Jenkins and Stovall Looking for Larger Roles

Maurice Stovall

<P>During the Davie era of Notre Dame football, the Irish had a difficult time landing top receivers. The Irish usually had one star and the rest contributed in the passing game. Coach Tyrone Willingham has changed that with the signing of two top receivers in 2002 year and another four very talented receivers this year. </P>

One player left over from the Davie era is Omar Jenkins. Jenkins has far exceeded the expectations placed upon him by many Notre Dame fans and has developed into a quality Division 1 wide out.

Jenkins is happy with the way his career at Notre Dame has developed but he certainly sees room for improvement. "I'm happy but I'm always thirsty for more. I have one season left and I really want it to be a big one. I hope I can really make an impact this year."

With the loss of Arnaz Battle, Jenkins will be called upon to lead this team. Will he be the go-to guy? "I would like to look at it as my role steps up. I also think I step into a leadership role. As far as the go-to guy is concerned, I look to be the guy who can always contribute and of course being the guy who can make the big plays."

Jenkins got on the field as a true freshman, which is rare for any player. He was able to get on the field by paying attention to the little things like blocking, route running and recognizing coverage. "I've always had the mentality that I may not have the super gifts that other people have so I figured I have to find that niche that suits me and I think that is having the mental aspects down and paying attention to details."

Jenkins has caught a lot of passes in his three years at Notre Dame and a lot of those passes have come from Carlyle Holiday. Jenkins has been impressed with Holiday's maturation. "On the field, I am impressed with his development from his sophomore year until now. If you watch film, his patience and his quarterback mentality is changing from drop and run to making the correct reads. His patience has really improved and I think that is a important key for any quarterback."

The Irish will count on Jenkins to be a leader this year. He has been through the wars and he thinks he is ready for that role on the team. "It's a good thing. I need to be vocal more. It helps me be vocal with my teammates. It helps them get into the right position and a lot of people helped me on the way. When I'm gone, they are still going to be here. That helps the teams of the future and it really helps us now. It brings the team closer together and helps each of us out and our team out."

Some fans might consider Jenkins as a contributor and not a star. Jenkins had 27 receptions last year for 633 yards and three touchdowns giving him an average of 23.4 yards per reception. His longest reception was 67 yards against Navy that went for a touchdown. Jenkins clearly can make big plays and made some very big plays for the Irish last year. Expect more from him in 2003.

Another player the Irish are hoping will take on a much bigger role this year is Maurice Stovall. The 6-5, 220-pound wide out from Philadelphia, PA had an impressive freshman season in 2002 catching 18 passes for 312 yards and 3 touchdowns. Stovall should be a star at Notre Dame.

Stovall reported as a freshman with high hopes and a lot of fanfare. While he was pleased with his performance last year, he sees a lot of room for improvement. "I think I did pretty well to be a freshman and my first year coming in. Our season didn't end the way we wanted it but I think as far as me, I think I did pretty good, I think I contributed to the team. I know I can improve a lot but I think I did OK."

The emerging wide out says he is focusing on the team goals for the season mainly but has set a few goals for himself. "Our team wants to win the National Championship. That is always the goal here. We want to known as the best wide receiving corps in the nation. That is our goal. As for myself, basically just catch everything. I want to run sharp routes and read all my coverage's correctly."

Stovall has had a year in the system and a year of working with Holiday. That experience should help him catch a lot more balls this year. "As receivers, all our routes have to be precise and everyone has to have perfect timing in order to get open. Carlyle has to get used to us running our routes and we have to get used to his timing so it's kind of a back and forth between him and the receivers finding the right rhythm and that is what we are working on during the off-season."

Pressure is not something that worries Stovall. He understands the expectations that surround him but the only people he cares to please are his teammates, his coaches and himself. "I don't feel any pressure from the fans or anyone outside of my team, my coaches and myself. I feel if I can be 100 percent ready for the game all the time that I will make an impact. I need to have my A+ game ready for every game and ready to win. I am only concerned about playing well for my team, my coaches and myself."

Stovall knows he needs to improve his game to get to that level he wants to be at. He is working hard this off-season to become a complete player. "I know there is always room for improvement. I think I need to work more on my footwork, my routes and just catching the ball and carrying the ball in the open field. We watched a lot of film in the off-season so I worked on recognizing coverage's. I worked hard in the weight room, got blown-out every day. I just want to be 100 percent ready for when fall camp starts and the season starts.

Stovall and Jenkins should be the two receivers that make the most impact this year. Jenkins is hoping to have an even bigger year this year than he had last year to put a final stamp on his career at Notre Dame. The young thoroughbred in Stovall is starting to emerge and having a full year working with Holiday should get him ready for a much bigger role in the offense. Expect some big plays in the passing game this year.

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