April 23, 2006

Five on the rise

Charlie Weis knows the propensity to read too much into spring scrimmages.

After all, Saturday's Blue-Gold Game represented just one of Notre Dame's 15 practices. Add on the long hours spent in dark meeting rooms, and the two-hour workout inside a sunny Notre Dame Stadium barely registers on the overall spring schedule. The green light for full tackling along with 41,279 fans added something extra to the afternoon, but not at the expense of a little perspective.

So exactly what can be gleaned from the 105-minute affair? Besides revealing what could be if NBC skipped those commercial breaks and college football didn't stop the clock every other down, the Blue-Gold Game showed that Notre Dame made some individual progress this spring to go with all those team goals.

Here are Irish Illustrated's picks for five players that showed flashes forward during the Blue-Gold Game.

Travis Thomas

Notre Dame's special teams captain has already held reputations as a slasher, bruiser and fumbler. Saturday, the senior-to-be showed he has a little burner in him too. Thomas took a hand off late in the third quarter, cut left with the help of a big block by early enrollee Chris Stewart, then burst 83 yards down the left sideline. Thomas outran cornerback Leo Ferrine before diving over the goal line.

Thomas finished with eight carries for 104 yards, good enough stats to beat out Brady Quinn and Jeff Samardzija for offensive MVP honors.

"I just try to be versatile, all around," Thomas said. "I don't back down from anyone, but headaches (from contact) get old after a while."

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