May 5, 2006

Pinkett: Confidence shows at skill spots

When Allen Pinkett watched Jeff Samardzija during the Blue-Gold Game last month, the former Notre Dame running back and current radio analyst saw confidence. He saw it running routes. He saw it making catches, beating defenders and putting points on the scoreboard.

That confidence, even if Samardzija only had six practices to refine it while pitching for the Notre Dame baseball team, netted the soon-to-be-senior five catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. In watching the Irish offense take a step toward recapturing its form of last fall, few things stood out more to Pinkett than the work of Notre Dame's 6-foot-4, 218-pound wide out.

"When the ball is in the air, it's his," Pinkett said. "It's been a progression with him, the success he had back in the Insight Bowl and then he really rode that momentum into last season. So much of pass catching is confidence. You see he has that confidence to not just catch the ball, but make a play."

During Pinkett's six-year NFL career from 1986-91, he saw receiver's confidence take all forms. He saw Sterling Sharpe's brash approach paired with a desire to be the first player on the practice field and the last one off of it. He watched Drew Hill work as a quiet leader that could be counted on for the big catch. He saw John Jefferson make one-handed catches and trust his hands in any situation.

"The good guys know how to time it up," Pinkett said. "The good ones make it look easy."

Samardzija wasn't the only receiver that stood out to Pinkett. Rhema McKnight's return also caught the analyst's eye, not so much for what he did during the scrimmage, but what he didn't wear.

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