Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Young players getting sound advice

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Although Notre Dame will put an experienced team on the field against South Florida on Saturday in both school's season openers, there will be youngsters taking the field for the first time, which is why coaches are spending extra time preparing inexperienced players for what to expect on game day.

"Every minute the NCAA will allow us, absolutely," defensive coordinator Bob Diaco said when asked if he's taking extra time to prepare the young guys. "That said, they're going to go into the game and do dumb stuff. It's just the nature of the beast and it's not unique to Notre Dame. It's every single team in the country, including the NFL. It's inexplicable why guys do certain things on certain plays and it's always new players."

Linebacker Manti Te'u has made mentoring young players one of his goals for the season. His advice?

"They're going to get nervous when they step out on the field," he said. "It's going to feel like everything's going 100 miles per hour. But I tell them to embrace it. Embrace it. Don't feel like you're the only one out there experiencing it. There's a lot of people out there that are experiencing the same thing. I told them just my experiences of being out there.

"Just embrace it. And as soon as you get into the game, as soon as things start to get a little comfortable for you, it will become football again. But at first they'll be nervous, they'll be wide eyed, and it's part of that whole transition. A lot of them haven't played football in one, two years. It's like riding a bike. It's something you can always do. You've just got to get back in the groove."

Senior captain Harrison Smith had a similar message: 

"Not a lot of people get to go through what they're going to go through," the senior safety said. "So take it in and definitely embrace it. But at the same time, don't get too caught up in it. Even I'm going to have that excitement.

"This is my fifth year doing it {but] if you ask [Baltimore Ravens linebacker] Ray Lewis how he feels before games, he would say he gets that feeling. You can't really describe it. That's something that you want to embrace, but at the same time, you know, be who you are.

"Be the player that you are, have the confidence that you're here for a reason and you're playing for a reason. Just go be who you are and play the game you've always played."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on September 1, 2011 8:50 AM.

Kelly: Coaching like letting kids drive was the previous entry in this blog.

Tidbits from last Kelly PC before opener is the next entry in this blog.

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