Head coach Charlie Weis was in a much better mood after today's practice than he was when he met with the media the previous Tuesday.
"Today was a lot better than last Tuesday," Weis said with a smile. "That was one of the reasons I went inside. I went inside to pick up the tempo of practice. I think that's what we got out of it by moving inside."
Weis hinted after Saturday's practice that he was going "exotic" this week in more challenging situations for his players, and the first-year coach said he lived up to his promise with the first day of practice this week.
"This is going to be a big week for situational football," Weis said. "What we haven't really done is expose ourselves to blitzing against each other. Now we've put in blitz on defense, and we've put in sight adjustments and (hot reads) on offense, but what we really haven't done is an ‘anything goes' type of mentality.
"Then there's a couple of offensive passing game packages, where we spread the field, that we haven't done that either so it was a combination of those two things today.
Weis was even kind enough to give us the agenda for tomorrow and the rest of the week.
"Tomorrow we have more situational football that we have to be exposing them to so we can get everything on tape before the spring is over, where we'll practice short-yardage, goal-line and red zone. The two-minute against each other we'll probably wait and save until Saturday.
"What we're trying to do with this week is try to cover all the situational football that we haven't done in the first two weeks, to get it on tape so we can use it as teaching tools when we get them back here in August."
One area of concern for Irish fans has been depth along the offensive line. The Irish do return five starters along the offensive line for 2005, but after those five, the Irish are pretty thin when it comes to experience up front.
"First of all, when you say you're thin and you have your five starters back, I wouldn't call that thin," Weis said. "I think there's a lot of people in this country that would be happy to have their five guys returning.
"What that does is it allows you the flexibility of developing some guys underneath them that don't have the pressure to have to play the first play you're out there."
"If I had to pick one person out, with Sully (John Sullivan) being tweaked a good portion of the spring, that's allowed (Dan) Santucci to get a lot of reps with that first group," said Weis when asked if any players were starting emerge along the offensive line. "I think he's proved to be a very valuable inside player that could get himself involved in the mix. Whether he's 1 or 1A, he's right there in the mix."
Tight end should not be a concern for Weis with three players returning with considerable playing time, and the first-year coach says that position looks to be a real strength for him going into 2005.
"I think that's been a very competitive position here this spring," Weis said of the tight end position. "I've had a lot of different tight ends in my career. I've had tight ends that could just block. I've had tight ends that could just catch. There's very few who can do both, and I kind of liked what I've seen with all those guys about having a little bit of combination to do both of them."
In the end, many people believe that the level of production for Weis' offense will likely depend on the play of junior-to-be quarterback Brady Quinn. Weis was asked how much importance is put on the quarterback in his offense.
"Most of it is put on the quarterback, but some of that is put on me too," Weis said. "I have to figure out, as we go along, how much he can handle and you try not to ask them to do more than they can handle. At this time of the year you over-expose them. You push them because you want to see what level you can get them to."
"I've been more than pleased with how he's mentally picked up the game," Weis said of Quinn. "He understands identifications of Mike linebackers, he understands the potential problems that we have in recalling protections, and at this early stage I can say that I'm cautiously optimistic."
Weis was also asked his philosophy in hitting during spring practice.
"I like to go full speed without taking them to the ground, unless you're in a situation where you can't practice without taking them to the ground, for example, when you practice goal-line," Weis said. The offense has to get it in and the defense has to stop them from getting it in. You can't know if you're just touching off on people."
Weis also said his team continues to remain relatively healthy this spring.
"Every day there's a nick," Weis said when asked about injuries. "Somebody bangs a thumb or turns an ankle, but no season-ending type of things. At the tempo that we've been going, which is fairly high, that's a good thing."
With the spring game on the way, Weis said he's looking forward to the chance to play in front of Irish fans.
"I'm just worrying about 1:35--at 1:35 when our guys go out there and put on a respectable showing where people can sit there and say that we're heading in the right direction," Weis said.
Weis also made it clear that the spring game will not be televised.
"Why would I do that?," Weis asked. "Let's have everyone come here and have a little fun that day. Don't you want to come to the game? Why would you want to watch it on TV? This is one of the few times where there's seats available for the game. A ticket costs eight bucks. Let's go."