A Week Away

Head coach Charlie Weis met the media for the last time before game week kicks off with the weekly Tuesday press conference. Fall camp has stretched for three weeks and been divided into three phases. The last segment, which began on Tuesday, has dealt with preparations for the opener against Georgia Tech.

"The bottom line is that you have plenty of time to prepare for the opener, both in anticipation in what they're going to do in their system and what you're going to do in yours," Weis said. "It would definitely be the wrong thing if you didn't use the extra week that you have in training camp to prepare."

On Friday night, the Irish held a scrimmage at Notre Dame Stadium. Two thirds of the session was dedicated towards Georgia Tech.

"First off, and the biggest thing, we came out unscathed," Weis said. "We came out healthy. No one got hurt. It was a very physical practice but it was a good tune-up for how we run our operation. We did the pre-game prayer. We did everything. At the end, (Bob) Morton led us in the fight song. It was a good way to show this is the way we do business. As far as the scrimmage, there were pros and cons. There are plenty of things to work on. Like any coach, you harp on the negatives, not the positives."

Now, fans and analysts can get down to breaking down the match-ups. Can the Notre Dame secondary handle Yellow Jacket receiver Calvin Johnson? Will the Irish be able to duplicate their impressive opener from last year against Pittsburgh? Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta is pegged with the task of slowing down a Notre Dame offense that averaged 36 points per game in 2005. Tenuta is known to be a bit aggressive at times with his calls, a tendency Weis has picked up on.

"This isn't just a line up and pound them type of defense we're going against," Weis said. "There is a lot of movement going on. There's a lot of stunting and blitz zoning. It isn't just a tee off and hit the guy in front of you type of game. This is a game where your aggressiveness can't end up hurting you because you end up missing the guy in front of you when you fire up and go get him."

One good sign to help counter this is the status of Ryan Harris. The senior left tackle was held out of camp for the first two weeks for an undisclosed injury. But lately, Harris has been participating in practice and is ready to go for the opener. Harris, who has started 32 games in his Irish career, is part of an experienced offensive line who'll do their best to keep the Georgia Tech defenders away from quarterback Brady Quinn.

"I'm pleasantly surprised at how good he looks," Weis said of Harris. "Fortunately, when you lay out a plan and say this is how you'd want it to play out, fortunately it's played out the way we wanted it to. It's been a month long plan. This wasn't a week long plan. It was to be able to go full go by tomorrow and that's where we are. We're glad to be in that position. The only issue with Ryan won't be his health but his stamina."

Opposite Harris at the right tackle spot is where a lot of eyes will be focused next Saturday night. Freshman Sam Young is slotted to start in his first game in a Notre Dame uniform. The 6-7, 292-pound native of Coral Springs, FL has been learning a lot from Harris since he arrived on campus back in June.

"Ryan Harris was assigned to Sam Young when he got here," Weis said. "He's his mentor. When everyone of our kids gets here, we assign them a mentor. Sam's guy has been Ryan. Ryan has been invaluable to Sam maturing through this process. Forget about Sam for a moment. Ryan has done a great job, too. Even when we weren't practicing Ryan, he still had a coaching assignment in practice and that was Sam Young."

Last season, this Notre Dame team seemed to relish their role on the road. Weis used the phrase "us against the world" a few times when talking about the mentality Notre Dame takes with them to away games. It worked as the Irish did not lose a road game in 2005 (Fiesta Bowl not included). Weis also likes another fact about playing games in hostile environments.

"The best part of going on the road is not the game itself," Weis said. "The best part of going on the road is when there's three minutes to go in the game and the fans are starting to leave. All your fans get behind your bench and they're only fans you hear. Those fans that were screaming at you for the first three quarters that are heading for the exits, there's no better feeling than that. When you try to paint that picture in their mind, you're trying to get them thinking that this is the highlight of going on the road."

On the recruiting front, Weis said things are moving along nicely and that there are a number of national players who are in the either/or category. Currently, Notre Dame has eight players committed to next year's class with many more prospects lined up for visits during the football season. The major factor, Weis said, in luring these kids to the Irish is winning.

"There were a number of guys that committed late last year because they wanted to see if we were going to be any good," Weis said. "That's just the way these kids think. If they're a top-flight recruit, they don't want to go to a program they think is going to be mediocre. They want to go to a program that's going to win a whole bunch of games. Last year, the jury was still out at this time. People didn't even know how many games we'd win. Now, we've won some. At least the guys know we have a chance. It gives you more of chance to get the top-line guys."

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