Weis Sets Tone on First Day

The Notre Dame football team kicked off their spring practice sessions with their first of 15 spring practices on Tuesday. The sun was shinning, and new Irish coach Charlie Weis wasted little time in making sure everyone knew he was in charge.

Like a breath of fresh air, the Notre Dame first-team offense lined up for their first play from scrimmage under Charlie Weis on Tuesday afternoon, and immediately felt his wrath.

Forced to run the simple running play three times, the first-team offense learned quickly that this was a different regime, a different expectation.

"The first group, I made them run three or four times just to run the first play," said Weis about his first play from scrimmage as the Irish head coach. "On the first one, one guy went the wrong way. On the next one I just didn't think the effort was good enough.

"I think that right from the beginning, if you let those little things go by without trying to correct them, you're sending the wrong message."

Weis also said a lot more constructive criticism could be heard after the media left on Tuesday.

"You didn't here the barking until you left," said Weis with a laugh about his on-field demeanor. "I tried to keep it toned down. I think the No. 1 thing is the players know you're not being condescending and demeaning. I think that's important that they know that when you're getting on them, you're getting on them to raise their expectations because it just isn't good enough."

But Weis did say he saw a lot of positives from the first day of spring practice.

"I thought we started out slow," Weis said. "I think the effort level was very good, but I think my expectations for execution early on are very high."

"The No. 1 thing I saw on defense was them getting 11 guys running to the ball. If you noticed, that was one of the biggest points of emphasis they had going on out there.

"One major step towards being an unselfish defense, instead of looking at a highlight and grandstand, and pointing out to the crowd that you made a play, let's go party with your teammates, and I think that was very refreshing to see.

"Offensively, there were several positive signs. There were several skill players that I'm starting to get a feel for. There's obviously a veteran offensive line that has obviously played together before.

The biggest thing that we're going to do is, one, develop your frontline guys, and two, try to find some more guys in your backups that can step up and be dependable players.

"I'd say the biggest problem I had with today was not seeing enough people that I don't know much about making statements for themselves. If I want to try and have this open-door policy, where everyone gets a fair chance and a fair opportunity, you'd like for some people to stand out and do some things."

While the Irish didn't exactly blow their new coach away with execution on Tuesday, he did say they have plenty more practices to do so.

"I said to them at the end, ‘that's our first step. There's two ways you can go. You set a bar, a low bar, but you set a bar.'" said Weis. "I think right now our intention is to go out and practice tomorrow and get an improvement over where we were today."

One important piece of the puzzle will be to find a backup quarterback for starter Brady Quinn. Weis says that decision won't be coming any time soon.

"I'm not going to hand the backup quarterback to anybody," Weis said when asked about his young quarterbacks. "Somebody is going to have to earn it. I think we have a long way to go before we make that judgment."

Noticeable on the field on Tuesday was former quarterback Ron Powlus. Weis explained his presence on the field after practice.

"I petitioned the NCAA while (David) Cutcliffe is home rehabilitating, by the way, he's home rehabilitating, He had gone back in for a couple days, but he's doing way better than he was doing.

I went to the NCAA and I applied so I didn't go down a coach during spring ball. I applied to add a ninth guy on the field so I could have somebody that could help monitor the quarterbacks. Especially as I was spending time with (Brady) Quinn, I thought the guys after Quinn would not get much time coaching if I was spending all my time with Quinn. I asked if I could get relief, the NCAA granted that relief, so that is why (Ron) Powlus will be out on the field. That will be the case throughout spring ball."

Also noticeably absent were three current players that Weis also addressed after practice.

"(James) Bonelli, (Ronald) Talley, and (Justin) Hoskins, as of this time, they're not participating with us for violating team rules. That's as far as I'm going to go with that subject. That's as of this time. We'll see how that goes at a later date."

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