"I think it's good timing," Weis said of this weekend's contest.
The Tar Heels (1-7) come to South Bend in search of their first win of the year over a Division 1A opponent. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:43 p.m. and NBC will have the national television coverage. North Carolina comes into the contest at the bottom end of many national rankings. The worst number might be the 115th ranking in rushing defense. The Tar Heels allow 205 yards per game on the ground.
Who should be smiling? Darius Walker and the Irish rush attack. Last week, in the 38-14 victory over Navy, Notre Dame totaled 176 yards on the ground, a week after accumulating 41 vs. UCLA. In the Weis offensive system, the head coach loves balance. All signs point towards another well-rounded performance from the Irish.
"We intend to run the football in this game," Weis said. "We'll throw it, too. If I go into the game saying we're just going to run it for 300 and not throw it, they'll load up on the run. We'll do both. But we intend to improve on the run game and it's one of our goals going in."
One of those runners who might see some carries is James Aldridge. The freshman halfback saw his most extensive action of his short Irish career last weekend vs. Navy. Aldridge carried the ball 12 times for 29 yards, mostly in garbage time. He finally appears healthy after battling knee problems that first started with an injury in high school. There's no question Walker is the lead dog in the ground game. Aldridge provides a power compliment to Walker's shifty style of running. Weis said on Wednesday that he would like to get his freshman back some carries in the first half, if the situation presents itself.
"The next level is intertwining him into the game," Weis said. "We'd like to try to get to that. We can't really commit to exactly how that plays out because you don't know how many plays there are going to be in a quarter or three and outs. You don't want to say he's going to play on the third series if we go three and out twice and Darius has only played six plays and all of a sudden he's out of the game."
*A topic on recruiting was hit upon Wednesday. The stories are endless about other schools using negative recruiting against Notre Dame and other higher profile institutions. Weis has stated many times in the past that they do not employ these tactics when on the recruiting trail. But word often gets back to the Irish head coach about programs that do a negative number on Notre Dame.
"The kids tell you," Weis said. "Now they tell you one way or another. They either tell you directly that so and so said this or they ask you questions that you know were fed to them. When all of a sudden, a kid asks you a question you know they didn't come up with that on their own. Somebody is feeding them that line. Usually it's directly or indirectly. You'll find out from the kids and you'll find out who is saying it because they'll tell you that, too."
Weis adamantly said he won't fight fire with fire. One of the often negative items mentioned about Notre Dame is the weather. South Bend is not South Beach in Miami. The weather patterns, especially in the winter months, are cold and snowy. These are not the ideal conditions for someone looking for warm temperatures year round. To rebut this true statement, Weis uses a technique that grabs the aspiring recruits' attention.
"Well guess what? The weather isn't 85 and balmy here in South Bend today," Weis said. "To counteract that, and we had this conversation as a staff this morning, you know all these kids want to have a run at the NFL. Then you say to them, ‘I guess you're not going to play for the Bears, are you? And the Packers? And Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New England, Buffalo, neither team at the Meadowlands, it gets cold too in Denver and Kansas City.' That's what you counter it with. You don't say South Bend is balmy. You say, ‘You want to play in the NFL and do you think it's 85 and sunny everyday?' It doesn't work that way."
*The NCAA stipules that coaches can be with their players for 20 hours per week. This time period entails practices, meetings and other factors involved in game preparation. One of them is watching tape on the opponent. Some film viewing is involved in the 20 hour week but players are allowed to view as much as they would like, depending on their schedules.
"You still only can have 20 hours with them," Weis said. "You can watch minimal amount of tape with them. For example, players' day off is Monday. Brady (Quinn) is here a good portion of the day Monday watching game tape and he's watched some on Monday already and then he takes DVD's home with him. We can only be with them for 20 hours. We can't mandate any more than that. After that, you give them an opportunity to allow them to watch more if their time lets it happen. But if some kid has got a midterm tomorrow, the last thing they are going to do is watch tape."
At the Thursday team meeting, Weis and the coaches give the players tests on what they need to know for Saturday's game. This allows them to gauge whether or not the players have done their homework on the opponent. Weis joked that sometimes in the NFL, coaches would give a player a blank tape and ask later about what they thought of the film to check if they actually had watched the required viewing.