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FOOTBALL: Special teams sees a variety of return men

Pat Leonard | Friday, October 28, 2005

Following BYU’s touchdown drive to open the second half last Saturday, the Cougars kicked off to D.J. Hord. Or was it to David Grimes?

Considering the number of players coach Charlie Weis and special teams coach Brian Polian are rotating through special teams, it’s no wonder the two players collided going for the ball.

“There were about three or four issues that happened during that game on special teams that I wasn’t very happy with, but I thought it was a very average day by our special teams unit,” Weis said.

Hord, on his first college kickoff return, scooped up the ball and ran three yards before being tackled. Along with Grimes, Justin Hoskins, Brandon Harris, Chase Anastasio and even starting cornerback Ambrose Wooden, Hord joined the multitude of contributors Saturday on a special teams unit that welcomes the second bye week.

“It’s a great opportunity to get back to techniques and fundamentals, work on skills and less scheming and less ‘this is the looks we’re going to see this week,” Polian said Thursday. “Let’s go back to correcting footwork and working on blocking and running and tackling technique. Let’s get back to basics.”

As Weis mentioned Monday, Thursday’s practice was dedicated as a “special teams day” to teach fundamentals to “both the first and second guys.”

Twenty-five players on Notre Dame’s roster have seen their first Division-I football action this season, and special teams has been their primary outlet as coaches take looks at younger talent.

Defensive lineman Casey Cullen and defensive backs Terrail Lambert and Ray Herring, to name a few, have seen significant action on special teams. And Hord, with the announcement that wide receiver Rhema McKnight will sit out the remainder of the season, could even crack the receiver rotation if it fits in the game plan, Weis said.

“D.J. has given us a reason to be out there,” Weis said. “Offensively, he played a little bit in that game. You might not even have noticed, but he was in there at the end of the game. But in that game plan, [Hord] got plenty of reps in practice last week with the possibility of him playing.”

Landri resting, healthy

Defensive tackle Derek Landri hobbled into the locker room after injuring himself in the second half last Saturday. But he returned to the sidelines.

“He was ready to go,” Weis said. “For a time I thought that he was done. Next thing you know, I turned around, he was out there, sitting there ready to go. We fortunately came out of this game with very few things, nothing that was really significant and that’s a good thing. No surprises.”

Hoyte is Lott quarter-finalist

Irish linebacker Brandon Hoyte was named a quarter-finalist for the second annual Lott Trophy on Thursday.

The award, which honors the Defensive IMPACT Player of the Year, is presented to a student-athlete by the IMPACT Foundation of The Pacific Club in Newport Beach, Ca.

The Lott Trophy, named after legendary defensive back Ronnie Lott, honors a football player’s on- and off-field performance. Georgia All-American defensive end David Pollack won the trophy last season in its first year.

Hoyte (5-foot-11, 231 pounds) is Notre Dame’s defensive captain, leads the team with 56 tackles (33 solo) and has a 3.35 GPA.

He has been named to the academic all-district team twice.