Sept. 18, 2002
by Kevin Herrity
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the Michigan State game approaching quickly, the Notre Dame cornerbacks have their focus on the Spartans’ star wide receiver, Charles Rogers. Rogers, a 6-4, 205-pound junior, has 22 receptions for 459 yards and four touchdowns so far this season. In last year’s game against the Irish, Rogers had a 47-yard touchdown reception in MSU’s 17-10 victory in South Bend. The man charged with devising a plan to stop Rogers this time around is Notre Dame defensive backs coach Trent Walters.
“Charles Rogers is an outstanding receiver, with excellent speed and hands,” Walters said. “He really is the complete package. He may be one of the best two or three receivers that I have seen since I have been coaching.”
Notre Dame has not seen a wide receiver of his caliber in a long time, and according to Walters, all Irish eyes will be on Rogers.
“Whatever side Charles Rogers is on, we will have a defensive player on that side of the field with their eyes on him,” Walters said. “What we can’t do is put too many guys on his side of the field because that would open up other dimensions of their passing game. So it is going to be a tough situation for us.”
The past two years, Notre Dame has been beaten on slant patterns in the fourth quarter against Michigan State that have ended up costing them the game. According to Walters, nothing has changed this week for the defense of the slant pattern.
“We are not doing anything different this week to defend the slant pattern,” Walters noted. “We are going about our business as usual on the practice field. The slant pattern that beat us last year was just a matter of missed tackling. So we are just going to go out there and play our own defense and react to what they give us.”
The biggest match-up of the game will be Rogers against the Notre Dame defensive backfield, which is one of the best in the country this year. Leading the way is senior Shane Walton, who is tops in the nation in interceptions this year with 1.33 per game, and this past weekend, he won the Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week Award.
The coach that works with Shane the most is Walters, and he had nothing but good things to say about Shane, calling him “a great player and leader for us. Shane is a smart football player who is quick and a big playmaker, and he is a guy that is helping us become a better secondary.”
The 12th-ranked Irish will take on Michigan State Saturday at 3:30 (EDT) at Spartan Stadium. The game will be televised live on a regional basis by ABC.
— ND —