"Last year, the football team didn't know whether they were going to be good or not," Weis said. "I'm hoping they are not satisfied with the year they had last year. I know I'm not."
The 2005 season produced a 9-3 mark that culminated in a 34-20 loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl. The overall record and high level of play was a 180-degree turnaround from 2004 when Notre Dame went 6-6 that eventually led to the dismissal of Tyrone Willingham. Obviously, the turnaround wasn't complete enough for Weis, whose main goal, rightfully, is a national championship.
Last spring, Weis was just getting his feet wet in South Bend. He was a first-year college head coach not only at Notre Dame but also for his entire career with the exception of a season in high school back in New Jersey. Weis, always the perfectionist, is constantly grading himself and making adjustments. On Tuesday, he admitted a fault of his last spring and what he attends to do about this time.
"I probably didn't do a good job in being a head coach in the spring," Weis said about his 2005 experience. "I think I did a pretty good job of being an installer of the offense. I don't think I did a good job as a head coach but this year I'll be able to spend more time on special teams and on defense because our offensive coaches are able to handle more of the load than they were last year."
Weis also discussed personal issues. Seniors granted a fifth-year were announced. On offense, Dan Santucci, Brian Mattes, Bob Morton, Marcus Freeman and Rhema McKnight will look to better the 2005 unit's output that smashed school records on a weekly basis. Defensively, Derek Landri, Chris Frome and Mike Richardson return to help a group that was, to put it mildly, up-and-down last year. Speaking of Frome, he joins linebackers Abdel Banda and wide receiver D.J. Hord as players that Weis thinks will be out for the entirety of spring practice. Frome is coming back from a knee injury while Hord recently had abdominal surgery. Players that will be limited during spring ball are linebackers Maurice Crum, Jr. (back) and Joe Brockington (back), offensive linemen John Sullivan (shoulder) and Mattes (foot) and cornerback Kyle McCarthy (shoulder). Defensive end Victor Abiamiri underwent minor knee surgery recently but Weis said he's close to 100 percent.
Some Irish fans might want to know about the status of All-American Jeff Samardzija. The 6'5" wide receiver, who caught a school record 15 touchdown passes in 2005, plays baseball and is a hard throwing starting pitcher for Paul Mainieri's team. Weis said that Samardzija will participate in six of the 15 spring practices but Evan Sharpley, also a member of the Notre Dame baseball team, will be at all the Irish football workouts as he competes with David Wolke for the backup quarterback spot.
Speaking of that, the battle for the spot behind Brady Quinn might have produced Weis's most pointed remarks of the press conference. Wolke was the backup last season but only completed one pass. Sharpley did not see the field in his first year at Notre Dame. With incoming freshmen quarterbacks Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer set to be on campus in June, Weis said it's now or never for these two to step up to the challenge.
"If they (Wolke and Sharpley) spit the bit, then the two freshmen are coming in and I'm putting them in there," Weis said. "This is their time. There are a whole bunch of reps and they all aren't going to Quinn. I'm not afraid to put a freshman in there. But there's always that security blanket of somebody who knows the system. I'm not looking to make any friends here. I'm seeing who the second quarterback is going to be so if something happens to number 10, we're ready to go."
Weis did not hesitate to name areas of concern that'll be addressed in spring ball. Among them are better communication in the secondary, shoring up the offensive line depth chart, finding a third wide receiver and replacing D.J. Fitzpatrick. Maybe the two biggest concerns could be on defense. Weis said him and his staff have been spending a lot of hours on generating a pass rush. Many can remember Ohio State's Troy Smith carving up the Notre Dame secondary with tons of time to find open receivers.
The other is the competition at the linebacker spots. Crum will be limited in spring practice because of his back injury. Steve Quinn, Scott Smith, Anthony Vernaglia and a hampered Brockington are players that could fill the voids left by Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays. The plan, according to Weis, is to work around Crum and let the others fall into place.
"What we're going to do is take our best player (Crum) and move him to all three positions to make sure we place him in the area we need him the most," Weis said. "Everyone else is going to play off of Mo because he's the one guy we have the most confidence in."