Irish head coach Tyrone Willingham and the Irish wrapped up their last practice on the west side of campus on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Football Practice Report - Day Eight

Aug. 17, 2004

On a rainy afternoon the Notre Dame football team ended its preseason practice schedule on the west side of campus by O’Neill Hall and will return to the friendly confines of Cartier Field for the rest of preseason camp. The Irish wrapped up practice a bit earlier than scheduled on Tuesday due to a rainstorm and getting a rest for a football team that has put in an outstanding eight days of hard work. The team will spend Tuesday evening in O’Neill Hall, then spend Wednesday morning moving into their dorm rooms across campus. The rest of the Notre Dame student body will start arriving on Thursday, with classes beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 23. Freshman running back Darius Walker stopped by to talk to the media after practice on Tuesday. Walker, a highly touted prospect out of Lawrenceville, Ga., talked about his early impressions of Notre Dame, his teammates and the coaching staff. Walker answered many of the same questions posed to classmate and fellow running back Justin Hoskins earlier in camp. Q: You have been in the program over a week, what is your initial impression of Notre Dame? Walker: “It is a lot different coming into camp. Everything is tough right now. You are trying to learn the system and work hard. My perception of it right now? (Notre Dame) is a place you have to come in, work hard and know what is going in order to get a chance to play. They will play the players that know what is going on. ” Q: What was your first impression of the massive playbook? Walker: “That has been the hardest thing for me. Not so much for the running plays but for the passing plays and the protections. That is a lot different and a lot more in depth than in high school.” Q: What are your early impressions of the team as a whole? Walker: “When I first came on my (recruiting) visit, my impression of the team was that they were in the `working hard’ mode. With the tradition that Notre Dame has and the down year they experienced last season, everyone wanted to get back to what Notre Dame is. My perception of that now is the same thing. Everyone works hard and they push the freshmen just as hard as they push themselves. It is a really good system, everyone is working hard and it is a program on the rise.” Q: What about the leadership on the team? Walker: “The leaders want the freshmen to work hard, but they push themselves and anyone else who may be on the field. They are motivated and into every play, clapping and yelling. It is very family oriented.” Q: What do you think about the split practice format? Walker: “Spilt practice was a lot different from what I am accustomed to, with half the people on the field at one time, but I thought it was a really good thing. Coming in as a freshman, it is great for us to learn the system. We learn a lot more running plays than watching from the sidelines.” Q: What is your impression of the coaching staff, now that you know them outside the recruiting process? Walker: “They are very business like. What I mean by that is, when they are recruiting you they really want you to come and will act extremely nice. When you get here, they bear down and want you to work hard. They have expectations and they want you to come in, work hard and learn the system. They are coaches and they are doing what they have to do.” Head Coach Tyrone Willingham Coach Willingham speaks to the media after each preseason practice. Here are some of his comments on Tuesday, Aug. 17: On the tight end situation, specifically Anthony Fasano and Marcus Freeman.. “Anthony has done very well. It is not easy to come back from the injury he had. He has been at practice every day so far and that is a big plus when you can have him in the lineup. But there is good reason for him to be back. You have some other guys there, who if he misses a day or two, will be delighted to run away with the position. (Tight end) is a good position for us, all the players have done very well and we are excited about all of our tight ends. “You have to (narrow it down) at some point. We have to be specific on what each player does best. Now, that is good and bad. The good part is that you are working to a guy’s strength, but that is also a pretty good signal to the other team what is coming. There are pluses and negatives to that, but on the plus side, that is where the split practices work so well for us. It has allowed all of the tight ends to get an opportunity and allow us to see what they can do. “Marcus (Freeman) has gotten bigger and stronger since he arrived here as a freshman. He has improved his blocking. We always thought he would be a good receiver for us and he has continued to catch the ball well. He seems to be growing by leaps and bounds and I think a lot of that has to do with his own desire and the excellent competition we have at that position.” On the development of freshman running back Darius Walker… “I am very pleased with Darius. He is not different from any of our freshmen because he is learning. There are days he understands things well and other days he does not. If you look at him as a runner, he seems to indicate that he has some vision. That is always a key asset if you are going to be a very good runner.”