The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Football: Keeping it simple

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, September 14, 2006

Last Saturday, Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski muffed a punt against Penn State. This Tuesday, he stayed after to practice to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

“I’ve just got to shake it out and get it out of my head and get back to fundamentals and basics,” said the Irish strong safety and punt returner.

Zbikowski has returned two punts for touchdowns in his career and is the most experienced Irish returnman. Yet he’s the only Irish player to fumble at all this season and is averaging just below six yards per return through two games, not up to par for a player listed as a preseason All-America punt returner by CBSSportsLine.com.

But right now, he’s just worried about the simple stuff.

“I could care less about my [yards per return average] or whatever that is,” he said. “You never hurt your team when you never put the ball on the ground.”


– After suffering a leg injury against Penn State, fullback Asaph Schwapp should be ready to play Saturday. The sophomore from Hartford, Conn. practiced Wednesday after Irish coach Charlie Weis limited him to running drills during Notre Dame’s workout Tuesday.

“He’s coming off some soreness,” Weis said. “Yesterday he was a lot worse than he was today.”

Weis also said injured running back James Aldridge should be “full go” by the Purdue game on Sept. 30. The freshman, who enrolled at Notre Dame last January, has been hampered by a knee injury all season.

“He’s pretty close,” Weis said Wednesday. “Right now I could get him part-time, the problem I have is I don’t want to not be able to use him full-time.”

With backup running back Travis Thomas starting at linebacker, Weis said he wants Aldridge and fellow freshman running back Munir Prince to be able to contribute if the Irish would lose starting running back Darius Walker to injury.

“If something happened to [Walker], I’d like to think that a combination of [Aldridge] and [Prince] could handle the position without having to flip [Thomas] over there full-time.”

– Irish defensive end Ronald Talley entertained reporters after practice Wednesday with a few words about his voice, his career goals and his childhood in Detroit.

Among other things, Talley said his deep, bellowing voice has sounded the same since he was 12; he can do a decent impression of the rapper Nate Dog; and he wants to be a movie producer in the mold of Quentin Tarantino.

The voice – as well as Talley’s hulking 6-foot-4, 262-pound frame – intimidate opponents today. But that tough look was honed as a kid playing football for the Eastside Cowboys of the Detroit Police Athletic League.

“Everybody that I played with then, all of us were mean … we were real tough,” he said. Asked if he was the meanest guy on his team today, he wasn’t sure.

“I might be, I don’t know,” he said.