"Just Let Me Compete"

While the unit's leaders are established, Irish coaches Bernie Parmalee, Brian Polian, and Tony Alford expect heavy competition to permeate fall camp and every practice of the '09 season.

Irish Eyes sat down with Tight Ends Coach Bernie Parmalee; Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian; and new Running Backs Coach Tony Alford at Friday's Media Day interview session.

Tight Ends Coach Bernie Parmalee

On Kyle Rudolph:

"He can improve all around. Every time he goes out there (practice). A player can never say ‘I've arrived.' Every good player always tries to get better …there's always something he can improve."

On backup tight ends Mike Ragone, Bobby Burger, and the freshmen:

"They have to do what they're asked to do: Work hard.

"As for the young guys (freshman Tyler Eifert and Jake Golic) they have to learn the system. There's going to be some bumps in the road – a learning curve, but they'll get it. These guys underneath the (regulars) have to do the best that they can…help the team the best way they know how and that's by being ready to play on game day."

On my follow-up question (to Weis' press conference) regarding Mike Ragone's recovery from ACL surgery:

"He's a lot better, even in the spring – it was a slow start but he picked it up at the end and was better. Right now he's much better (than early spring) and there are no limitation to him (physically).

"But anytime you come off of a knee injury you're a little hesitant – you're a little unsure about yourself, you really don't want to turn it loose, but that's just part of your psyche for anyone coming off any type of injury.

"I had a knee injury also so I know what he was thinking (in spring practice), but at the same time if you ever want to get back to where you were you want to be, you have to put that injury on the backburner and say ‘Listen, the knee is fixed, now let's go out there and get better.'"

"Now, at the beginning, will he be a little sore? Yes, that's part of the healing process – but in time that (too) gets better."

Answering if the summer months were key to Ragone's (one calendar year) recovery:

"I think so. Anytime (a player) has a little time off and the healing process continues and on top of that he's in the weight room and getting stronger… and each day he's healing the confidence is (going to return). "I'm pretty sure when he comes in he won't think about the knee: ‘the knee is gone, it came, it happened, he's ready to go.'"

"And he knows from Day 1 he has to get out there and compete…which he will do."

Special Teams Coordinator Brian Polian

Regarding "purpose-kicking" vs. repetition:

"We don't kick just to kick, we're always keeping track, there's always a tally. Because there's never a (game) situation where we go out to the field just to kick. (There's always pressure).

On the candidates to replace gunner David Bruton opposite Mike Anello for the punt coverage team:

"There's a bunch of candidates to be honest with you; Sergio Brown's been out there; we'll see who comes in as freshman and flashes (potential). There's always (been) that group of wideouts to get out there – Barry Gallup and guys like that. We have some options. I'm excited to see how it plays out."

On the undervalued role of defending the opposing gunner (and my intimation that Blanton or another CB has the necessary skill set):

"I think you start with your corners and you go from there and see who fits the bill. We'd like non-starters to be out there so you can get (starters) a rest, but in the end you have to put the best guys out there.

"Mike Richardson who started for us for two years at cornerback was out there because Mike was really good (at the role). Ultimately you have to put the guys out there that give you the best chance.

"A lot of these roles – as is the situation normally with the kicking game, you'll have guys like Anello who are role players that you know will be out there – player's like Scot Smith – that are going to show up on most of these (special) teams. For the rest of the guys we have to see how it falls; we have to see which kids are going to step up and what veteran backups are going to grasp and take hold of a role on the special teams.

"There's a lot of maneuvering of personnel that goes on in the first week or so (of camp) in the kicking game. Steve Quinn was a great special teams player for four years – another guy we're going to have to replace. We're happy to have Mike (Anello) back and also anxious to see the next set of guys that (will emerge)."

Running Backs Coach Tony Alford

On Armando Allen "carrying himself" like a No. 1 ‘back:

"Yes. He does…but he should. If you can't feel good about yourself why should anybody else? But he does carry himself that way and my thing is he needs to continue to carry himself that way if not even more so.

"It's okay to have a little bit of swagger – it's okay to have that disposition especially when we get between the lines – I kind of want some of that. "

On James Aldridge's move to fullback:

"Well we're not in pads yet but as far as his ability to learn it he's been fine. He seems willing – he's a very unselfish guy, a team guy.

"When I talked to him about the move he (responded) ‘Great, let's go, tell me when.'

"It speaks volumes about him and his character but I think that attitude pretty much permeates our locker room. There are just guys that are team guys and they just want to have success…just let your play do your talking for you. We have a bunch of good guys that are team guys and good to be around."

On keeping players low on the depth chart ready:

"Older guys have to help and step in and tell them, ‘You better know what's going on, too…don't be in the back screwing around.'"

"We'll keep them (the backups) on task and paying attention. I don't care if you're No. 3-4-5 on the depth chart, your competitive nature should keep you in-tuned to what's going on because you are gong to get an opportunity and when that opportunity exists you better show up. You want more opportunities? Make sure you do more with the one you just had. And the way to make sure is to pay attention because when your turn shows up…just show up."

On keeping players happy:

This isn't happiness camp – we're here to get better every single day to be the best we can be here every single day. And the guys that want to go at it every day are going be the ones that play. But I think we have a bunch of guys that are hungry to go and that's the biggest thing – you just want to compete – and that's part of being a competitive guy – just let me compete.

"Don't give me anything just let me compete and we go from there."

On my question regarding Robert Hughes and his progression in the screen game (which was evident vs. Hawaii):

"Yes, that's right, you're looking at guys that, as they become older and more entrenched in the offense, are hopefully guys that are very well-rounded and complete players where they can go play (anywhere) and they can do it all.

"Where its not (a situation in which) certain guys have to play just by the nature of what we're doing offensively – that they're complete players and that should happen as they become older."

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