Special Spring For Polian

Notre Dame special teams coordinator Brian Polian can be forgiven if he has more than just football on his mind this spring.

There are several members of the Notre Dame football team that are handling multiple roles this spring.

Golden Tate and Eric Maust are squeezing in their time with the football team between baseball games. James Aldridge is learning the fullback position while also competing for carries at halfback. Tyler Stockton, Zeke Motta and E.J. Banks enrolled early to get a head start on both school and football.

And of course, Charlie Weis is now holding the positions of both head coach and offensive coordinator.

But nobody in the Irish program has had to adjust to more important roles than special teams coordinator and new father Brian Polian.

Polian and his wife Laura's first child was born on St. Patrick's Day.

"It is a brand new adventure," Polian said. "I had no idea what I was in for. It's wonderful, it's great."

Polian is now juggling the responsibilities of a football coach during spring practice with his duties as a father to a newborn baby.

"There is no such thing as good timing, not that we have any control over anything like that," said Polian. "We brought Aidan home on March 19 and practice started March 20, so my wife is a trooper right now."

Polian is relying heavily on his wife during these crazy weeks.

"I can't complain. I take that late night feeding and then she takes the one in the middle of the night and the one at the crack of dawn so that I can be ready to go to work," he said. "My wife deserves all of the credit right now, she's the one gutting it out."

At work, Polian is enjoying the chance to get to work with the newcomers and the veterans.

"It's fun to watch Zeke Motta run around right now and then some of our usual suspects, guys like Harrison Smith and Kyle McCarthy," he said.

The most scrutinized member of any special teams unit is the place-kicker and as the kicker for Notre Dame, Brandon Walker has to deal with more attention than most. Polian is not rushing things with Walker, who had a terrible start to 2008 before closing strong.

"Slow progress, to be honest with you and that's with all of the specialists. Being inside has not helped us, we would like to be outside more," Polian said. "That's typically a spring thing, by the end of the spring we're kicking the ball and catching the ball better."

But Polian and the Irish do need to see Walker grow into the kicker that he was late in 2008.

"He's going to be a third-year player now, we've got to begin to develop that consistency because he has shown everybody that he can make big time kicks in pressure situations," Polian said. "We need him to continue to mature and now to be able to perform at a high level on a very consistent basis."

Polian has also had to shuffle players in and out of the lineups based on availability.

"You lose Eric Maust to go to Pitt to play baseball and we have to put Nate Montana in there to hold, we have to put John Goodman in there to hold," said Polian. "You go through the growing pains of having to do stuff like that, but ultimately we'll be better off for that, you just hold your breath a little bit as you go through the operation."

Notre Dame made the unusual decision to offer a scholarship to a long snapper in its latest recruiting class and signed Jordan Cowart out of St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"A lot of schools develop their long-snapping depth through a walk-on program and then whoever wins the job normally gets scholarshiped," said Polian. "That's difficult to do at Notre Dame. It's a very difficult school to get into and then it's expensive to boot. The pool of walk-on candidates is very small compared to a major state institution, for example.

"Coach made the decision that it was in our best interest to go identify one early that we felt would be prepared to do it and make the investment. Because the bottom line is you don't appreciate them until they're gone."

The Irish got a solid performance from of walk-on Kevin Brooks last year and J.J. Jansen before that, but Weis decided that he wanted to get some stability at the position.

"Rather than go through this every year, Coach made the decision let's go invest in the right guy and then hopefully he'll be the guy for four years."

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