Sophomore Ryan Harris found himself in a new position this fall as the Notre Dame football team sat in limbo while waiting for the announcement of their new head coach. Harris was elected to the team leadership council, asked to speak for the team, when the new coaching staff was in place. We asked Harris what kind of conversations he had with Weis when the first-year head coach and the leadership council met for the first few times.
"We never gave him advice, but we definitely gave him our input as to what we thought were the problems with the team, and the state of the team--especially at the time when he was coming in because he couldn't see that," Harris said.
Harris said the transition was difficult, but he couldn't be happier with the choice.
"For me, I was just happy that we had a coach, and had a coach that had a great past," Harris said. "Probably one of the best that we could ask for when they were looking for a new coach. Just the kind of the attitude he brings to the team, especially the fact that he's attended Notre Dame and he knows what it's like. He has an avenue that he can relate to us."
The Irish have almost completed their winter lifting program in preparation for their first spring practice under the new regime. Much has been written and said about the differences in philosophy the two coaching staffs used during their strength training, and we asked Harris what he thought about the differences between the two.
"It's definitely a challenge and a change," Harris admitted. "It's a completely different style of training, so it's hard to compare the two styles. It is demanding, and it's definitely a change, but it's a good change. We're coming along within the program. Everyone is making gains so that's encouraging."
We also asked the St. Paul, Minn. native how he felt it would benefit him on the football field.
"I can't really say, and that's one of the reasons I'm really eager about spring ball and getting a chance to get back in my pads and move around," he said. "I think a lot of guys feel the same way. We went through the coaching change, and we went through the weight program change, and we just want to get back on the field and see how that's affected us."
One thing is certain according to Harris, and attitude change has definitely been addressed after back-to-back disappointing seasons.
"An attitude change has definitely been addressed in a number of ways," he said. "I think the main thing (Weis) wanted to stress to us is, last year we were 6-6, and not performing at a level we need to be performing at.
"To think that we can just coast or go through the motions is unacceptable. We need to take a more aggressive approach to our practice, our playbook, to meetings, that's something he definitely expressed."
We asked the former first-team USA Today All-American if he felt an attitude change was needed from last season.
"Something has to happen because we haven't been playing good football—that's the bottom line," Harris admitted. "Attitude has something to do with it, but I think it comes down to us as individuals performing and actually coming to play.
"I think there's going to be more stress on the mental aspect of the game. Whether that's good or bad, whether that's been lacking or not, we'll see. Right now we're just focused on trying to get that attitude and getting that mental part."
The one word that's been thrown around a lot recently is "nasty." Say the word nasty and an immediate smile comes to Harris' face.
"Yeah, I like it because it kind of goes with the offensive lineman mentality," said Harris when asked if he liked how Weis is using the word to build an identity for the team. "I think every player, if they're going to be described as nasty, that's not a derogatory term in football. Nasty is definitely an attitude we want to adopt here. Just the whole physical aspect that the word nasty brings to it—the physical relentlessness."