News and Notes 8-25-2005

*The Irish football team will hold their final scrimmage before the Pittsburgh game tomorrow night under the light of Notre Dame Stadium. Head coach Charlie Weis is trying to simulate the practice just like the game the following Saturday. It will kickoff at 7:07 p.m. in accordance with the kickoff for the September 3rd opener. Weis even joked that he'll say a pre-game prayer before the scrimmage to get the hang out it.

The practice will also be the last time the players have to impress the coaching staff before a depth chart is organized. Weis said the coaches would meet on Saturday, review the film and talk to the players before final decisions are made.

"In fairness to the players, we have one more really big practice," Weis said. "It's going to be toned down on Saturday and nothing on Saturday. I'm a real go-by-what-you-see kind of guy. If I sat that and made the decision right now without giving everyone the full opportunity to fulfill those reps, then I'd be a bit premature."

*Senior linebacker Brandon Hoyte has been named to the 2005 Butkus Award watch list. The award is bestowed to the best linebacker in the nation. Hoyte, who is the captain of the Irish defense, is one of 65 players to be put on the watch list. The list will be trimmed to ten semifinalists on October 10th, and then down to the three finalist with the winner announced on December 10th. Last year's winner was Derrick Johnson of Texas.

Hoyte's career highlights include being named to The Sporting News first-team freshmen All-American squad in 2002. He was the team's second leading tackler last season with 74 stops (38 solo) and has 19 tackles for loss in the 37 games he has seen action in.

*The last time Notre Dame was on the field, the Irish lost their seventh straight bowl game to Oregon State in the Insight Bowl. This concluded a 6-6 season and was followed by former coach Tyrone Willingham moving on to Washington.

The players have had all off-season to think about last season's .500 record. A new coaching staff has revitalized the excitement level for the time being. Fans can't wait to see the new look team. But are they going to invest too much in the Pitt game to prove a doubting nation wrong?

"I don't think you can ever invest too much in one game," Weis said. "You invest all you got in one game and then you start it all over again. As long as you understand that it's a marathon, not a sprint. There are peaks and valleys in season. You have to give everything you got each game because if you don't put it all in for Pittsburgh, when are you going to put it all in? What are you going to do? Save it up for Michigan? Save it up for Michigan State? That's what you are supposed to do. That's what players do. You put it all on the line in that game and then you worry about the next.

"I think you really have to have the temperament that each game is it's own separate entity. You can't get too high after wins and too low after losses because you are going to play again next week."

*As the Pittsburgh game approaches, Irish backers will hear more and more about the five touchdown passes Tyler Palko threw against Notre Dame last season. Palko still has All-American wide receiver candidate Greg Lee to throw to. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter and secondary coach Bill Lewis might be working overtime to prevent a repeat performance. Cornerback Mike Richardson sees the secondary picking up the new coverage schemes as game day approaches.

"In order to get better, you can't slack off at practice," Richardson said. We're starting to gain a grasp of it as it gets closer and closer to game week. I know we have to bear down on different defenses. I think it's coming along."

*Speaking of the defense, a recurring saying has been heard among the coaches and players: 11 guys flying to the ball. Weis brought this up one of the first days of fall camp as a characteristic of the defense he's seen on the field. It still is the case two and a half weeks later.

"The one phase I said a while back still holds true: they are flying to the ball," Weis said. "We'll see what kind of dividends that pays. But I watched some great defensive coaches take the biggest emphasis after technique and scheme is just being 11 guys flying to the ball. You can compensate for inexperience by being very aggressive and running to the football."

Minter is in charge of a defense that is trying to replace eight starters from last year's team. He wants his players flying around and making changes. Minter is trying to teach this unnatural part of the game to make his defense more aggressive and improve from 2004.

"Good things can happen if you get to the football team in a hurry, particularly if we are in an ornery mood when we get there," Minter said. "It's what we do. We practice going to ball. No kid came to this university knowing how to do that. That's no disrespect to high school programs. But it's not an innate thing. You don't come out of the womb knowing how to run to the ball. You are taught to run towards the ball."


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