Weis Talks Stats, Recruiting and Book

On Sunday and Monday, head coach Charlie Weis and his staff did an in-depth statistical analysis of this year's Notre Dame football team compared to last season's squad through six games. A bye week allowed him time to carefully prepare the numbers. On Tuesday, Weis shared his findings with the media.

He went through a litany of statistics. Weis said the simplest ones are that in 2006, they're averaging less total yards on offense but allowing fewer as well. The defense is surrendering 100 less total yards of offense in comparison to last season through six games. In 2005, 304 yards per game were allowed through the air through six contests. This season, it's down to 212. The biggest number: Notre Dame is 5-1 now, a game improvement from 2005's 4-2 mark. Does this make the Irish better than last season's version?

"I'd say right now statistically you'd have to say it's too soon to tell," Weis said. "And here is why I'm saying that. I think that the offense is on the rise and I think the defense is getting better. I don't know if I felt the same way last year at this time. But I think that I see our team on a slow, steady improvement."

Stats can be used to justify a lot of opinions. But as the Irish sit on October 10th, they are 8th in the Coaches Poll and 9th in the AP. An early season loss to Michigan seemed to dim a lot of national title hopes. But as the teams above Notre Dame continue to lose and the Irish head into a softer part of their schedule, a rise in the polls seems obvious. This team was pegged with national title expectations. Weis said the door is not completely closed, if history is any indicator.

"I'd say it's a longshot," Weis said of his team getting to the national title game. "Is it a possibility? 1977, I was a senior here. Lost to Ole Miss. No shot, right? All of a sudden everything fell into place, including that day. They're the national champs. After losing to Ole Miss, there was no chance that that team was winning it, right? There was no chance. National champs.

"Do we need help? Yeah, we need some help. But the first thing we need to do is we need to beat UCLA."

Win is the first priority. If Notre Dame can run the table in the final six games, it'll put them at 11-1 and be a lock for a BCS appearance, possibly even the national championship contest. Polls are usually cosmetic and blowout wins sometimes are rewarded with bumps in the rankings. Don't expect Weis to be part of this contingent. It's not in his makeup, even if he feels the heat from his own household.

"Is there a little influence of me on that vein?" Weis asked about running up the score. "Yes. But I really think it's disrespectful, not only wrong, it's disrespectful to play a game to run the score. I really think it's disrespectful. I'm always going to think that way.

"Now, are there Notre Dame fans that are going to say, ‘God, I wish he'd go score another two touchdowns?' My wife and son want me to do the same thing. Just so you know, they're not alone. Just tell them they have supporters in my own house."

The bye week presents a different schedule for the team. Today, the starters will practice for half the session in shells and then go watch UCLA game tape. Wednesday is the only day they'll be in full pads. The bye week is primarily meant for the second and third teamers to get a lot more reps than they're accustomed to in a normal session. The team has Saturday, Sunday and Monday off before returning to the practice fields on Tuesday to get ready for the Bruins.

This week is also a big one in recruiting. After Wednesday's practice, seven assistant coaches will hit the road to view potential prospects. The only ones staying are Weis, defensive coordinator Rick Minter and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis. On Friday, defensive line coach Jappy Oliver will come home while Minter hits the recruiting trail. Only seven coaches are allowed out at one time during the season. Currently, Notre Dame has nine verbal commitments. At this point last year, they had 19. Weis challenged the number of verbals on Tuesday.

"First of all, the only reason they're public is because they say so," Weis said of verbal commitments. "When a kid tells me yes, we cannot say anything to anyone, for two reasons. Number one, it's not our right. Number two, you risk the kid, the kid who already has given you his word in private, getting turned off by the fact that you wanted to make it about you, not about him, even though that's illegal. So nothing's ever coming from me. Nothing's ever coming from us.

"If the word comes out, it's never coming from us anyway. So what's the difference between a public commit and a non public commit? It's whether the kid wants to tell somebody or not. That's the only difference. People don't know how many people we have that are coming here. We could be done. We're not, but we could be."

The bye week comes at the right time for Weis. As probably was planned long in advance, his autobiography, No Excuses, hits bookshelves today. Also planned is a "60 Minutes" appearance on October 29th with reporter Steve Kroft. Weis said a lot of the money he's making on the book is going to Hannah and Friends, a nonprofit foundation set up by the Notre Dame head coach and his wife, Maura, in recognition of their daughter Hannah, who has been affected by development disorders.

"I had last year probably about 50 legitimate offers to write a book," Weis said. "I said, ‘I'm not writing a book.' I said, ‘You know, ask me in about 10 or 15 years when I've done something,' which I still have not done as a head coach. I've not done anything.

"This is not about what I've done to the resurrection of Notre Dame. What this book for me was about, when the guy came to me and said, ‘Look, we want you to do this. You have such a strong support of people with special needs, you could donate X amount of dollars to Hannah and Friends, and this is how many dollars we're talking about, would you be willing to do that?' When the dollars were that exorbitant where I could see pumping that much money into things like that, it was tough to say no to that."

And how did Weis like the final product?

"I think it sounds like me," Weis said. "For any of you who know me, it sounds like me."


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