With just under two weeks remaining until Notre Dame kicks off the 2006 season in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, the Irish held their freshman media day and the common theme was “getting on the bus” which pleased head coach Charlie Weis who seems to have his rookies trained well.
Weis has said many times his players know exactly what they should and shouldn’t say when speaking with the media and the early returns on this year’s freshmen class point to them being trained well. Freshman and after freshman shunned any comments about playing time and concentrated on just getting on the bus to Atlanta.
The Irish could have an unprecedented number of freshmen on the two deep and on special teams this year but you wouldn’t know it from their responses. “We’re all just working really hard every day trying to get on the bus to Georgia Tech. Hopefully I make the bus trip down there,” said freshman Darrin Walls.
“Right now going into that first game of the year I’m just trying to make it to that game. I’m trying to make the dress list as it is right now,” stated Sam Young, a potential starter at right tackle for the Irish. Some humble words from a freshman who could start from day one.
When Weis heard of his freshmen’s responses, the second year head coach was pleased. “That was a good answer they gave then. If that’s what they thought, that was a good answer.”
With all of the freshmen that could see significant time this year, having his players mentally prepared and working hard to gain playing time is important for Weis. One thing he mentioned he wants to be cautious with is awarding any of his freshman playing time too early. “I want to make sure people aren’t given anything; I want them to be earned. I don’t want to hand somebody a job and they say, I can relax now because I’m going. It just doesn’t work that way.”
Despite Weis’s tough words on awarding playing, it’s becoming obvious that this freshman class is too good to keep them off of the field. On the offensive side of the ball, Sam Young very likely could be the starter at right tackle come September 2 and Munir Prince could be the primary backup behind Darius Walker.
Prince has impressed coaches with his speed and could also be lining up as a kick returner for the Irish as well. Prince realizes that he has the ability to help this team with his speed and athleticism. “I think with my speed I can make plays for us. Maybe get some kickoff returns or a long punt return.” Prince however, followed up that by stating that, “Right now I’m just focused on Georgia Tech and getting on the bus.”
Another freshman who could earn a starting spot in 2006 is place kicker Ryan Burkhart. The Indiana native is challenging for the kickoff and place kicking duties in camp and has a real shot at being the starter in Atlanta. True to form of all the freshmen, Burkhart shrugged off questions about playing time. “I don’t know at this time, I’m still working just trying to make that bus for that long trip.”
I like that Weis is making these freshmen earn their spots. Most of the ones that will be playing a lot this year know they will be, but Weis is doing a good job of keeping them from letting their heads get to big.
He’s also doing a good job of educating his players on what not to say to avoid bulletin board material for the opposition. A lot of times younger players might let things slip, but Weis seems like he has that under control, as he does with most things.