Weis Talks Depth Chart

Head coach Charlie Weis gave the media a treat on Thursday evening after practice. The tentative two-deep depth chart for the September 2nd opener against Georgia Tech was released. There weren't too many surprises for a team who returns 18 starters (if you include Bob Morton and Rhema McKnight to the list).

One spot up for grabs that had many wondering was at right tackle. Fifth-year senior Brian Mattes was battling freshman Sam Young and sophomore Paul Duncan for the chance to start. Weis, the coaching staff and players have all been impressed by the showing of Young. Apparently, it was enough to earn him the nod over Duncan at right tackle. Mattes is listed as the backup to Morton at right guard but has the job of knowing all the line positions in case of an injury.

"I put Sam and Duncan there," Weis said about right tackle. "That's another one that's too close to call. No matter what way I go, there's still evaluations going on at that position. Offensive line play has to be one of cohesion. I don't think you can put in guys who aren't going to play together.

"What we've been able to do, since we had an extra week, is utilize Brian Mattes at several different positions. He's played left tackle, right tackle, right guard and left guard. The only position he hasn't played is center and I mean all those have been with the first group."

At kicker, Carl Gioia, for the moment, holds the job. The senior has attempted one kick in his Notre Dame career but Weis said on Thursday that Gioia has been the most accurate in fall camp. In a bit of a surprise, Bobby Renkes will be kicking the ball off, beating out Wakarusa, IN freshman Ryan Burkhart. Renkes does have experience. As a sophomore, he kicked off 23 times with four touchbacks.

Travis Thomas is firmly entrenched at the weak side linebacker spot. The senior moved to the spot at the start of fall camp and has done enough to stay on defense. He's also listed behind starting running back Darius Walker as number two. Weis said the amount of carries for Thomas in games will be determined by how tired he is from playing linebacker.

"He's had a nice camp at running back," Weis said. "I'll give you a heads up in advance. On Sunday, he's playing running back the whole day. I then don't have to go back and forth with him on offense and defense. Because I have this extra time, on that one day, instead of taking him for a period here and a period there, he's going to be running back for a day."

Some other notes: senior Chase Anastasio appears to be the man for the fourth wide receiver position. The senior has primarily been a special teams contributor in his Notre Dame career but might get a few chances this season to add some catches and yards. Sophomore Evan Sharpley is the backup quarterback to senior Brady Quinn although Weis said he's taking all four signal callers to Georgia Tech. Also, freshman defensive left end John Ryan and sophomore Kyle McCarthy have had decent enough camps to be the backups at their respective positions. Ryan and Justin Brown are an and/or grouping while McCarthy and Bruton are the same at the free safety spot.

"They've been playing good," Weis said of Ryan and McCarthy. "That's why they're there. I've told you it doesn't matter whether the guy is a freshman or a senior. All of a sudden, a guy is playing good and doing it consistently, that's why their names are down there. Those two guys have been playing good. We're not going to be afraid to play them in a game."

There was a situation at Arizona State last week where the head coach, Dirk Koetter, named senior Sam Keller the starting quarterback. But after a few days, he changed his mind and switched to sophomore Rudy Carpenter. Keller has since left the Sun Devils and enrolled at Nebraska. Weis said although their might be some slight juggling in the next week or so among the second and third team guys, don't expect this flip flop situation to occur at Notre Dame.

"I don't think you'll find me doing that at any position," Weis said about changing his mind a few days later. "For example, at right defense end, I got (Ronald) Talley playing. I got (Chris) Frome playing. They're both on the depth chart. I don't go to a third guy. I don't even put Justin Brown down. Really, I have three guys who can go at right defensive end. Whether it's Frome first or Talley first, I can see those guys playing an equal number of snaps in a game because I have a lot of confidence in those players."

Some good news from camp: sophomore Michael Turkovich has returned to practice. The offensive lineman came back a few days ago after sustaining some type of head injury last week that caused an ambulance to come to the practice field to take him away. Turkovich is listed as the backup behind starter Ryan Harris on the depth chart at left tackle. Weis will get a better idea late in the weekend to see if he'll be ready to go for Georgia Tech.

"He's started to practice yesterday, which was probably a little earlier than I thought he'd be able to go," Weis said. "First thing, we wanted to be cautious when you're coming off a banged up head. But they cleared him to start working. We eased him in yesterday and did the same today. He'll go again tomorrow. But on Sunday's and Tuesday's practice, we have to get a good idea if he's ready to go or not."


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