"If he's hit, don't worry," Weis said about his Heisman Trophy candidate signal caller. "You'll hear about it from me no matter how many people are there."
All jokes aside, this Blue-Gold game got Weis into a creative mood. With John Sullivan not playing because of off-season shoulder surgery, that leaves the Irish with nine offensive linemen. Weis has designated this group to wear green jerseys and play for both teams. He wanted to re-name the game the Blue-Gold-Green game but was overruled by "his superiors." The kickers and specialists also will be in the same situation and wear the green uniforms.
There will be four 15 minute quarters with a running clock. The clock can only stop for timeouts and injuries. There will be no kickoffs as each offense takes the ball at their own 30-yard line. The defense must play a 4-3 defense with only one linebacker allowed to blitz.
The most exciting aspect for fans is that they'll get to see the number one offense versus the number one defense. Last year, it was the one's vs. the two's. Not so this season. It's anyone's guess as to how long each group will play but Weis wanted the goal to be making the game more competitive.
"We go ones on ones every practice in every rep," Weis said, who will not coach or call a play for either team. Michael Haywood will coach the Gold team while Rick Minter has control of the Blue team. "That's one of the reasons why you keep them from taking them to the ground (during spring practices). I really don't think you can evaluate if the good guys aren't going against the good guys. No disrespect to the backups."
A look at the roster gives a minor glance at the depth chart. For instance, tight end John Carlson is with the first-team offense on the Blue team while Marcus Freeman is on the Gold team (second-team offense). Defensive end Ronald Talley is with the first-team defense (Gold) while Justin Brown and Dwight Stephenson, Jr. are both on the Blue team (second-team defense). Also, the three linebackers with the first-team are Mitchell Thomas, Anthony Vernaglia and Steve Quinn.
Six players are not playing because of injuries. Sullivan, defensive lineman Chris Frome (expected to be ready to go by June, according to Weis), linebackers Maurice Crum, Jr. and Joe Brockington and defensive backs Mike Richardson and Kyle McCarthy all will not see game action on Saturday. Richardson's absence has allowed junior Terrail Lambert to start with the first-team. After 15 practices (three of which were not in full pads), the spring evaluation session is almost over.
"We still have some personnel issues and holding out some guys who are obviously going to be playing for us," Weis said. "It gives guys an opportunity to do some things full speed. Often, people overanalyze spring games and make judgments based on the spring game. I use this as the final opportunity to truly evaluate where we are before we head into the next stage of our process."
A big part of the decision process is who becomes Quinn's backup. The battle is between Evan Sharpley and David Wolke. They are both on the Gold team with the second-team offense. Justin Gillett is with Quinn on the Blue team. All the quarterbacks, with the exception of Quinn, are "live" for contact. Weis has said repeatedly this spring that neither Sharpley nor Wolke has separated themselves from each other, possibly opening the door for incoming freshmen Zach Frazer or Demetrius Jones in the fall.
"When the two new young guys come in here, we're going to have to find out what they do," Weis said of Frazer and Jones. "We don't know what they can do. Now there are two more guys to give reps to.
"The jury is still out for who is number two."
The Blue-Gold game is a huge weekend for recruiting. Dozens of potential prospects are expected to be on campus this weekend. Weis said that he listens intently to what the Notre Dame players who guide these high school prospects around have to say. Most of the time, the feedback is good but there are occasions where Weis hears that the recruit is not right for the program. The head coach tries to show players the real side of the Notre Dame football experience.
"My philosophy is when players come in for games, it's always better when they can talk to people when it's not a canned response," Weis said. "Any school in the county can give you a canned recruiting presentation. But when players come in and can talk to fans and other players and people to get a feel for what the place is like, they often get a feel if they want to be a part of the program.
"Our job is to represent Notre Dame. Our job is to sell Notre Dame. All you do is present what you stand for."