Monday marked the fourth practice of the spring, which again was held in the Loftus Center. Sophomore Irish quarterback Evan Sharpley had been bouncing back and forth from the football field to the baseball diamond, but it's all football from now on for the sophomore signal caller.
"I think they have gone all right," Sharpley said of the first four spring practices. "Obviously, we were a little rusty from not doing a lot for awhile, but we are looking better and our goal is to get better each time and that's good."
Sharpley hasn't seen action yet as a quarterback, but he did say he was able to learn a lot about the Irish offense by enrolling last summer. "I think it was a positive thing for me," he said. "And I think it will especially benefit the next kids coming since they are coming in so early. Each year they are trying to get kids in earlier and earlier, and I think it is a great, positive thing to come in and learn the system as quick as they can."
In high school the Michigan native played in a similar style of offense but coming in and learning Coach Weis's offense was a definite challenge. "We ran a pro-style offense but just not as intricate with the terms and personnel and that kind of thing, such as game planning week-to- week and the things that Coach Weis does," he said.
"It was definitely difficult. Coming in from high school, it was totally different having everything thrown at you and I was overwhelmed. But getting settled down and going through the year and season, and getting acclimated to everything really has helped."
The shock of the new offense and ending up on the scout team last season has given Sharpley motivation for this year. "I think everyone has personal goals that end up helping the team," Sharpley said. "Obviously, I want to succeed and do the best that I can, and that is something I strive for each day. We know Brady [Quinn] is the number one guy and that is where the focus is. I am just trying to improve every day and help the team in any way I can. That's just what I focus on going into each practice, helping the team and obviously improving myself as well. I think everyone has personal goals that end up helping the team. I want to succeed and do the best that I can, and that is something I strive for each day."
The second-year quarterback hopes to move up in the depth chart but realizes he must improve in some areas, "I think there are many little aspects of the game I need to work on; understanding the game a little better, quickening my drop, improving my release, throwing the ball a little more accurately and with more velocity," Sharpley said.
"I like to drop back and sit in the pocket and pass the ball, and basically do whatever coach says. It may be working on handing the ball off, running the quarterback draw, and working on getting the ball into the hands of the many weapons we have. There are so many little things you can work on day-in and day-out to improve your overall game."
Sharpley was very happy with his results from winter conditioning, especially as he was preparing for football and baseball practically at the same time, which resulted in some busy days.
"I think it went great. We got in here, ran a lot, and worked hard in getting in better condition. I actually started a new diet and lost a little bit of weight, which makes me feel a lot better," he said. "I weigh around 200-205, right around in there, and it's a lot better playing weight for me. It helps me in my running and throughout practice with the pounding and beating. Last year I was about 212. I don't want to be too big.
"We had it set up right. Most of what I did for football was in the mornings, which allowed me to do baseball in the afternoons. I had a few long days here and there, but I think I benefited overall as it really helped me get in condition for both at the same time. The plan is for me to do all of spring football and rejoin the baseball team in late April, but there is no question that right now I am strictly concentrating on football."
The physical aspect of football is just one part of the equation. Sharpley says he also spends a lot of time working on the mental part of the game and will have to improve there to win the No. 2 spot. "Each day in practice, there are certain things we are asked to do where we might have to check this or check that and you have to be prepared the best you can for each day," he said. "You spend as much time as you can studying the playbook. We break up into groups with Coach Vass and do a lot of film study and breaking down plays and different things with him. But Coach Weis plays the big part in what we are doing."
The No. 2 quarterback battle likely won't end at the end of spring practice, but the guy who walks out of spring with the slot will have a leg up on the competition in the fall. Don't be surprised if Sharpley is that guy.
Sophomore-to-be Evan Sharpley is working hard to become the backup quarterback for the Irish. The Marshall, Mich. native did not see action in 2005 and spent most of his time on the scout team. As a senior in high school, he helped lead his team to the state playoffs before being eliminated in the Region 3, District 1, semifinal.
Sharpley Challenging to be No.2
Mar 28, 2006