Weis Kicks Off Media Day

The hype around the Notre Dame football team is everywhere. Quarterback Brady Quinn is one of the Heisman Trophy front-runners. Jeff Samardzija and Tom Zbikowski have large cult followings. The coaches ranked the Irish third in their pre-season poll behind Ohio State and Texas.

Head coach Charlie Weis understands this. On Sunday afternoon at the Notre Dame Football Media Day, he said the goals of this team in the next month are cut and dry.

"We understand that you have to have expectations," Weis said about his team. "I tell the coaches and our players to be very short-sighted when it comes to expectations. Our expectations are to get in great shape, know what to do and beat Georgia Tech."

Fall camp begins on Monday afternoon. It's being broken into two phases: the first 11 practices will be offense vs. defense to shore up the depth chart while the remaining sessions will be geared towards show teams and preparation for the opener against Georgia Tech on September 2nd down in Atlanta. From August 7th thru Tuesday the 15th, Notre Dame will practice on the west side of campus by O'Neill Hall. From August 16th on, the Irish will move back to their normal facilities at Cartier Field.

Weis repeatedly stated during the 45-minute press conference that camp would be demanding on the players, more so than last season. In 2005, there was a lot of newness around the program that Weis was building. New schemes and philosophies were taught and built into the players. Now, entering the second year, the picture for the coaching staff is more clear.

"We have more answers to the questions than we did at this point last year, which allows you to put more on the guys' shoulders," Weis said. "Going into training camp, we had no clue what the answers were last year. We were still evolving as a team."

A few personnel movements were announced on Sunday. Weis confirmed the long-standing rumor that running back Travis Thomas would be worked out at linebacker for the first week or two of camp at the weak side spot. The Irish lost both Brandon Hoyte and Corey Mays to graduation and two starting spots are up for grabs. A decision will be made later in camp to see if the experiment works. If the move succeeds, Thomas would still see carries at running back if called upon by Weis. Also at linebacker: junior Maurice Crum, Jr. is slated to be the middle backer.

Linebacker Abdel Banda was put on medical by the team and will not be part of the program this year. Wide receiver D.J. Hord is done for 2006 with a torn left Achilles Heal sustained during the off-season. Chase Anastasio will be held out for the first week or two because of an injury. The same goes for starting offensive tackle Ryan Harris, who will miss the first two weeks because of an unknown injury. Harris said he fully expects to be back with team soon.

"It's something that should not return," Harris said of the injury. "It's a problem solved and that's why we're taking extra precautions to insure that it won't return. I'm very confident that I'll return healthy in the next few weeks and return to form. I know I'll be playing better."

Back with the team is junior running back Junior Jabbie and senior defensive lineman Travis Leitko. Jabbie might have more of a chance for an impact because of Thomas possibly moving over to linebacker. Weis said he and freshman Munir Prince will battle to see who gets the bulk of the backup carries.

Other position battles are at backup quarterback, the third wide receiver spot behind Samardzija and Rhema McKnight, right tackle and linebacker. Coming out of spring, sophomore Evan Sharpley appeared to win the battle behind Brady Quinn for the number two position. With David Wolke transferring, it leaves freshmen Zach Frazer and Demetrius Jones to push Sharpley in fall camp.

"They'll be given equal opportunity to be number two," Weis said. "I told Coach (Peter) Vaas his biggest job is to develop those two new young guys and see who ends up winning that competition."

Whoever is on the field, they should prepare themselves for the outbursts of their head coach. For a team with high expectations and lofty goals, Weis wants the mood to be intense and fiery.

"I will use my New Jersey rhetoric and rag them all the time," Weis said. "Quinn already knows what's coming. I'll say, ‘Yep, there's my Heisman Trophy winner.' Or everytime (Jeff) Samardzija drops a ball, I'll say, ‘You better get that fastball warmed up.' It's going to be a comedy act in training camp. I've been working on my lines all summer. That's how I do it. They know how I do it now."

The first game is 27 days away. The opponent, Georgia Tech, have been doing a little talking. This past week, the Yellow Jacket athletic director predicted victory against Notre Dame. That and some other verbal jabs directed at the Irish have been noticed by Weis.

"They're helping me out a little bit by some of the things they're saying like, ‘We're not looking at them or we're not worried about them,'" Weis said. "Trust me, we'll be worried about them."

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