Weis Notebook 8/11

On Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish football team held Fan Appreciation Day. In addition to the hundreds of people in attendance, the media was allowed to view the entire practice for the first time. It was unclear as to how much quality visuals would be on display with the opener against Georgia Tech three Saturdays away. Surprisingly, Notre Dame went about its business.

"I felt it was important to run our practice and not to go hide things," head coach Charlie Weis said.

The Irish certainly didn't hide much. At times, Notre Dame went first team offense vs. first team defense. There were three sections of the session that were devoted to special teams. Even at the end of practice, Weis made the freshmen sing the alma mater to the crowd because last season the Irish head coach was disappointed that some of his players didn't know the words to the song.

Depth was evident at several positions. At tight end, after John Carlson, there's Konrad Reuland and Will Yeatman. At running back, there are five backs that can get the job done. At middle linebacker, Joe Brockington and Toryan Smith could both make an impact. About to start season three at Notre Dame, Weis is starting to feel confident with more players in his program.

"We got a lot more players that can play," Weis said. "A lot more that can play in a game. That's what I know. We got a lot more players that can play in a game. If you ask me how well, I don't know that yet. I do know that I'm not going to blink an eye about putting someone else in. There was a time when that wasn't the case. Some guys had to stay in because there wasn't anyone else."

***The quarterbacks were the biggest show on Saturday. This competition is the top storyline in the lead-up to the opener vs. Georgia Tech. Junior Evan Sharpley was accurate on Saturday and looked comfortable in the passing game. Sophomore Demetrius Jones showed his dual threat ability and defenses have to be aware of the multi-dimensional talents. Freshman Jimmy Clausen didn't air it out as much as the other two but did throw a little bit.

"They've been okay," said of his three quarterbacks after six practices. "They haven't been great or terrible. They've been okay. One thing you have to understand is that in the first week of training camp, you're not setting up your offense. You're installing the offense."

Despite not knowing who'll be taking the snaps yet on September 1st, Weis does have confidence in all three to get the job done.

"I think we'll be good enough to win," Weis said of the trio of signal callers. "That's what I've learned. You think you have a question. Try being me. That's the biggest question mark the man directly responsible for the position has to worry about. But we'll be good enough to compete to win."

Weis said on Media Day that he would like to have a starter in mind by the end of the second week of camp. That would be on August 19th, giving the coaches two weeks to start installing the game plan. The Notre Dame head coach has spent most of fall camp hovering over quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus and the three signal callers. After Saturday, which is the team's first two-a-day session, Weis will have seven practices on tape and in the memory bank.

"We're right at about the time where these guys have given us enough opportunities to start evaluating whether there is separation," Weis said. "After we finish this one today and get a good look at it tomorrow, we'll see if anyone is starting to distance themselves."

***In addition to the veterans, it was the first time the media got an extended look at the freshmen. A few made noticeable impressions. Armando Allen, who enrolled early back in January, made several impressive runs and reports of his speed are not exaggerated. Wide receiver Golden Tate fumbled a reverse and was dead for a 20-yard loss but used his quickness to turn the play into a 5-yard gain. The increase in speed on the field has been a high priority for Weis.

"The one thing we've been trying to do in the recruiting process the past few years is to try to get more speed into the program," Weis said. "We'll try to get more speed into the program each year. Whether it's watching Golden Tate run at wide receiver or Armando Allen run at running back or (Mike) Ragone run at tight end, the one constant is that they all run very, very fast for the position they play. Having the ability to have the potential to have more guys score and take it to the house instead of 10 yards is important."

And don't expect some of the freshmen to be watching the games on the sidelines.

"There will be freshmen on the field in the first game and it won't be in mop-up time," Weis said. "And it won't be one. It'll be multiples. As you know, I'm not afraid to play the best guys and if they're freshmen, so be it."

***The wide receivers were one of the more impressive groups on Saturday. Junior David Grimes made the catch of the day on a go route along the right sideline, besting Ambrose Wooden on the play. Junior D.J. Hord made almost every catch while the rest had their moments to shine. While this news may be surprising, it's not to Weis.

"I've been saying this all along," Weis said. "Everyone said it's a weakness. I really like the wide receivers. I really like them. I like the development. Let's start with David. George (West) is healthy. He's playing well. Everyone who is in the program is better, not just from last year but from the spring. We had a lot of competition. These two freshmen are in the mix. I'm not surprised. I'm pleased with the direction of that position."

***On a change from the first-team defensive unit to the second, the group only had 10 players on the field at the snap. Defensive coordinator Corwin Brown stopped practice and made the entire defense run a lap around the field. The new DC actually ran with his players for about half the way.

"Instead of me hammering them, I let Corwin do it," Weis said. "I could have easily done it myself."

***The kickers were shaky at best. Sophomores Nate Whitaker and Ryan Burkhart and freshman Brandon Walker are all in contention to start. However, with the kickoff line being moved back to the 30-yard line, none were able to consistently boot the ball deep. On field goals, Walker was the best. Whitaker, who came on in the spring, did hit a 45-yarder during the stretch. Weis said Whitaker has been the best so far in field goals while Walker's been the most consistent on kickoffs, although it was the opposite on Saturday.

"It was good that the fans and the media were here for these guys today because this isn't the same as when you were in practice," Weis said. "In practice, sometimes you can nail eight in a row and there's not as much pressure when eyes are on you. It's why I wanted to end practice with field goals. Everyone is tired and wanted them to feel a little pressure."

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