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Cornerback Ellick steps up to the challenge

Heather VanHoegarden | Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Senior cornerback Dwight Ellick has emerged as a leader in the Irish secondary. Against Michigan, he forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass, while playing solid defense against arguably the best receiving corps in the country.”Dwight has really stepped up his play,” Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said. “He came into this season very focused, committed to being even better than he had been in our program. And so far his work ethic and his desire to improve has really led him to be. His first two ballgames are pretty good, give or take a few plays here or there, but his play has been really good. And, of course, we came into the season believing that was kind of a green area for us. Those guys are starting to kind of shore up the play in the back end.”Ellick is joined in the secondary by senior cornerback Preston Jackson, who also played well against Michigan after a good game against Brigham Young, registering five solo tackles and a pass break-up. The safeties are redshirt freshman Tom Zbikowski and senior Quentin Burrell, who had five and six tackles, respectively, against Michigan. Zbikowski also broke up a pass.Gardner goneWillingham confirmed Tuesday that redshirt freshman cornerback Isaiah Gardner had left the team. He was not listed on the roster this week.”He is no longer a member of the team,” Willingham said.Willingham could not elaborate.

Stovall stronger in second weekAfter committing three penalties against BYU in the first game, the junior wide receiver stepped up against Michigan last weekend. He caught five passes for 82 yards against the Wolverines, a team high. He is also returning kicks for the Irish, and playing on special teams in other situations, as well.”I think Maurice Stovall is playing very, very good football,” Willingham said. “What is very good football for me is just that he’s giving absolute effort. And you see that not just in his receiving abilities, which he’s made some key catches for us this year, but you see it in how he’s contributed in special teams, blocking, all the other areas. He’s playing excellent football.”After BYU Willingham said that receivers coach Trent Miles talked to Stovall about being aggressive without penalties.”That was probably more his coach that took the leadership in that, coach [Trent] Miles, that really just addressed [the penalties],” Willingham said. “But, no, we love it when you’re aggressive. That’s the way the game has to be played. And he’s doing that. He’s being a great leader for our team, he’s making big plays.”

Walker’s impactTrue freshman Darius Walker leapt onto the scene of college football against Michigan with 31 carries for 115 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut. But Willingham was quick to say that the freshman still has a lot of maturing to do, despite the solid performance.”Well, first of all, we’re still early, okay?” Willingham said. “We’ve got a lot of growing to do in Darius, we’ve got a lot of growing to do in our back field. Hopefully performances like this clear the air a little bit and starts to stack things a little bit so you know who you can depend on.”When asked who he would start if Walker, Travis Thomas, Marcus Wilson and Ryan Grant were all healthy, Willingham said he would probably start Grant.