Head coach Charlie Weis couldn't hold back his excitement for the spring game after Tuesday's practice. The first-year head coach said he's excited to get on the field with his team for the first time in a game-like situation.
"I'm real excited for Notre Dame, but I'm also excited for me personally because it's the first time we get to go out there with a little bit of a crowd," Weis said. "My family is coming, and I'm just looking forward to us going out there and competing and having a little fun, and really culminating the spring.
"It's been a long, trying year for these guys--going all the way back to December right until now. There's a lot of stuff that's happened in their lives, and I'm just happy we can kind of take the next step forward."
Weis was asked what he hoped he would see on the field on Saturday.
"A fairly cleanly executed performance," Weis said. "You know when guys aren't used to playing with each other, sometimes it can get it a little sloppy. I want them to have a chance to go ahead and execute and go against each other, and see if they can't make a few plays on offense and defense and just play a cleanly executed game."
Before spring practice began, Weis said he would throw a lot of stuff against the wall and see what stuck. Weis was reminded of those comments and asked where he felt his team was in regards to grasping the things he's teaching them.
"In addition to that I also said that the one advantage of having a bunch of smart guys is usually a lot more sticks," Weis cracked.
"I've been pleased mentally where we are," Weis continued. "I'm pleased with the progress on both sides of the ball, and I'm pleased with the progress in the kicking game as well. That doesn't mean that I'm happy. I'm just pleased with the progress. As long as we can keep moving in that direction and not have setbacks, I think we'll have a chance."
Sophomore Travis Thomas continues to compete for the starting tailback spot and Weis was asked how Thomas had been progressing this spring.
"I think Travis Thomas is playing with a lot of confidence," Weis said. "I think that with each player you have to identify what you have to work on the most, and Travis, I don't think it was ever about ability, I think it was about confidence. As long as he plays with confidence, Travis will be a heck of a football player."
Weis was also asked about the play of junior wide receiver Maurice Stovall.
"It isn't like these guys don't have the ability here. I told him he better lose 20 pounds," Weis cracked. "You can mark that down. I said lose 20 pounds. I want to be the only fat guy here."
The first-year head coach did say he felt his team was starting to buy into his way of thinking on the field.
"I like to talk about team," said Weis when asked about a specific player. "I think they're starting to get it. They're all going to have to play together for us to have a chance," Weis said. "We can't count on just Brady Quinn. We can't count on just Maurice Stovall. We can't just count on just one guy. We've got to count on everyone on both sides of the ball. If we do, we'll have a chance."
The Irish voted on team captains on Monday and elected their leaders for 2005. Quarterback Brady Quinn was voted as the offensive captain, and linebacker Brandon Hoyte was voted as the defensive captain.
Weis also said a third captain would be nominated for each game. The third captain would be nominated as the top special teams player from the previous week.
Weis also said each position will have a representative for a "leadership committee," who's responsibility is to speak to Weis about issues each position might have.
Named for offense were Quinn to represent the quarterbacks, Rashon Powers-Neal to represent the running backs, Rhema McKnight for the wide receivers, Anthony Fasano to represent the tight ends, and Dan Stevenson to represent the offensive line.
"I think it's really important to understand that on Saturdays, coaches aren't out on the field," Weis said about his theory on captains. "Other than us signaling a play on offense or signaling a play on defense, it really comes down to the players calling a situation on the field and going ahead and executing it.
"I think it's very important to me personally, to have our leaders of our team, kind of take some of that responsibility on their own shoulders instead of everyone turning to coach Weis, ‘how are we going to do this, or how are we going to do that?'
"I feel really strongly on this subject that leadership has got to come from the players."
Freshman defensive back Tregg Duerson has not been seen on the practice field for awhile. Weis addressed Duerson's status on Tuesday.
"He's currently not with the team as he's going through some personal stuff," Weis said of Duerson's status. "We'll see when the semester ends where that heads."
"Yeah, he's still there," Weis said when asked if he was still enrolled in school at Notre Dame.
The Irish have one more practice, Thursday, before they hold their spring game. Irish Eyes will be there after Thursday's practice to bring you all the latest.