Big Night on Monday

At practice today, head coach Charlie Weis was seen talking to his Notre Dame players. He made a deal: practice your butts off today and get an hour reprieve in tomorrow's morning session. Apparently, the Irish heeded his advice and impressed Weis enough to make the proposition a reality.

"The tempo of practice was pretty good," Weis said. "It was a very physical practice today. That was the intent of it. The intent was to smack them around pretty good for a couple of hours. You have a lot of sore puppies out there."

Weis said they installed red zone and third down offense, which requires the physical nature that was evident at practice. Tomorrow is a big day for position battles. After a light morning workout, the Irish will reconvene later in the evening for a practice at Notre Dame Stadium. Player evaluations will be made in the full pad session that'll make the depth chart more clear.

"I told them after tomorrow night, we'll have to stop repping three full teams," Weis said. "We've been trying to rep everyone to give them a fair shake. After tomorrow night, we'll start repping two full teams. And then we'll be repping one full team."

But once the depth chart is set for the season, it's not a given that it'll look that way come the end of the year.

"I said once these depth charts are set, they're not etched in stone," Weis said. "There might be some guy lighting it up and I'll say we'll have to get that guy in there. Or there might be a guy who is on special teams that isn't on the first or second team defense. Then, all of a sudden, they get into the game and make a few plays. Those depth charts can change, especially with injury."

One battle is at the strong side linebacker spot. With Maurice Crum, Jr. moving to the middle spot, it opens the door for either senior Mitchell Thomas or junior Anthony Vernaglia to start. Together, they have combined for just seven total tackles in their Irish careers.

"I've been encouraged," Weis said of what Thomas and Vernaglia have been showing in practice. "They bring different things to the table. I've been encouraged but it'll be interesting to see what happens tomorrow night. What happens a lot of times, in a controlled environment you don't get as much of a read as when the coaches are no longer on the field and spoon feeding. Now all of a sudden, when they're on the sideline, you have to start thinking for yourself and working with your teammates."

Another is the backup quarterback spot. Sophomore Evan Sharpley appears to be the front-runner for this position. The 6-2, 204-pound signal caller did not get on the field last year as a freshman and is being pushed by freshmen Demetrius Jones and Zack Frazer. Tomorrow night's session will help in Weis's decision making.

"I want to see what happens when we're not behind them," Weis said. "All of a sudden, they have the play and it's their huddle. You have the play called and the blitz is coming and there's some pressure and they'll have to make a good decision. We have three nights at the stadium (in fall camp) but you can't wait until late to make a call. Tomorrow night, we'll move closer to making that decision."

The tight end position has to replace Anthony Fasano, who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. John Carlson and Marcus Freeman are the two likely candidates for playing time while freshmen Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman add quality depth. Carlson and Freeman have impressed Weis in more than one area of their games.

"They have both shown they can block and catch," Weis said. "When you have two tight ends that can do that, it gives you a lot of flexibility because then you don't get pigeonholed into only being able to do certain things. One of the biggest problems is when they're one-dimensional. Both of them have enough versatility and athleticism that they can hold their own in the passing game and running game."

Weis said that senior Ryan Harris would be getting reps for the first time at tomorrow's morning session. With his arrival back at left tackle, this moves the attention towards the right tackle spot. Fifth-year senior Brian Mattes is trying to fend off freshman stud Sam Young for the chance to start.

Another good piece of news is that punter Geoff Price has been booting the ball quite nicely in fall camp. A lot was made of the fact that Quinn talked to Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Tom Brady in the off-season. Apparently, he wasn't the only one making contact with NFL players.

"The reason he's booming the ball so good is that he spent a lot of time with Hunter Smith of the Colts," Weis said. "We got them all over the place. Now that Adam is in Indianapolis, he'll be a great resource for our kickers. Everything we do, we have to do through compliance. There are certain things you can and can't do. I can't call Adam and tell him to work with our kickers."

Sunday started week two of fall camp. It was also week two of the Travis Thomas experiment, who seems to be making enough of an impression that he'll stay at the weak side backer spot. Don't forget that Thomas is the special teams captain and was an integral part of the unit in 2005. With the added play time that he'll see this season, a minor cutback in his special teams duties is in order.

"There are four major special teams unit: punt, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return," Weis said. "What you do with a guy like that who is on all four units, you don't play him on all four units. You play him on two units. But if he's the personal protector for the punt team, you can be sure he'll be the personal protector for the punt team because that job is too important. You don't say, ‘Travis, you're the starting linebacker and not on special teams anymore.' That's why Zibby is on the punt team. That's why Mo Crum is on the punt team. The last thing you don't want to do is put a guy on the punt team who you don't have confidence in and the punt gets blocked and you're losing." Top Stories