Weis After Day Three

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis was upbeat the first two practices of fall camp. He was seen joking with players and seemed to be in a good mood. On Wednesday, the demeanor switched a bit on the practice fields, being a little more demanding on his group. It was all by design.

"You have a bunch of clichés in football and one of them is called the wall," Weis said to the media after the session. "What happens in the third day of installation, after you put in one set the first day and they start to feel good about themselves and then you put in another set the second day and a couple of guys start scrambling because now they have to remember stuff from the first day. By the third day, it becomes information overload. You have to foresee those things coming. We have to be more energetic and put more pressure on them to make sure we can get over that wall."

The focus of today's practice was installing multiple wide receiver sets against multiple defensive backs packages. For the younger guys, the quick learning can take it's toll on the mind. The older players, though, have been through a fall camp with Weis and have a general idea of what's to come.

"For the veterans, it's taking it to the next level," Weis said. "The problem is some guys are getting it for the first time. The older guys are taking it to the next level. That's why there's a lot of teaching going on because you have to teach to two different levels."

Despite the learning curve for the two groups, the veterans do help out the younger players when it's needed.

"They do a lot of nuanced teaching in individual settings one-on-one," Weis said about the older players teaching the youngsters. "That's when they can say, ‘Here's what you do here.' But really, most of the help from the older guys happens in the meetings. I'm not talking about a mental error but maybe how they can do it better next time based on their experience."

The coaching staff did some learning of their own in the off-season. They ventured down south to Charlotte to visit the home of the Carolina Panthers. It's no secret that Weis and Panther head coach John Fox are good buddies. Carolina was one game away from the Super Bowl last season and Fox is considered one of the brighter minds in the professional ranks.

"They (the Panthers) were in their calmed down setting of mini camp, like spring ball," Weis said. "Their coaches had plenty of time to spend with our coaches. There are a number of things you take for granted that's better coming from someone else other than me. I thought it was a good information experience for all of us."

The third day of practice meant the third day of the Travis Thomas experiment. The senior has been occupying the weak side linebacker spot during fall camp. Weis wanted the best 22 players on the field and Thomas, who was the backup to running back Darius Walker, was too good of an athlete to have on the sidelines. Apparently, the experiment is producing just the effects Weis wanted.

"I'd be surprised to turn back at this point," Weis said of Thomas going back to running back. "The last couple of days, he has carried the ball on offense. What I don't do is have him go back-to-back with the first defense and the second offense. I'll have him go with the first defense and then the third offense to give him a rest. So far, so good. I'm not in any big rush to pull him back there. Something serious would have to happen to Darius for me to do that. And Darius looks very good out there."

Other position battles continue to rage. The right tackle spot is a race to watch with interest. Senior Brian Mattes, sophomore Paul Duncan and freshman Sam Young appear to be the three contenders to start. Combined, these three have 61 minutes of playing time. Mattes is the oldest and Weis said he'll get the first shot.

"We put Brian in there," Weis said. "He was gone for most of the spring as well. He was our seventh offensive lineman last year. He's got first dibs on it. It'll be interesting. We have a bunch of guys in the mix. Paul is in the mix. Sam, as you guys have seen, is in the mix. He's right up there being one of our front line guys."

Another hot spot is who'll occupy the third wide receiver spot. A bevy of freshmen are pushing sophomore David Grimes, junior Darrin Bragg and senior Chase Anastasio for playing time. Grimes has the most experience and he's quickly gaining the trust of his head coach.

"David Grimes was hurt a lot this spring," Weis said. "Last year when he showed flashes in the games, he showed flashes that he'd be really good. Coming into camp, I didn't know what he was going to look like. He's looked very good to this point. I know I got a third guy. I'm not saying he's going to be the third guy but I have confidence in him. Now I need a fourth guy and a fifth guy."

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