Latina Likes Progress

Notre Dame offensive line coach John Latina is pleased with the development of his unit from spring to fall camp and with the growth that the linemen have made in the first week or so of camp. When he met with the media on Monday morning, he talked about the positive mindset that the group came in with.

"I think our kids have a good attitude. They know that it's going to take hard work to improve," Latina said. "I think their attitude has been great, it was in the spring and it was all the summer with our strength and conditioning staff and it's carried over into fall camp, which is a real positive thing."

Still, he admits that the group has a long way to go before the first game, but believes that there is still time to do it.

"I've seen progress, there's no doubt. Obviously, that needed to take place," Latina said. "I've seen a lot of progress, but there's still a lot more to go. We're still not quite three weeks away from game time, so we've still got some time but we've got to continue to progress and we expect that to take place."

While the first game is actually just under three weeks from now, the depth chart is becoming more clear, but is not yet totally firm.

"I think we're getting closer and closer," Latina said. "We're still almost three weeks away, there's still a lot of time, so nothing's etched in stone."

With the other four positions on the line already decided, left tackle is the spot with the most intrigue. Senior Mike Turkovich was from left guard to left tackle to battle with classmate Paul Duncan and Turkovich appears to have the early edge.

"I think it's been pretty competitive. I like the fact that we have a couple of guys that are competing, a couple guys that are veteran-type guys and I see them both getting better," Latina said. "I think (Turkovich) has adjusted quickly to it, even quicker than I thought. I think the left tackle is kind of like the center. The center is a unique position, but I think that in the pro-style offenses I think the left tackle is a really unique position. It was good that he had been there before and has had years of experience there in our system, so I think that's helped him."

Turkovich has improved his strength over the summer, which has impressed Latina.

"I think he's really developed his physical game. I think obviously the weight room has helped that as he continued to get stronger and get some more bulk on him. He's playing a lot more physical than he's ever had," Latina said.

Duncan has been hobbled recently with a leg injury, but Latina said that the injury has not had much to do with the competition.

"You never want anybody to miss practices or to be banged up, but that's part of the game," Latina said. (Duncan's) been around a long time, it would be a lot more severe on him if he was a second-year player and hasn't been there a long time. So I don't see that being a big factor."

When asked about Turkovich's pass-blocking skills, Latina replied plainly, "He's done well. He's done really well."

When it comes to the coaching staff commenting on players, it is clear that there are times when less is more. Such was the case the other day when Charlie Weis was asked about sophomore linebacker Brian Smith and simply replied, "He's got a chance at being something pretty special."

Latina talked about freshman offensive lineman Trevor Robinson in a similarly plain manner.

"He's getting better everyday. He's young and any young player that gets better everyday usually becomes a really good player," Latina said. "He's got a lot of ability."

The offensive line coach echoed some of the comments that Weis made about the advantage that Robinson gained by enrolling early.

"Obviously as a freshman, offensive line is hard environment to be in, but him being here in the spring and going through spring practice has really helped him a lot," Latina said. "You see a lot progress on him, a tremendous amount of progress on him. I think a lot of had to do because he had a chance to go in experience it with spring practice. Even though spring practice is not that long, he had a taste of it and he had a better understanding of how to prepare for the fall as opposed to the guys that didn't get that experience."

Even when pushed further, Latina refused to gush about anything outside of Robinson's potential.

"He's a real talented guy on that line and I like the fact that he's progressed from spring to where he is right now and I expect that to continue on an upward swing because he is still so young," Latina said.

As for the potential of the offensive line as a group for 2008, Latina wants to see his starters grow together while seeing the younger guys continue to improve.

"You need to see your ones to continue to work on continuity, to continue to work on being one unit instead of five individuals. (The younger players) are the ones that have really got to continue to make the most progress," Latina said. "For a young guy, you've got to continue to do it over and over and over again. You want to get your younger guys, your 2's to really get a lot of reps and continue to show a lot of improvement. Top Stories