Saturday, August 09, 2008

Let's Dive Right In | by Pat

Guess what? Football's started!

This past Friday Charlie sat down with the media and ran through his thoughts on the start of fall camp. After that was the first practice of the new 2008 season. By NCAA rules, the first five practices can't have full pads, so we're still in the so-called acclimation period. has a whole host of video as usual. Make sure to bookmark this link as it is the collection point for all fall camp video. If you're looking for just the audio, here is an mp3 of Charlie's press conference. The transcript can be found here. As usual, it's chock full of good stuff. Here are some highlights:

On off-season conditioning...

And for the first time in history, Chris Stewart is no longer the heaviest lineman. He weighed in at a svelte 329, which is quite a drop from a couple pounds under four bills when he got here. He looks wonderful.

As a matter of fact, now you can call Sam Young Tubby, because he now outweighs Chris. But it's nice to see Chris coming in in such great shape.

With the running backs, we weren't worried about their weight as much as their strength, and all three of the guys that are in contention all raised their bench press 100 pounds from last year to this year. That is a significant upgrade in strength.

Our interior defensive linemen, the guys that lineup in the nose, we wanted them all to get to at least a 600 pound squat. Ian (Williams) got there, Paddy Mullen got there, Brandon Newman's there, and Pat Kuntz, though we have him listed defensive end, if we slid him inside, he's there, too.

It was important that we didn't just get 300 pounders in there, but we have guys that have very strong legs and be able to hold the point inside on the run game.

On ND's running back situation...

I think let's split it into two and one. Okay, let's think about Armando (Allen) on one side and then Robert (Hughes) and James (Aldridge) on the other side, because really Robert and James are very similar players. So I think that they're kind of competing against each other to see who would get more reps.

Because Armando's more that change of pace guy, so he's almost like his own separate entity. Like he's 1 A already, and then we'll see from the other two guys who gets more reps based off of performance.

On Corwin Brown and Jon Tenuta working together...

Throw Jappy (Oliver) in there, too. I think game planning is going to be intertwined. I think getting Jon in there has been invaluable for the progress of our defensive staff. Corwin is welcome. The three of them have gotten along wonderfully.

I probably wouldn't be able to say that if I hadn't been able to watch them so much in spring time. But I think that in the grand scheme of things, we get in the games, Jon's going to be upstairs, Corwin's going to be downstairs.

I think having been in both spots to call games, if you are calling games from the field, which Corwin's going to do, having a guy like that to be able to feed you information, it doesn't get much better than that.

On the development of the OL...

I think the first thing is they're much bigger and they're much stronger, which allows you to play much more physical at the point of attack.

The one thing you have to do is let them play physical at the point of attack. So I think that we have to make sure that we're not passive, and we let them do that. Then you adjust based off of what you see.

So I'm interested to see how much the strength, the size and strength correlates to performance on the field. You know, for that, I can't give you an answer yet, because we haven't even been out there yet.

On the players replacing Darrin Walls while he's out...

Raeshon and Darrin came in at the same time. I think experience and playing, I think that is definitely true. I think that you lose playing experience. But I have to reiterate, not to give just the political answer, I have a lot of confidence in Raeshon McNeil. I'm a big fan of Raeshon McNeil.

And I'm also a big fan of Gary Gray. The difference is he's not played in a game because he was coming off that shoulder last year. He really doesn't have game playing experience, where Raeshon does have game playing experience.

On moving Brian Smith to middle linebacker...

The one guy that stood out for the coaching staff the whole spring. We always knew about Mo Crum. He's like an old reliable. I think he'll be here for the next five years.

But the one guy who made plays all spring all over the field all the time was Brian Smith. And in this defense, the guy who is in position to do that all the time, is the middle linebacker. So now Toryan (Smith)'s going to have his work cut out to get there ahead of Brian. But Brian is the one guy who stood out for the coaching staff every day, every play.

On expectations for Michael Floyd...

You know, the feedback on Michael Floyd from Jimmy has been through the roof. It's been very, very, very good, very, very, very positive.

You know, look at him physically, he doesn't, once again, I don't know but when you see him out there in practice, he doesn't look like a freshman. He looks like an upperclassman that's been around a long time. You look at him and say that's what I'm talking about.

If you're looking for more, there are assistant coach transcripts, player transcripts, and a whole host of features and stories on Irish Eyes, Blue and Gold Illustrated, and Irish Illustrated. A few other random thoughts...

• The pre-fall camp depth chart is out. As noted earlier, one of the biggest changes is at linebacker. Brian Smith has been moved from last season's outside linebacker to starting middle 'backer, pushing Toryan Smith to second string. Replacing Brian is Harrison Smith, who is also listed as the backup free safety. The moves put an awful lot of speed on the field for the Irish. Stopping the run will remain a concern, but it's going to be fun watching them blitz, blitz, blitz.

• Pat Kuntz is back and has been moved to defensive end. More importantly, the mohawk is gone. In its place is, well, this.

• A few number notes. With D.J. Hord transferring, Deion Walker has taken over the #1 jersey. Walk-on Nate Montana isn't ducking any silly comparison by taking his dad's pro number, #16. Good for him. Duval Kamara was running around with a #60 jersey. The story is that since he failed to hit his goal weight, Charlie gave him a non-receiver jersey number to wear until he loses those few final pounds.

• Glancing through the various practice videos and photo galleries, the OL does look a lot bigger. Maybe it's the work in the weight room, or maybe it's just the fact that the majority of them are past the midway point of their college careers. Either way, no more excuses for the line. They are experienced, they have put in the time in the weight room, they have the size, they have solid depth at every position (although left tackle is still worrisome). Time to start shoving people around.

• Fresman defensive tackle Brandon Newman is a big boy. Actually, a lot of the freshmen are listed on the roster noticeably heavier than listed the signing day roster and they look it too. OC Braxston Cave is already the third heaviest OL on the team at 315 pounds. DE Kapron Lewis-Moore put on 30 pounds and is listed at 6'4" 257 pounds. TE Kyle Ruldoph is up over 250 as well and still looks skinny. Ditto DE Ethan Johnson at 275 pounds. RB Jonas Gray is, as Charlie put it, a "rocked up unit". (That means he's strong) It's unrealistic to expect too much from the freshmen right off the bat, but it's great to see so many of them already physically capable of seeing the field.

Plenty more in the coming days, starting with tomorrow's Fan Appreciation Day practice. All those who attend are invited to leave their thoughts, observations, and concerns in the comment section.