Tyrone Willingham works his way through preseason practice on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

Football Practice Report - Day Two

Aug. 11, 2004

Notre Dame began day two of its preseason workouts on Wednesday, Aug. 11, with a flip-flopped order in its split practice regimen. Most of the players who participated in the second portion of practice on Tuesday ended up first on Wednesday, and vice versa for the rest of the team. The squad faced another unusually cool day in Northern Indiana, with temperatures in the low 60s. One of the positions that seemed to have grown in numbers each season at Notre Dame is the tight end corps. The position is now six deep on the depth chart with Billy Palmer, Anthony Fasano, Jared Clark, Marcus Freeman, John Carlson and Jerome Collins. Tight end coach Mike Denbrock is in the envious position of having a vast number of dependable players to choose from. “The tight end position is the most competitive of any on the field,” Denbrock said after practice on Wednesday. “We feel comfortable with all six guys and we are trying to find ways to utilize them all the best we can.” The Irish saw 34 receptions, 324 yards and two touchdowns come from the tight ends in 2003. From early indications in practice and the 2004 Blue and Gold Scrimmage, those numbers will rise substantially in 2004. “We are doing some different things in our offense to take advantage of the resources we have at tight end,” Denbrock said. “Last season I think each player had some deficiency with a certain aspect of their game that made us uncomfortable to have them on the field in a certain situation. All of the guys have done a great job in the off season working on those areas and we feel very confident in each of them to go out and contribute each game for us.” One player Notre Dame fans will see at tight end is converted defensive lineman Jerome Collins. Still wearing a traditional defensive number (48), Collins has brought a new shot of athleticism to an already deeply talented group. “Jerome is as athletic as anyone on the football field,” Denbrock said. “He just needs to become more well-rounded in terms of his blocking. He will definitely be able to do some things on the field for us.” The tight ends are a key component to the Irish offensive line, which returns four starters but has seen a number of position shifts. If senior guard Dan Stevenson’s enthusiasm is any indication, the offensive line unit as a whole is ready to put an up and down ’03 campaign behind them. “I am so excited (about the offensive line),” Stevenson said after practice when asked about his thoughts on the line as a group. “We return four of five guys and we are developing very well as a team. We know how each one of us plays and (John) Sullivan is doing a great job fitting in at center. We have grown so much since last season.” Stevenson is also excited about the team’s attitude two days into camp and sees a renewed spirit on the Irish team. “I think the leadership on our team has recognized that we needed a new level of intensity,” Stevenson said. “We need to be focused and ready to give everything we have at every practice. Last year (the offensive line) got blamed for some things. We are ready to go out there and prove what we can do.” Coach Tyrone Willingham Coach Willingham speaks to the media after each preseason practice. Here are some of his comments on Wednesday, Aug. 11: On the progress and performance of the team so far… “I have enjoyed both days. There has been good activity and some really productive learning. I am pleased with the progress. There is an old saying that has been common in sports for a long time – practice makes perfect. It is absolutely as far away from the truth as you can get. It is perfect practice that makes perfect (performance). So performance needs to go with the learning. You always want to see performance.” On his impressions of this year’s freshmen class… “The initial look is good. We see players at the linebacker position who can run and have athletic ability. They don’t know anything yet, but they can run. The running backs, you see them have the kind of athletic ability that you want. You see the kind of players that will have an impact on your team. Will it be tomorrow? I don’t know, but I would think some of our veterans are sitting back and thinking; `We have heard (about the freshmen) and we are ready to perform too.’ That makes for a very interesting and competitive situation for us.”