"They are starting to come around a little bit," Weis said. "I think they are starting to feel a little better about themselves. It's one thing when you have experience. It's another thing when you're trying to play a different style of ball."
Offensive tackle Ryan Harris was quick to learn this point. The junior said when Weis talks, he gets his thoughts across.
"I think Coach Weis is a coach who doesn't have to repeat himself," Harris said. "When he says something once, it resonates and says with you. He mentioned it a couple of times and that's as far as he needs to go as far as we're concerned. We want to have that mentality he's talking about. We want to be the team he wants us to be."
Harris will be looked to for this type of nasty attitude. He certainly has the talent for it as well. Last year, where he started all 12 games at left tackle, Harris was voted Westwood One/Guardian Life Insurance Guardian of the Year Award, given to Notre Dame's best offensive lineman. The honor caught him off guard.
"I didn't even expect it," Harris said. "I didn't know it was there for offensive lineman. I didn't think I was going to get it. But, you know, it was very humbling to know that my past coaching staff and my past offensive line coaches thought of me that way. It's a new year. My goals are never to win trophies or win accolades. My goal is the accomplishment of winning games. I feel like if I do my part and if we're winning games, those accolades will come to myself and other players. I'm very thankful for winning it."
The offensive line will try to provide some cover for junior quarterback Brady Quinn. This especially applies to Harris. As the left tackle, he will be protecting Quinn's blind side. With a big drop off from Quinn to whoever the back up will be, it is imperative for Harris to have his head on a swivel. He said the group is up to the challenge and likes what he has seen this first week.
"This group has been together a long time," Harris said. "Even in the first week, we've come together a little more. I don't know if it's because we're all maturing or it's where we are at. That's something I'm impressed by. I think the other guys would tell you the same thing. We are really excited about playing with each other."
The starting line is experienced. Harris has logged 577 minutes and 19 starts, Matt LeVoir 685 minutes and 24 starts, Bob Morton 576 minutes and 22 starts, Dan Stevenson 637 minutes and 22 starts, and John Sullivan 367 minutes and 12 starts. Weis thinks these numbers and time together is crucial.
"The biggest thing on the OL is continuity," Weis said. "I would say the single most important ingredient of a successful line is communication. You can do that when guys are familiar with what they can or can't do."
During preseason camp, battles start to ensure between the offensive line and defensive line. The players constantly hit one another day after day. It's only natural that some flare-ups will occur in the heat of the moment. One rule though: what happens on the field stays on the field.
"It's gets pretty intense during practice," Harris said. "We're really good at keeping it on the field and not carrying it off the field. I think that's what is special about this group. We may have a few tussles during practice. Off the field, it's a different story. We'll sit together at dinner and we'll talk. It's really good that way to keep that competitive edge. It keeps us as one unit. We want a team."
Offensive line coach John Latina will be the one pushing Harris and his teammates every step of the way for the season. Latina was hired by Weis from Mississippi, where he coordinating not only the line but the offense under David Cutcliffe. Harris will try to soak up all the knowledge the coaching veteran has to offer.
"Coach Latina is a great coach," Harris said. "I think he's been coaching longer than I've been alive. He has all kinds of drills and little tweaks that players like myself can find very help in progressing to the next level of where we want to be at. We got a chance to work under him in spring ball. We really learned a lot. It was a different tempo and a different focus."