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Dillingham ready to step up as backup QB

Pat Leonard | Thursday, August 26, 2004

He threw 59 passes in his first start. He took his blows against the likes of USC, Florida State and even Syracuse. And he’s back on his feet. Now, all indications point to a healthy Brady Quinn leading the charge of a resurrected offense with a year of experience.”Probably the biggest thing is you’ve got a quarterback that has got a year under his belt, understands the system, and I think that helps tremendously in your overall production and execution,” offensive coordinator Bill Diedrick said. “[Brady has] stepped up and become more of a leader and that’s something that we really lacked quite a bit last year.”Senior running back Ryan Grant has more experience on the offensive side of the ball, but Quinn receives the major responsibility of leadership because of his position. And so do the backup quarterbacks.Senior Pat Dillingham, the most likely to backup Quinn to start the season, has his name sealed in Notre Dame football history after completing a simple slant pattern to Arnaz Battle in 2002 that turned into a game-winning, 60-yard touchdown against Michigan State. Dillingham, however, has never received the call to consistently contribute to the Irish offense. Since even Quinn is not invincible at the targeted quarterback position, Dillingham has had to prepare as if he were the starter.”I’m preparing like I’m going to back up [Quinn],” Dillingham said. “There hasn’t been any official announcement. [But] I’m getting most of the backup reps and preparing like I’m going to play, and that’s the only way you can be ready.”Coaches are pleased with Dillingham’s progress, since the next backup after Dillingham would be one of two true freshmen, Darren Bragg and David Wolke. “I issued a challenge to Pat at the end of spring ball that if he was going continue to improve, there were things that he had to do,” Diedrick said. “And I think that Pat did a great job over the summer, prepared himself both physically and mentally … we’re quite pleased with where he has come from spring ball.”The freshmen have begun learning the offensive system. Still, much like young running back Darius Walker has spoken of adjusting to a more complicated offense, Bragg and Wolke have unofficially become secondary to Dillingham in the backup role of Quinn.”I think that both [freshmen] have progressed in camp, probably not as far as I would like,” Diedrick said. “I think the combination of sore arms and mental overload kind of hit them at a number of spots. But I think they’ve both worked through it, and they’re still getting reps.”Dillingham has been in the system for three years and said he understands the offense enough to be a serviceable backup.”It’s just a matter of going out there and executing,” Dillingham said. The offense under Quinn has progressed throughout the fall.”You’re probably never as consistent as you’d like to be [on offense] and that’s the thing we coaches harp on,” Willingham said. “That’s the thing you’re always striving for.”Dillingham hopes he has improved to that point, to where if Quinn cannot play for one reason or another, the offense will not miss a beat.