Players Like New Schedule

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis wasn't going to stand pat. After a Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State, he constantly made reference to how he wasn't happy about the way his team came out in the contest.

Weis, always reviewing processes to create the optimal one, wanted to tweak the schedule for next year's bowl game. As the Sugar Bowl approaches against No. 4 LSU, the Irish players are experiencing the new preparation.

Last year, there were two-a-days. This season, Weis has had his team practice more frequently but for less time. He doesn't want a repeat of when the Buckeyes steamrolled Notre Dame for 617 yards of total offense. The change to shorter, quicker sessions has been met with positive reviews from the players.

"The practice schedule we have now is working real well," center John Sullivan said. "I feel like a lot of the guys are fresh. I'm fresh. Practice has been intense. We've gotten a lot of good work done."

Sullivan's fellow offensive lineman agrees.

"This is definitely better than two-a-days," guard Dan Santucci said. "Last year, we had three weeks where we just practiced on Saturday with the in between time off. This year, we went every other day in those three weeks to stay fresh."

But was it the schedule last season that burnt the team out or was it just that Ohio State was the better team? The Buckeyes rolled into the contest with a head of steam, fresh off a road victory over heated rival Michigan. People tend to forget that Notre Dame took the opening possession and marched 72 yards in six plays, capped by a Darius Walker 20-yard touchdown run. But Ohio State proceeded to score the next three scores, all of them from 56-yards out or more.

"You could say we were a little flat," senior corner Ambrose Wooden said. "Maybe we were a little tight."

Whatever the problem was, it was enough for Weis to tweak the leadup to the bowl game. He wants his team to peak at the right time, which would be about 8 p.m. on January 3rd down in New Orleans at the Louisiana Superdome. The players are responding to the new approach.

"Last year, we had two-a-days," Wooden said. "It was a camp mentality. Now, we watch a lot of film and go out on the practice field and know you have a limited time on the field to get better. As he said it, we want it high tempo. That's what we're trying to give him. It's good because we don't have a second practice. It's all in that one practice, make corrections and come out the next day to get better over the week. With school being over, we can concentrate solely on football."

Another change has been put into place different than last season's Fiesta Bowl trip. Weis will allow the players to experience New Orleans a bit and have a sensible amount of freedom down in the Big Easy. He's already made it known that the first night down there the team will have a late curfew.

The makeup of the team allows this type of responsibility. Every starter except for freshman right tackle Sam Young was down in Tempe last season. Eighteen of the 22 starters are either fourth or fifth-year seniors. The players know the routine and have been with Weis now for almost two full years. They feel they're mature enough as a group to handle to extra free time.

"We're a year older as a team," Sullivan said. "Last year, we had a lot of guys who were fourth-year seniors and juniors. This year, it's a lot of fifth-year seniors and fourth-year seniors. That's the majority of our team. We're all a little more responsible and we'll handle the longer leash we've been given."

"We've been good all year with the rules we've had," Santucci said. "He wants us to go out and be a little more laid back and experience the fun of a bowl game. We'll have a couple of nights where we can go out and hang out with your guys. But then we'll focus and get down to business." Top Stories