Coach Willingham and the Irish will open at BYU on Saturday, Sept. 4.

Football Practice Report - Day 12

Aug. 21, 2004

The Notre Dame football team entered the Loftus Center this morning (Saturday, Aug. 21) for a light workout. The squad worked out without pads or helmets during its two-hour session that featured work on special teams. There are two weeks left until the Irish take the field at BYU for their season opener. Notre Dame sophomore wide receiver Jeff Samardzija sat down with to discuss his impressions of camp so far and how the team is progressing in its preparations for the Cougars and the entire 2004 slate. The Valparaiso, Ind. native also talked about being a two-sport athlete at Notre Dame. He garnered Freshman All-America honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine as pitcher during the 2004 season. Q: What are your overall impressions of camp so far? Samardzija: “It’s going really well, we’re coming along and getting closer every day. With all of the practices I’m getting more experience with the first group and just trying to get into the swing of things.” Q: How is camp this year compared to last year when you were a freshman? Samardzija: “It’s a big difference. Last year I was just trying to get situated and get to know the basic routes. Now I’m really getting to work on my game and the little things that I missed last year because I was focused on the big things. Being able to go out there and work against the first team defense is a lot more exciting and a confidence boost.” Q: What is your mindset and the mindset of the team with the season opener just two weeks away? Samardzija: “I’m excited. Obviously we are not where we want to be yet and we still have about 13 practices left. We’re excited and I think we have a lot to offer to go out there and play 12 or 13 games this season. We are ready to go and it all starts with BYU.” Q: How do you view your role on the team as you are competing for a starting spot? Samardzija: “I was hoping that I would get the opportunity to start this year. You’re always fighting for a spot no matter where it is. I’m just trying to put myself in a position where the coaching staff feels they need to put me on the field if they want to have success.” Q: Do you feel drained at all right now with having played baseball in the spring? Samardzija: “I feel good. During the summer we had workouts but we also got a lot of time off. I’ve been here for a long time and I don’t really think I left campus. It’s been good, I feel fine and I don’t feel tired.” Q: Will you have contact with the baseball team during the fall? Samardzija: “No, probably not. It’s just kind of two different worlds when I really look at it. I’m sure I’ll probably see the guys a lot and I’ll probably see coach. Other than that I won’t go to any meetings at all and I won’t pick up a ball, that’s for sure. Right now it’s football and that’s all I’m thinking about.” Q: Were you able to catch any of the Valparaiso versus Penn high school football game last night? Samardzija: “I heard about it. I was talking with my dad about it last night. We had meetings kind of late so we didn’t head out there but I heard about the ending and it was kind of a bummer. I’m sure it was a good game because it’s always a good game.” Head Coach Tyrone Willingham Coach Willingham speaks to the media after each preseason practice. Here are some of his comments on Saturday, Aug. 21. On the personality of Rhema McKnight and his role on the team.. “Rhema is intensely competitive. If you look at our team and think about some of our most competitive guys, he would be one of them. If you told him to go play basketball right now, he would convince you that he is the best basketball player on this team. Or if you said we are going to shoot marbles, play checkers or cards, whatever it is, I would imagine that he would be one of those guys that if he didn’t win he’d be steaming. That kind of personality is always needed and desired on a football team because they just have a tendency to raise the bar.” On Jeff Samardzija.. “When you talk about Jeff, it’s not just what you saw last fall. It’s what you saw in his total presence from the time he was in high school to his arrival at Notre Dame. He showcases himself as just a winner. If you get the ball near him, he’s going to make a play. If you put the ball in his hands he’s going to lead your team to success. He just believes that. He has a very high standard for himself and that is what we like about Jeff. So along with his athletic skill comes his great confidence and just a natural winning presence.” On what to focus on during the next week of practice.. “First off, we are now starting to focus on solidifying the lineups. We’ve done a lot of moving around and that hasn’t been a concern to us exactly about who is who and where they’ll be come game one. But now we start to get closer so we start to solidify the positions as we get into the later portions of next week and would definitely like to have some of that or all of that established as we head into the final week.” On preparing for BYU heading into the next two weeks.. “We always prepare for the season. I don’t think you can take a preseason camp and not prepare for the season. Do you have a focus on BYU? Absolutely. But you want to focus on Michigan, Tennessee and Navy. You want to do something so that within your system there is some recall so when your guys get to that game they can recognize what you are trying to do and it helps them to be better players.”