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June 12, 2012
Nicky Baratti started building toward his enrollment at Notre Dame by cutting back on some of his favorite things.
In past off-seasons Baratti would hit the weight room and kitchen pantry in hopes of packing on weight for better or worse. During various points of his high school career he checked in at about 215 pounds, maybe a bit more. Now he carries about 207 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame.
This weekend the safety from Spring, Texas, will arrive in South Bend for summer classes and conditioning more lean than previous years thanks to some dinner time discipline.
"I think this offseason I've realized that eating until you're about to throw up isn't that good for you," Baratti said. "I think I've controlled my eating. When I'm full I stop. I don't keep eating like I used to."
Baratti hopes the work he has put in prior to the start of his college career will set him up for immediate success. It might be necessary given what coaches have told him in the months leading up to summer school.
Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin and cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks talked with Baratti about a month ago, passing along the message that he should be ready to contribute right away.
Special teams might present the most direct line to the field but with little experience beyond Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta at safety, coupled with an injury to Austin Collinsworth, nothing is out of the question in terms of playing time.
Baratti spent the better part of his high school career moving around positions -- from safety as a sophomore to quarterback as a junior to tight end as a senior. Now he will settle in at safety.
"I heard the conditioning is just crazy," said Baratti, who will room with fellow safety John Turner. "I think I'm a little scared of that. But I'm looking forward to learning the game. Spending time, sitting down and actually learning different coverages and different things I need to do to improve my game."
Pouring over the playbook will be one of the first things Baratti does to ready himself for the season. Conditioning and 7-on-7 work will take up the rest of his time. Building bonds with unfamiliar teammates will be one of the most important net results of all that.
Forming a sense of togetherness pays off in the fall most times, Baratti has learned.
"I think it's very important," he said. "You build good chemistry with the team. I think that's the reason we did so well this past football season, my senior year. We had such great chemistry as a whole team. That's why we went so far. I'm excited to get to know the team and the rest of the coaching staff."
Getting on campus this weekend will be the first step toward Baratti putting everything he will learn in the next several months together in the form of freshman playing time. No matter the setbacks along the way he intends to keep focused on that goal.
"I have little anxieties that I'm gonna be lonely when I get there," Baratti said. "I know that won't be the case but I feel like that will happen. I know I've set myself to have a mindset that no matter how bad I'm feeling or whatever I'm gonna stick it out, stick through it."
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