Notre Dame defensive backs coach Corwin Brown managed to sound pleasantly disappointed when asked about the return of cornerback Darrin Walls.
Brown was actually looking forward to Walls' return because he had been waiting to hammer home some things that he did not get a chance to when the cornerback was away from the team last semester.
"Maybe he doesn't need me," Brown laughed. "Because he came back and he was further along mentally and physically than what he was when he left."
Walls' improvements are obvious to the staff.
"He's so much better," said Brown. "He's better mentally, he's tougher, he sees routes well and he knows his keys and what he's looking at. That's good because I was waiting to jump on him because there were things that he needed to work on that we didn't get to fix last year."
Brown admitted that he was surprised by how far along Walls was when he returned.
"It shows you that he had a thought process, that he was thinking about his keys and his reads," Brown said. "Maybe his dad was and I know that his dad will do that now because I know him. But somehow, some way he did it and that's good. That's very good, that's a credit to him."
Walls got an early start on his work while he was away and his father should get an assist.
"I had a personal trainer, it's one of my Dad's friends. I worked out in the gym and we did agility drills and I worked out three times a week," Walls said. "I felt like I needed to maintain or be better than what I was when I left. I had something to prove, I didn't want to come back and be out of shape and have to work myself into shape.
"I knew I had some work to do. I wasn't sure where I would be on the football field, but I felt like I knew, basically, the concept that we play and it wasn't going to be too much of a difference. I was confident in knowing certain defenses and calls, but I just needed to be more aware of my surroundings and be on the football field again."
Brown kept in touch with Walls through text messages and his best friend on the team Raeshon McNeil.
"We texted and I sent messages so we stayed in touch," said Brown. "I talked to him on the phone sometimes, texted him, sent him messages through Raeshon because that's like his mediator."
Walls, who will be a senior with two years of eligibility left in 2009, said that the messages from Brown and his fellow defensive backs helped him get through his period away from the team.
"His texts were very motivational. We talked a lot and also with Raeshon and Terrail Lambert and [David] Bruton," Walls said. "Most of the messages were motivational and they missed me and they wanted me back so it just gave me more motivation to work harder."
Brown made sure to continue hammering home a point to Walls.
"One thing that Coach Brown always forced on me was to be more physical," said Walls. "The text messages that I received were that he just wanted me to come back and be physically fit so that's what I was and I think that's what he expected."
As excited as Brown is about the work Walls did while he was away, Walls still does not think he is 100% just yet.
"I don't feel like I'm back, but I feel like I'm working there," he said. "I feel like I still have a lot of work to do with footwork and technique, but that comes along with time so this spring that is what I'm trying to get accomplished."
But his coach is already looking beyond that.
"Now you look at, how long will it take him to get to where he can possibly go if he just puts everything he's got in it because he's a talented kid," said Brown.