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Jones has an offensive role, but only the coaches know

Joe Hettler | Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham is keeping quiet about the role of returning running back Julius Jones, which doesn’t surprise anyone.

“I prefer not to give away exactly what those are,” Willingham said. “Traditionally, as a coach, I’m reluctant to do that because as soon as I say how many minutes he’s playing, and he doesn’t play it, he’s very disappointed. I’ve learned you don’t get into that area. It will happen. You know we want to get him in.”

Jones returned to the Irish after being dismissed in the summer of 2002 from the University after his third season on the field. He was reinstated this past summer after spending time working out and taking classes at Arizona State.

Willingham welcomed Jones back to the football team and definitely has a plan for Jones and 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Grant.

“I can’t shed any light on what the role will be, but Julius has had an excellent camp,” Willingham said. “He’s done all of the things that I’ve requested of him and that the university has requested of him.

“He’s put himself in a position to be a major contributor for our team. We’ve got a pretty good combination to work with.”

From walk-on to backup

Last week, fullback Josh Schmidt fully realized how far he came from being a spring season walk-on his freshman year to the backup behind Rashon Powers-Neal this season as a junior for the Irish.

Schmidt was walking in from practice and was unsure whether his name had been called for an interview in the press room. Instead of asking, Schimdt simply assumed it was someone else’s name because he was never interviewed before. After the reporter waited for over 40 minutes, a Notre Dame sports information official went looking for Schmidt and found him eating dinner. Finally realizing that his name had actually been called, Schmidt raced downstairs only to see that the reporter had left for the day.

Fortunately, Schmidt was able to give his interview later that week.

But for a guy that wasn’t on the team during his freshman fall, the experience of being a definite figure in Irish football has been exciting.

“There are a lot of differences. From strictly running just scout team work to being with the first offense is a big difference,” Schmidt said. “It’s nice not having to go against the No. 1 defense.”

Schmidt was on the fourth-team last season and played late in the game against Rutgers. But his steady improvement, along with the loss of several fullbacks to graduation left the door open for Schmidt to become a integral part of the team in 2003.

Offensive line coming together

Irish offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick knows his offense is ready for Saturday’s contest against Washington State. He believes the team has made solid improvement in recent weeks.

“We’re excited to get started. I think we’ve had a very good camp and I know we’re really excited to get on the field and just get to a game,” Diedrick said.

Diedrick also added that quarterback Carlyle Holiday has looked impressive in practice and that the offensive line is continuing to show improvements.

“With Carlyle’s progress, he’s continued to make progress during camp and I feel very, very positive that he feels very confident and comfortable now within the offense,” Diedrick said. “With the offensive line, we’re beginning to get that chemistry together and our rotation is looking good. We’re not as far as we want to be and we’ll be farther along by mid-season, but we’re so much farther along then we were before fall camp.”

Hilliard likely will play for Saturday

Nose tackle Cedric Hilliard has missed the last few practices with a sprained left ankle, but the fifth-year defensive lineman said he will be ready for Saturday against Washington State.

“[The left ankle] is feeling pretty good and I’m ready to go play football again,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard, who started the past year and a half for the Irish alongside Darrell Campbell, was named to the All-American third team by Athlon last season after recording two sacks and 31 total tackles. Senior Greg Pauly will also see action at nose tackle against the Cougars.