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Irish look to ‘twin towers’ Stovall, Samardzija

Matt Puglisi | Friday, August 26, 2005

Height is typically associated with the advantage it gives basketball players.But they’re not the only ones benefiting.A pair of giants in 6-foot-5 receivers Maurice Stovall and Jeff Samardzija, in addition to 6-foot-2 Rhema McKnight, gives quarterback Brady Quinn a trio of tall targets.Samardzija said Irish coach Charlie Weis is constantly looking for the mismatches that can lead to big plays – mismatches that are significantly easier to find when two of the team’s tallest players are lining up at wide receiver.”Coach is real big with matchups around the field, and if he sees a mismatch between heights between a receiver and a [defensive back], he likes those things,” Samardzija said. “I think, in his eyes, he sees it as an advantage for the offense – if guys want to come up and press Mo, me or even Rhema, it’s going to be a little bit tougher, having 20-30 pounds on the [defensive backs].”Although separation exercises are essential to the development of any receiver, the drills take on additional importance for the Irish considering the unique circumstances presented by their tall frames.”We do a lot of one-on-one and a lot of release drills,” Samardzija said. “We try to cover every phase of every different situation that we might see on the field that people are going to try to put upon us as big receivers to make us feel uncomfortable.”But the specific techniques that Samardzija and Stovall employ to utilize their height differ.”Obviously there’s two different ways to use that type of size, and I think that they both have their own defining way of using that to their advantage,” Weis said. “Mo uses his size mainly by his strength, whereas Jeff uses his size in what I call more torque – more body position.”Whether or not Weis and the Notre Dame offense are able to take advantage of the height remains to be seen.While Stovall played in three fewer overall games last season than during his sophomore campaign, he actually started five more contests but regressed in all notable statistical categories. After posting 22 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns in 2003, Stovall caught 21 passes and racked up only 313 yards and one touchdown last season.However, Stovall lost 10 to 15 pounds over the summer to hopefully have the breakout season projected by his selection as a first-team USA Today All-American coming out of high school.”I think that we definitely will use our size as an advantage, and that Coach Weis will put us in a position to make plays using our size,” Stovall said. “Losing weight over summer has helped me a lot, running routes or just having more stamina on the field. It’s made a big difference for me, and I think it will help me be more effective on offense.”As the days tick down to the season opener next Saturday against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, Quinn and his receivers continue to iron out any remaining wrinkles and work on the little things that can make a world of difference.”It’s kind of funny how much we know each other on the field when it comes to little mannerisms,” Samardzija said. “You have to have that type of communication to be successful, and I think we’re getting there – we’re not quite there yet – but every day we’re just getting more on the same page.”While Weis’ arrival has resulted in even greater fanfare than already accompanies a new Notre Dame football season, Stovall and company have some big expectations of their own.”I feel like we’re very much ready to go,” Stovall said. “We’ve had a lot of experience – the offense was pretty difficult, as is learning any offense, but the way that it was explained to us, it makes it easier. We have a lot of confidence going into the season, and we expect big things from each other.”