Irish head coach Charlie Weis has his own criteria and he'll have to use them to determine who'll lead Notre Dame in the opener September 1st at home against Georgia Tech. Junior Evan Sharpley, sophomores Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer and freshman Jimmy Clausen are all battling to be one of the top two contenders heading out of spring ball into the summer. Going through the progressions and accuracy are second and third on his list. The first in Weis's philosophy might be taken for granted at times.
"If you can't get the play call from the coaching staff to you and then from you to the team and then go to the line of scrimmage and run the operation, what difference does it make?" Weis asked after Monday's practice. "You have to be able to get the play from the sideline, to the huddle and then to the line of scrimmage just so we can execute the play. That's the important thing that you have to do and it's probably not what you'd expect it to be. Either guys do it right all the time or most of the time or none of the time."
***Weis had a few goals heading into the spring. With it almost half over, the Notre Dame head coach gave a progress report on his team. First, Weis was pleased with the competition on the field. With so many battles raging on the both sides of the ball, this was going to be a factor for the Irish in spring ball. Last season, it wasn't much of one with a plethora of starters returning to the team.
On this point, Weis has been pleased. For example, George West was singled out on Saturday for his spring effort and currently is the No. 2 wide receiver. The second goal for Weis in the spring time was to make sure the players were grasping the systems and schemes on offense and defense, even if it meant going slower than usual in practice.
"We're putting in a new defense and establishing an offense with a lot of changeover in players," Weis said. "I'm never happy but I'm content with where we are in that point. I'm often impatient when it comes to installation. I want to put in more, not less. We made the decision this off-season to make sure everyone knows what they're doing. If that meant to slow down the pace in practice so everyone gets it, so be it."
As far as the other wide receivers, Weis has stated no one in the pack has separated themselves. Those in contention are Robby Parris, Richard Jackson, D.J. Hord, Darrin Bragg and Barry Gallup. Weis is looking for a wideout who can not only get off the line of scrimmage, run good routes and catch the ball but help in the running game as well.
"I don't ever like playing wide receivers that are afraid to block," Weis said. "Size can be misconstrued. You don't have to be like (Jeff) Samardzjia or (Maurice) Stovall or (Rhema) McKnight to be able to block. You have to have heart to block because a lot of the time the blocks by the wide receivers are getting in the way anyways. You have to see whether they are willing blockers."
***Tight end is one of the deepest positions on the team for Notre Dame. Fifth-year senior John Carlson is one of the premier tight ends in the nation. Sophomore Konrad Reuland should see his role expand in 2007. His classmate, Will Yeatman, has been a little busy this spring. Yeatman, in addition to football, is a standout player on the lacrosse team. The sophomore has 15 goals on the year, good for third on the team. This is about what Weis expected from Yeatman.
"I thought he'd be a front line guy for them," Weis said about Yeatman, who‘ll be at about half the spring football practices, including the Blue-Gold game on April 21st. "Me and Kevin (Corrigan) had talked about it. That was the anticipation when he came here. It's working out nicely. He's a diligent guy. He knows all the plays. He's doing enough to stay sharp in football and also helping out the lacrosse team."
***Asaph Schwapp is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury just two contests into 2006. The junior fullback is a bruiser, as evidenced by his 6-0, 255-pound frame. Schwapp has been running with the first-team in spring ball.
"He's knocked off a bit of the rust," Weis said. "He's got some room for improvement. He's a real tough, physical lead blocker. I might have to give him the ball on a few carries to pacify him. But that's what he is: a tough, physical lead blocker."
***An addition to the Notre Dame Coaches Clinic has been made. John Gruden, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will address the clinic on Saturday morning, April 14th. Because of the change, pre-registration has been extended to April 6th. Coaches can register by following the instructions at www.ndcoachesclinic.com. The actual clinic runs from April 13th and 14th and is not open to the public.