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Notre Dame Football

Al Washington Notebook | Notre Dame Defensive Line Update

August 13, 2022

Notre Dame defensive line coach Al Washington spoke following Friday's practice. 

On working with the defensive line and the competition in the room:
"It's unlike anything I've been around. We're so deep and we're so experienced. Talent and experience is a great combination. These guys have played a lot of football.

"We've been focused on the details, fundamentals and they've been very professional in that approach. We're continuing to solidify our identity - who we want to be. This is practice seven, so as you get into eight and nine, this is where it matters. 

"They're all in. It's great to work with that type of attitude. They've been making strides." 

On similarities and differences between the culture at Notre Dame and Ohio State:
"Both are traditional powerhouses. Obviously, being at Ohio State the past few years - great program, great history and great culture. Not unlike Notre Dame. It's the exact same thing here with our guys. 

"The men in our room, it's a proud group. They definitely understand the task at hand. In games like these, it's really about execution and controlling the fire and not letting it control you. 

"What my message to them having a chance to be at Ohio State and Michigan is that the difference between the elite and the good programs is in the details. It's not huge things. It's little things. Just harping on those little things - how you conduct your business. When you're doing a drill and how you finish it. All those little things are separators. Our guys get that. They've been done that since this whole thing has started." 

On graduate transfer Chris Smith adjusting to Notre Dame:
"We bust his chops and say there is no reason you should ever MA. You went to Harvard. He has no wiggle room. 

"He's been great. The team has embraced him. The unit has embraced him. Good cultures embrace competition. They don't shun it. They embraced him and they have helped him. He's done a phenomenal job in adjusting. 

"It's daily attacking little things in technique. He's done that. He's been a pro's pro. I'm real excited about having him. He's been a great addition." 

On defensive lineman Jacob Lacey:
”Lacey's a man in the way he handles his business. He is one of those energy givers and a leader of the room. Through technique and fundamentals, he has become one of those players that is usually at the POA (point of attack). There is a high level of trust in Jacob. It's a daily thing. 

"He works his tail off. He's progressed and we're excited about his development." 

On defensive end Alexander Ehrensberger: 
"Alex is another one who is an 'up and comer. He's trending the right way. Those two guys are great examples of our depth. They're relatively mature and that helps. 

"We just have to continue to get better at the fundamentals and details. We have to control what we can control. If we do that, we have an opportunity to get the results you want." 

On veteran experience:
"It's phenomenal. The conversations you're having are speaking from the standpoint of experience. You can talk about things from a deeper manner because they've done it. They've been in the game. They've experienced it. They can understand what I'm trying to make and with that, you can do a lot more things. 

"Experience is one of the most important things. You can't cheat it no matter if you're a freak talent. Experience is experience. To have a group with that is something great. That doesn't guarantee you anything. You still have to put in the work and put it on tape. It certainly is a good thing and as a coach, it's been a lot of fun to work with and I appreciate those guys." 

On finding time to coach up each kid:
"You make time. We're in here until 10. Whatever they ask, if they need to get extra film in or if they want to walk through something, we'll do it. Throughout the day, we give everybody an opportunity for that veteran group to kind of show themselves. 

"I don't think anybody necessarily feels cut off. If they do, then we talk about it every day. What are you doing to change it? I love them all. Whoever plays, you decide who plays, not me. The player does. How you approach every day - and they know that. That keeps everybody engaged and that helps create that culture that we're trying to establish." 

On giving his guys a shoutout for winning the weekly warrior award:
"I was proud. You win the spring, you win the month of June and July and then you win this month. I challenged them. I said, 'If there is an award to be had, then why aren't we winning it?' 

"Individually, that's the reason I made a deal out of that was to basically validate it. We put it out there and they answered the bell. It may not be a big deal to anyone outside the program, but the men within the program and with our strength coach, Matt Balis, that is meaningful. You don't get that award unless you're consistently putting out and giving your best effort. 

"That's really what I, as a coach, I want to see it. I want to see guys straining. I don't care if you're Isaiah Foskey, who is an elite player. He won the award. Your work ethic is really the reflection of who you are. The talent God gave you, our work ethic is our contribution and we really tried to zero in on that and make a big deal of it. Yeah, it was kind of cheesy, but I wanted to make that point because I knew we can't lose the month of June and July. How do you engage them? You call them out.

"I was in there too. I had a weight loss challenge and I was out there running. That's just what it is. That's the environment we have to create. We were doing a sprint and I did the first one and I was a little tired. I wasn't so eager to get to the line and Nana (Osafo-Mensah) calls me out. He said, 'Coach, where you at?' 

"That's what I want. I want these guys to talk it and you walk it. It's easy to say and hard to do. As many opportunities as we can get to highlight that and to encourage that, then we'll do it. That was the whole point of that. 

"We still have a ways to go in that overall, but we're trending." 

On defensive end Isaiah Foskey:
"I'm excited for him. There are still a lot of things in his game is obsesses over. He's a perfectionist. I'm excited to see him continue to make those strides. He has been bought in, sold into what the vision is. For the most part, he's established himself in some regard, but he knows to get to where he wants, there is a whole other gear. It's kind of like you're close, but you're still far away. 

"That's his mindset. I'm not speaking for him. Every day he's out there, he's attacking every rep, good, bad or different. You focus on one play, one life and what you have to improve on every day. You're going to have some up and down days in camp, but how you approach it is everything. He's done that. 

"I'm really excited for him. He's done a phenomenal job leading." 

On challenging defensive line:
"To me, we're veteran and we're good, but we can be great. There's another level there. It's not hard. We identify it and we constantly remind ourselves of what do we want to be. 

"If we're not there on a consistent basis, then we got work to do. It's not hard to challenge any group that wants to be great. In any stage of any vocation, the greats, they may be up there, but in their mind, they are still here and they know they have room to improve. That's been our mindset. It hasn't been hard. Nobody feels they've arrived. Nobody feels like they're the man. Everybody feels like they're fighting for something. Every day they are fighting to get better." 

On guys who have stepped up as leaders:
"Starting with Isaiah going to Jacob Lacey, Nana, the twins Justin and Jayson (Ademilola) are doing a phenomenal job. Rylie Mills. It's a group of guys. I'm probably forgetting a guy or two - even (Alexander) Ehrensberger. Howard Cross is another one.

"Everybody is taking that challenge on because leaders have to be seen, heard and felt. That's a decision you have to make. They've been really working at it. Those guys have really throughout the summer and into fall camp have done a fine job of trying to be that leader to emerge." 

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