First-year offensive coordinator Michael Haywood says he's thrilled to finally get a chance to work with his new Irish players.
"It's exciting to see where they were at one point, to where they're coming to, and how far they still have to go," Haywood said. "The guys are starting to buy in and recognize what they have to do to get better so it's been a lot of fun."
The Irish will be without quarterback coach David Cutcliffe for at least part of the spring as the veteran coach recovers from heart surgery.
"It's unfortunate what's happened to coach Cutcliffe," Haywood said. "However, coach Weis has joined in and taken over the coaching of the quarterbacks. It's been a lot of fun listening to him."
The former Notre Dame four-year letter winner says he expects a lot of learning to take place over spring ball, and he has no timetable for when that learning will end. He did say, however, the experience the Irish have returning on the offensive side of the ball should benefit them.
"I think it's going to be a learning curve for all the guys—different protections and different running games and passing games when we put it in," Haywood said. "Our objective is to make it as simple for them as we can. But at the same time, when young men have the opportunity to play, experience is extremely value and there's more recall.
"You never know how long it's going to take. We're going to throw a lot of things at them this spring. I come from the same philosophy that coach Weis did—throw as much on the wall and see how much sticks to the wall. The things they feel more comfortable with, we'll learn more of, and then we'll just keep adding things as we go."
The Irish coaches also have some learning to do in order to learn Weis' offensive philosophy, but Haywood said his previous coaching stints have prepared him for what he's had to learn about the Weis offense.
"I think it's been really fortunate for me over the last 10 years. I've been at LSU for eight under Morris Watts, and Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban. I've had the opportunity to go to Texas and been under Mack Brown and Greg Davis. It's a combination of all three of those offenses put into one, and the recall really helps me," he said of learning the Weis offense. "I think its valuable experience for me over those 10 years, and it's been a learning experience for me now, learning from Charlie and learning different reads."
We asked Haywood if the current offense had any similarities to the former regime.
"I have paid no attention to the offensive schemes they've used in the past," he said.
Haywood did say he felt that the offense had a chance to be the strength of the team next fall.
"Looking at the team, I think the strengths are the experience of the guys," he said. "You guys have mentioned numerous times that there are 10 starters returning. That's extremely valuable having 10 starters returning because that's a lot of experience, and that really helps you when you get into crucial situations."
Haywood also coaches the running backs, and we asked the first-year Irish coach if he's had a chance to assess the talent on hand at running back, and how they might compliment each other.
"I haven't analyzed them as far as their running styles," Haywood admitted. "All backs are the same. Backs like running different plays. What you have to do as a coach is you have to run the plays in which those guys like to run.
"One may be an inside runner; one may be an outside runner. One may be a hardball runner; one may be a softball runner. You have to make sure you have to put these guys in situations where they can have success. There's certain runs that they all have to run, however, there are other runs that you can pick and choose between each individual player."
The Irish will kick off spring ball with their first practice on Tuesday, March 29. Haywood says the Irish coaches are excited to get started.
"There's been a lot of work in preparation for this," he said. "I think we're all excited to get started and see what we have to work with."