Aug. 13, 2004
For a football player, there’s nothing like putting on the pads and getting the chance for some full-contact action. The Notre Dame football team got their first taste of practice in full pads on Friday and to no one’s surprise, the hitting was fierce as the Irish got a chance to get some solid licks in against one another. While the novelty of the first day in pads seemed to be the storyline of the day, the underlying theme was the continued attention to detail and execution shown by the players and coaches. For many of the veterans, they understand the system Notre Dame has in place and know exactly what is expected of them every minute of every day. One of those veterans is sophomore punter Geoffrey Price, who is contending for a starting spot this season. Price did not play last season, which was a difficult transition for the highly-touted prep standout from Hurst, Texas. He talked with www.und.com about watching from the sidelines last year and what kind of role he expects to play with Notre Dame in 2004. Q: What was your thought process last season? You had to be hungry to get on the field during the year. Price: “Well, of course, I wanted to play, but I had to think about what was best in the long run. We had (Nicholas) Setta at the beginning of the year and D.J. (Fitzpatrick) behind him. So I wasn’t concerned as much with playing as I was with learning and getting myself ready. I didn’t mind waiting my turn. The thing I was most disappointed about with myself was how I performed in practice.” Q: What did you learn as a freshman that you could pass along to this year’s incoming class? Price: “Everything is going to be a lot faster, so you have to be ready for that. As a freshman, if you have someone in front of you like I did, that gives you a little bit of a learning curve. Now I’m past that and I don’t have room for that, so I’ve got to step it up. As kickers, we’re off by ourselves a lot during practice, but when our time comes, we need to perform.” Q: How would you assess your performance during the first week of fall camp? Price: “Yesterday, I think I struggled a little bit and maybe was pushing myself too much. But the two days before that, I thought I did pretty well. I really don’t want to have any of those days like yesterday, but unfortunately I did. Now I just have to rebound tomorrow and have a good practice with two-a-days tomorrow. Coach Willingham always says you have to let the past be the past and don’t dwell on what’s happened, the good or the bad. So I’ve just got to put that behind me and have another good day tomorrow.” Q: Did your performance in the Blue-Gold Game give you some confidence heading into this fall? Price: “It really did. I think I’ve always done well in games, even going back to high school and here in the Blue-Gold Game, I thought I did pretty well. I guess that’s my problem — I’ve never done well in practice in high school and I haven’t done well here in practice. But the problem about playing here is you have to perform well in practice before the coaches will trust you and put you on the field, so I’ve got to get that area up. But if I were to get put into a game, I’m pretty confident that I would do well, no matter how practice was going.” Q: What is one of the technical aspects of punting that people might not know a lot about? Price: “One of the biggest things, and something I’ve been working on lately, is ‘get-off’ time. You’ve got to be fast — I mean, the ball has to be snapped, you have to catch it, you have to get it set how you want it and then get a good punt off, all in about two seconds, which is really fast. Plus, you’re going to have eight really huge guys running as fast as they can at you. It can be nerve-wracking and that’s what I don’t think a lot of people realize — they just think it’s kicking a ball. Then, there’s the aspect of getting off a good kick, because if you’re off by even a fraction of an inch on the ball, that’s the difference between a 70-yard punt and a 30-yard shank off to the right. So it’s the little minute details like that can really screw up the kicking game.” Q: What is it like to be at a position where you’re doing well if you’re not on the field? Price: “(Laughs) Oh, that’s fine with me. That means our offense is scoring and we can use a lot of that this year. I saw an article about Hunter Smith (former Notre Dame punter and currently with the Indianapolis Colts) where it mentioned that he didn’t even play in their first two playoff games last year. But that’s good — I don’t mind at all.” Price and his Irish teammates will return to the O’Neill Family Hall practice fields for their first set of two-a-day practices on Saturday.