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Football: Youth Movement

Bill Brink | Wednesday, August 26, 2009

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The Irish have a lot of talented freshmen on this year’s team – as proof, a freshman kicker who has cemented a starting spot.

Nick Tausch will be the field goal kicker and kickoff man, Irish coach Charlie Weis said Monday. He replaces junior Brandon Walker.

Weis said he tracked every competitive kick during training camp and that Tausch won “rather significantly.” He also said Tausch’s kicks hang high, meaning they are tough to block on field goals and give the kick coverage ample time to get down the field on kickoffs.

There will be no more competition during practice, Weis said, so the kick coverage team can get used to the correct timing.

According to Weis, freshman linebacker Manti Te’o is ready to play, and will see time at the weak side linebacker position. He said the linebackers could see some shuffling, thanks to junior Brian Smith, but that sophomore Darius Fleming is the starting strongside linebacker.

“Brian Smith is the guy who gives us the flexibility to move people around,” Weis said. “He’s easily the most flexible, interchangeable of all our linebackers.”

Senior punter Eric Maust has earned a scholarship, Weis said, as well as the starting job.

“It’s literally the fruit of the labor you’ve been putting in not just this season but all the seasons before,” Maust said.

“If there was a little heart monitor set on me you would have seen my heart rate go through the roof,” Maust said of the moment Weis told him.

Weis said sophomore quarterback Dayne Crist will prepare for each week as though he were the starting quarterback to avoid falling into a comfort zone. The coaching staff will take time with Crist to go over the game plan and film.

Fifth-year senior quarterback Evan Sharpley has chosen to run the look team for some portions of practice, Weis said.

The close-knit nature of the team has Weis eager to start pre-game practice.

“One of the reasons I’m so excited to get going is because they’re all pulling for each other,” he said.

In fact, Weis will run the team through a pre-game style week of practice leading up to Saturday so the team gets used to the timing of the week.

“We’re treating this week like we were playing a game on Saturday,” he said.

The team had Monday off, then practiced Tuesday. They will practice today and Thursday before a pre-game practice Friday. Saturday, they will simulate a real game by going through the pre-game rituals at the same time as usual.

Weis also said the captains, junior quarterback Jimmy Clausen, senior safety Kyle McCarthy, senior offensive lineman Eric Olsen and senior linebacker Scott Smith, were doing a good job of handling issues and being proactive. Olsen will play center this year, allowing Chris Stewart and Trevor Robinson to fill the guard slots. Fifth-year senior Paul Duncan will play left tackle, and senior Sam Young will start at right tackle.

Weis said junior Matt Romine has played well in practice and added about 25 pounds to his frame. He will be the first player to fill in on the outside. Senior center Dan Wenger, who started last season, will be the first off the bench to play inside.