Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring Positional Battles: The First Casualties

In only his second practice at Notre Dame, highly touted freshman cornerback Gary Gray broke his right arm, and will be held out of the remainder of spring practice while he heals.

In related news, Munir Prince has been moved out of the logjam at running back (where I predicted he would languish) and into the mix at corner. I like this move for a couple of reasons. First, we need all the speed we can get in the secondary, and this adds depth to the corners, where we needed it. (the safeties have depth, corners not as much) More importantly, however, as a converted running back, he has developed some toughness that many corners lack.

Many corners use only their speed to defend against the pass, but a truly elite corner can not only hang with the receiver, but then bring the wood when he does catch the ball. Having played at a position where you get hit on every down for a year, Prince should add a level of physicality to the corners that will help bring Coach Weis' NASTY into the mix.

The Gary Gray injury is unfortunate, as he has a lot of potential. However, of all of the possible injury situations this team could have been facing, this is one of the less painful losses. First, it's only a broken arm, and will heal completely in 4-6 weeks, allowing Gray to suit up and be 100% for summer ball. Second, as a freshman corner, it might help his learning curve to watch and listen during spring practice. He'll still be ahead of the curve mentally going into summer practice when the other freshmen come in. Like all injuries, it does have some serious drawbacks as well. He won't be able to participate in the lifting sessions fully, and if there is one thing Gray needs, it is some muscle to go with all that speed. Also, corners (followed closely by O-line and safeties) need to have great footwork. Now, he will not be participating in footwork drills.

These changes to the cornerback position will not have a significant impact on the starters, though. I had been predicting that Gary Gray might be redshirted, and now that seems more likely than ever. Prince will probably challenge McNeil for the dime back slot, especially considering that he would be an asset against mobile QBs when the offense spreads the field.

I'll try to keep on top of all the news and rumors coming out of spring practice. Stay tuned.

No comments: