I think I might have got a glass of water from somebody in the face myself, to tell you the truth. I haven't been able to find that on tape yet though."

Weis tries to put his kickers in as many critical spots as he can.

"That's important because even though it's a minor form of pressure, the fact that it wasn't a perfect snap and he drilled it through the uprights, that's a good thing," Weis said. "Plus he endeared himself to his teammates at the same time."

The sophomore kicker says that he likes being put in those positions.

"Coach Weis and the rest of the coaches do a good job of putting us and the other guys in game situations," he said. "You can't bring in 80,000 fans to every practice so the best he can do is put something on the line and he's done a great job doing that for us."

Walker is listed as the number one place-kicker on the depth chart and was pleased with Tuesday's success, but knows that he has to continue performing.

"I've never heard Coach Polian say that I'm the starting kicker. I've never heard Coach Weis say that I'm the starting kicker. Everything right now in camp is written in pencil. No job is finalized," he said. "I've got to work to get the confidence in my teammates."

Walker feels more confident as a sophomore and credits special teams coach Brian Polian with much of it.

"A lot of that goes to Coach Polian. He's probably watched enough film on all of us that he's either ‘A' sick of it or ‘B' accidentally dreaming about it," Walker joked. "He pinpointed our mistakes and our weaknesses in our techniques and he's come up with drills to fix it. A lot of it has to do with technique and seeing the results, so a lot of the credit goes to him."

Walker also spent plenty of time working with junior kicker Ryan Burkhart.

"Burkhart was up here in the summer and he and I, we work really well together, he's a good friend of mine," Walker said. "We just helped each other out until we got what we wanted out of the workout, that's when we decided to stop, there was never a set amount of kicks.

"My main concern was accuracy this year. Coach Weis is not going to put me out there for a 65-yard field goal. I kept it short working on accuracy."

Walker feels like his game is getting better on multiple fronts.

"A lot of changes have even come over the summer and the spring. I'm still progressing now. I don't think I'm done growing mentally or physically, so I have a lot of work to do," he said. "Again, that's a credit to Coach Polian, every kick is the same kick. I'll be back for a 48-yard field goal and he'll be like, ‘Hey, it's just an extra point.' So really I'm hitting everything the exact same."

Walker was again asked about long snappers and reaffirmed that it's not something that he thinks about much.

"We work with snappers as much as we can, but it's Coach Polian's job and Coach Weis's job to find the best snapper," he said. "My job is just to watch the holder, as soon as it comes up, I go. I'm zoned in. I trust me teammates like they should trust me, so I'm not too worried."

IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT THE RETURNERS: Weis feels like the guys that he can put back on kickoff return will give the Irish a chance to hit some big plays, but cautioned that they need some help from the players in front of them.

"We have a few returners back there that have got some giddyup, which is always a good start. But as you saw several times as you study special teams, it doesn't matter how much giddyup you have if when you're catching the ball you've got a party in your face," Weis said. "So far, so good as far as the progress we're making there, once again it's still really early."

Weis was also pleased with Burkhart and Walker's boots during the kickoff period.

"I thought we had made some progress from the first time we did kickoff to the second time we did kickoff just as far as getting the ball down there to the 5-yard line or close to the endzone," he said. "Anytime the ball is being kicked between the 20 and the 10 and you're not doing it by design, you're putting the kickoff team in a bind. Yesterday, I thought that both of the guys actually kicked the ball halfway decent."

WEIS CALLS OUT RJ: There was a funny exchange between Weis and freshman Robert Blanton as they worked on kickoff return Tuesday. Weis thought that Blanton failed to look to his left, but when he asked him about it, Blanton assured him that he did. Weis was not convinced and reviewing the tape did nothing for the freshman's case.

"He's a freshman, you've got to humble him now. That's the first of many verbal beatdowns that he's going to take," Weis said. "He didn't by the way, as you knew he didn't. He says I can't see his eyes on that. (He was) looking out of the corner of his eye, which is a lie."

SNAPPER JOB UP FOR GRABS: With the graduation of last year's long snapper, J.J. Jansen, the depth chart currently features four freshmen and a pair of walk-on seniors.

Freshmen Mike Golic, Jr., Braxston Cave, Darius Fleming, Lane Clelland are all separated on the depth chart by the word "OR" as are seniors Kevin Brooks and Paul Kuppich.

"I told all of these guys when we were recruiting them, a lot of these linemen and even the linebacker types, because Darius Fleming has got some snap ability himself, you'll see him on the depth chart too. So whether it was Braxston or Lane Clelland and Mike Golic, they all can long snap," Weis said. "But when we got them we said, ‘Start working on it right now, because there's a good chance J.J. won't be here and we're going to need somebody to get on the field.' One of the easiest ways to get on the field as a freshman is to play special teams and there's obviously a void at that position now."

Weis said that he does not intentionally look to use a walk-on for that position.

"Kevin Brooks is in the mix. JJ Jansen was a walk-on that I scholarshiped," Weis said. "Whoever is the best guy, just like Mike Anello has been the starting gunner on the punt team, he's a walk-on too. We've got all these guys on scholarship; no one can beat Mike Anello out. And you want to know something, no one can beat him out."

SPEAKING OF JANSEN: Jansen appears to have a pretty good shot at making the Green Bay Packers as he is currently the only long snapper on the roster. Ironically, the signing of Notre Dame alum Ryan Grant earlier in the month meant that Green Bay had to make a roster move and the Packers released Thomas Gafford, the only other snapper on the team.

Walker has kept in touch with Jansen and tuned in to the Packers' game against the Bengals earlier this week.

"We keep in contact every once in awhile, he's kind of busy up there in camp. We caught his game on ESPN last night and it looked like he was doing pretty good," Walker said. "Things look pretty good for him right now."

IT'S STILL A 2: Duval Kamara is still wearing #60, which Weis said would continue until the receiver weighs in under 220.


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