"We're a lot further along at running the operation on both sides of the ball," Weis said. "We have more depth at several positions where players are earning confidence, which allows you to put more players out there. One of the problems sometimes comes when you're afraid to put guys in there. It kind of pigeon holes you as far as what you're able to do schematically. We're going to have to see where it pans out but I think we'll have enough players going into the year that we have confidence in that we'll be able to do some of the things we want to do."
One the major concerns had to be the status of offensive lineman Michael Turkovich. He was taken from the practice fields yesterday by ambulance after getting banged hard on a play. After sitting out the next play, both Weis and offensive line coach John Latina agreed that he looked too groggy to continue.
"Thank God he's in good shape," Weis said. "We felt that the right thing to do was not take any chances and get an ambulance in there and take him to the hospital. I went and saw him last night. All of our medical people were there and Latina and his wife were there. He was back in here this afternoon."
Turkovich, a sophomore who saw limited playing time as a freshman, was not at either practice on Wednesday and will be evaluated next week. Weis said there is no rush for him to rejoin the lineup and to handle this injury with all cautiousness.
"I was talking to him the whole time and explaining to him what was going on," Weis said when the head ringer occurred. "I think he was scared as anything else. When that happens, you don't know if you cracked a bone or if it's a spinal injury. Our medical people really did a good job of making sure he wasn't moving."
Weis had other news on the offensive line. Tackle Ryan Harris is almost ready to go full strength as he ran a half hour against the bags in today's session. Weis said the senior is "chomping at the bit" to get back into action.
As for position battles, the strong side linebacker position remains one. Weis didn't name a starter between Mitchell Thomas or Anthony Vernaglia but made it clear that both would see the field on September 2nd against Georgia Tech.
"We're going to use both of them in the first game," Weis said. "I'll already tell you that. I have enough confidence in Mitchell and Anthony where I don't feel we have to move someone over to that spot where that spot is one of weakness. They compliment one another and each one has things they're better at. They've settled in nicely in that position."
One spot that may be closed is the third wide receiver behind Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight. Weis said that the competition for the position is "not even close" with sophomore David Grimes controlling the huge advantage over Darrin Bragg, George West and others.
The person that will throw to Grimes and company is Heisman Trophy candidate Brady Quinn. But who is his backup? That question remains. Sophomore Evan Sharpley has a year experience on highly touted freshmen Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer and that seems to be the advantage so far in the race.
"The obvious answer is that Evan is mentally ahead of the other two," Weis said. "That's the obvious answer. And he is. And if you ask me who's more mentally ready to play, it's going to be Evan. We're not throwing in the towel with Demetrius or Zach. I think it's way too early to say that you're show team players. Evan spent the whole year last year doing that. He ran show team and came to the games. After a few weeks, he just knows the plays better than those guys."
The freshmen seem to be popping up everywhere in races for position on this team. The top-5 class, depending on whose rankings one looks at, provides a lot of size, speed and strength for Weis and staff to use in different schemes and formations. In addition, they now get to arrive on campus in the early summer.
"We have more good players in the mix, even now with the numbers being so low last year with scholarship players," Weis said about the freshmen class. "You're talking about 70, 71 players. Now it's 80 or 81 players. There are more guys. Between the three guys who came in mid-year and the 25 others who came later and a couple of freshmen walk-ons, you're talking about a third of your team. Basically, you give them a chance to compete and see how many climb their way up the ladder."
Today's practice started Phase Two of training camp. Phase One included mostly technique and fundamentals. This section of fall camp will run until August 22nd, when game preparations for the Yellow Jackets will commence. But this current phase is all about being ready for whatever teams throw at them during the season, such as exotic blitzes.
"You have to work on schemes offensively and defensively that we don't see when we're playing against each other," Weis said. "These periods have to last you the whole year because these things you are going to practice now that you may or may not see the entire year."
Last but not least, Weis announced the leadership committee. The players at each position voted for one member to be the leader of their unit. The winners: Quinn at quarterback, Darius Walker at running back, Dan Santucci and Harris at offensive line, John Carlson at tight end, Victor Abiamiri and Derek Landri at defensive line, Maurice Crum at linebacker, Tommy Zbikowski in the secondary and Travis Thomas on special teams.