New York Attitude

The early whisperings around Notre Dame's 2008 fall camp thus far has brought high hopes, hyped freshmen and the return of nine starters along the offense. Another morsel spreading around camp is the ferocious play of junior left guard Eric Olsen.

"Some people like to say that's my New York attitude coming through a little bit," Olsen said with a grin. "I try to style my own play of guys I watched on TV, growing up and stuff — the nasty guys. That's been something that gets me motivated and gets me excited to go out there and try to maul somebody."

The players that Eric Olsen aspires to be like on the football field all embody some grittiness to their approach on blocking.

"Guys like Alan Faneca, Jeremy Shockey, all those kind of players that just try to go out there and be nasty."

This aggressive mind frame has already been on display throughout the beginning weeks of practice, most notably in the Irish Eyes drill. Similar to the well-known Oklahoma drill, an offensive lineman is matched up with a defensive player from the front seven to pave the path for a running back behind the blocker. During the one practice the media was present for, Olsen started the drill off with a bang, flattening teammate Pat Kuntz with a pancake. For Olsen, it's all part of the job.

"It's real important," he said. "You have to be nasty in the trenches. If you can't bring that kind of attitude to the table, then you're just going to get tossed around."

A major reason for this increase in attitude has been the entire offensive line's development as a group and added experience.

"When guys start to get more experience, be more comfortable being out there, they get to change their tempo and change their style to be more aggressive and more physical, rather than to worry about their assignments," the Brooklyn Poly Prep product said.

However, there is still much work to be done.

"[The experience] helped a ton," Olsen said. "Guys are beginning to get more comfortable, but obviously we still have a ways to go and we have a lot of time left to be working in practice, but we're starting to get the ball rolling to where we need to be."

Not only is the unit as a whole meshing well on the field, but they have also come together as friends and people who live together and share moments off the field.

"It's just fun," he said. "I love to go out there with guys that are my best friends off the field, and be able to play with them on the field. It's an exciting thing when we have a good play and we have success, it's a great feeling while you're doing it with your best friends."

Despite the unit's comfort level with each other, they still look to keep every football-related issue strictly business. The group has the confidence to let one another know when one of them has made a mistake, without showing that player up.

"Yeah, it's all in good fun," Olsen said. "No one is yelling at each other and stuff, but we'll say, ‘come on. Let's pick it up,' and give each other a hard time about when someone gets run over on a play. It's a good laugh in the film room."

Offensive line coach Latina isn't surprised in the least that the Staten Island, N.Y. native has stepped up his intensity in the trenches. Part of this is due to his increase in playing time last season.

"Guys grow up, and they get more experienced and they feel more comfortable and confident," Latina said. "That's just the evolution of an offensive lineman."

One factor that might intensify Olsen's attitude is that of his coach. Latina has been extremely vocal throughout the entire fall practice, and has gained the reputation as one of the most animated coaches on the sidelines. He hopes that this fire would spread to his players.

"I think everybody has a personality," Latina said. "Just like the players do, every coach has a personality and you coach to it. Hopefully your players adhere to your personality and take on your personality and that's what you hope. I'm hoping and I'm feeling that better and better. Especially since we have guys who have been with the program, guys that now have some experience, so you see that come to life."

Part of this added, nastiness is due to the physicality of the training never before seen under Charlie Weis' tenure as the head coach of the Irish. During the regular drills, the Irish have been hitting more often and harder than before.

"It's a lot more physical," he said. "Coach Weis has us going full-speed a lot. It's great. You really get a sense of how many yards you really gained on every play, rather than the defenses just wrapping up the backs or touching them. So when coach Weis calls a period of full-speed, we get real excited and it's a real good thing for the line."

Does Olsen feel any different because of the increased physicality?

"It's tough to say," he said. "I try to really get my body ready in the off-season for this football camp or for this season and I think I've done a pretty good job of that. Obviously there's bumps and bruises that come with training camp, but I feel pretty good right now."

One pitfall of physicality in practice is the incidence of nagging injuries. In the practices thus far, there have been a number of concussions and minor pains brought through the full-speed contact.

"That's definitely a possibility," he said. "But you can't sacrifice going full-speed, because you're worrying about little injuries."

The bruises that are the product of the full-contact hitting are obstructions that cause many players to be sidelined with these ailments. For Olsen, this is not the case.

"Well, I mean the guys who get hit feel all that," he said. "But the guys that do the hitting don't, so I feel pretty good." Top Stories