"It was the first day," head coach Charlie Weis of Monday. "What ends up happening when you have a conditioning test in the morning, they are pretty gassed. Two-thirds of the way through the first practice, even though it's a half-hour longer because of the acclimation period, you could see those far away eyes starting to fade."
Last year, Weis made then-freshman Munir Prince an instant fan favorite after the first practice of fall camp when describing how fast the running back was. The Notre Dame coach said Prince was so fast there was almost a "whoosh" sounds as he zipped by. The next day at practice, the media horded around Prince to see what all the fuss was about. Prince has since moved over to the defense at cornerback.
But Weis didn't get to see a lot of players on the field on Monday. If Irish fans haven't heard, there's a quarterback competition going on between Evan Sharpley, Demetrius Jones and Jimmy Clausen. Weis said on Monday he would like to know, at the very latest, by the end of the second week of fall camp who will be taking the snaps on September 1st against Georgia Tech.
Because of all the attention paid to the quarterback competition, Weis has to play catch up. The Notre Dame head coach said he meets with the offensive staff at night, arrives early as usual to the office in the morning, watches tape and meets with the defensive staff. By 8 AM, Weis is caught up. But it's the quarterbacks that have his eye.
"The tempo was good and there were productive things out there," Weis said of the first day. "The one thing when you get going, especially with me watching the quarterbacks, is that I have to spend a lot more of my time watching tape of the other positions. I used to be able to go to position to position. But almost the entire practice, I was at the quarterback position."
***Weis dismissed any talk that fifth-year senior Trevor Laws would possibly move inside to nose tackle. Laws has the left side defensive end spot locked up and is the one sure thing along the inexperienced defensive line.
***The quarterback race again dominated the question and answer session of Weis' presser. In Monday's practice, the media was allowed in for 20 minutes but no passes were thrown by any of the three signal callers in the race the start. Weis said at Monday's press conference, he's not in the business of giving out information, especially to the opening opponent, Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets will have to play a guessing game as to who'll be the starter on September 1st and prepare for all three.
"They all showed some promise," Weis said of the three quarterbacks after one practice. "They all threw it okay in relation to who they are. They ran the team okay. I'm going to have a meeting at 1:30-2:00 today with Ron (Powlus) and the quarterbacks. That whole meeting is going to be about how to carry yourself as the quarterback in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage. Bottom line, when you're an offensive player and a quarterback comes in the huddle, ala Brady (Quinn), there's a presence. It gets everyone's attention. You can't take those nuances for granted."
***Junior fullback Asaph Schwapp missed all but two games last season after undergoing knee surgery. Schwapp, listed at 255 pounds, is a bruising blocker and will be a huge asset for the running backs. On Monday, the team was not in pads but in shorts. Friday will be the first time the Irish strap on the full gear, which fits Schwapp's style.
"Fortunately, he's no longer hurt," Weis said. "He's been on and off for the last year and change with his knee. This is the first time in awhile he's not been inhibited. Asaph is not in his element until Friday. Asaph doesn't get to do what Asaph does until you put the full pads on."
***Weis addressed the Derrell Hand situation in a little more detail on Tuesday. Hand was arrested in South Bend on Thursday for allegedly propositioning a prostitute. On Friday, Weis suspended Hand indefinitely. Hand, a junior defensive lineman, was expected to contribute at nose tackle along an already thin and inexperienced line. It's unclear as to the future of Hand at Notre Dame or with the football team.
"I can't even deal with anything until he deals with things legally and through the school," Weis said of Hand's situation. "When that happens, we'll revisit it. I've spent a lot of time with him and his mom and we're all on the same page."
Hand's arrest was the second offense in the off-season for a Notre Dame player. In May, quarterback Demetrius Jones was arrested after a traffic stop on the Toll Road discovered 30 grams of marijuana in the car he was driving. The charge was later dropped by the prosecutor's office in LaPorte County after an occupant in the car said the marijuana was not Jones' but his. Jones has resolved all issues from the incident and now is in contention to start at quarterback. Weis knows the odds are that something is going to happen on a team of 100 kids. The Notre Dame head coach tries to act rationally and let the process play out.
"You try look to look at it more like you're a dad than the head football coach," Weis said. "I try not to be overemotional. The first thing I do is try to have all the facts. Sometimes, the first thing you hear might be exact or so far from the truth. You have to gather information in order not to make a rash or irrational decision.
"Just like I tell these kids when I'm recruiting them and tell their parents, when things happen, I try to pull myself back and say, ‘If Charlie was in this situation, what would I do?' It's easy to act irrationally if you're not making a mature decision. I try to make it more like a dad than a head coach."