Sept. 23, 2003
by Gary Paczesny
Being more experienced is something that is an invaluable asset to possess. Senior nose guard Cedric Hilliard has that experience. The fifth-year senior has played more than anyone on the defensive line this season, and his experience just keeps building, but the Irish return many core members from a good defense last year that finished the nation ranked in the top 15 of all major categories.
“We have a plan that we have to have a lot of guys around the ball,” Hilliard says.
“I got a lot of my tackles and assists from just running to the ball.”
So far in 2003, Hilliard has eight solo tackles and five assists along with his first career fumble recovery versus Washington State.
This week the Irish face #22 Purdue, a team known for passing the ball, but keeping opponents honest with the run. The Irish have only tallied three sacks in the first three games of the season, but Hilliard and the rest of the defensive line hope to change all of that.
“We must make sure that we get a good rush to the ball, but be aware of them (Purdue) running the ball too.”
As a leader on the defense this season Hilliard wants everyone just to make plays.
“You can’t wait for somebody else to make plays, you want to put the issue of everybody making plays.”
The All-America candidate has one goal in mind and that is to put a “W” in the win column for the Irish.
“The best to turn around things is to go out and win. And once we win people will get back into it and get going again.”
Confidence is the word for the week.
“We have a good defense, and no matter what people say, we just have that confidence.
After two tough losses early in the season, the Irish made today’s practice a fresh start for the rest of the year. The past is behind them. Now the defense, with Hilliard leading them up front, hopes to follow that up with a win over Purdue this week.
This guy has what it takes to be a leader. Hilliard was named game captain against Michigan State, a game in which he recorded five tackles and forced a fumble, but the senior knows that this is his last go-round under the dome.
“We just have to make the most of it while we are out there.”
Hilliard gets his last shot at Purdue this weekend at Ross-Ade Stadium, when the Irish take on the Boliermakers at 2:30 p.m. EST South Bend time.