The Best From Weis

Here's the best this week from Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis, plus a prediction.

***On freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen being ready for his first start at Penn State: "I think he's ready to run offense. If I didn't think he was ready, I wouldn't do this. I think that he was always ready mentally."

***On the evaluation process of picking Clausen to start: "At the end of the spring, he was the leader of the competition at the end of the spring. And then, after the spring, he had that spur taken off and then he rehabbed. Just as we had felt, that he was going to be ready to throw full speed by September 1. But he wasn't ready to do everything on a daily basis until September 1.

"So we got kind of got in that gray area where we really couldn't consider him as the starter for the opening game."

***On the possibility of Clausen starting the opener vs. Georgia Tech if the freshman was healthy: "That's potentially the case. Still you don't know how they are going to show up in training camp because depth charts change from the end of training camp to the start of the season. So I don't know the answer to that question because it could have been Demetrius (Jones); could have been Evan (Sharpley). All depends how things go in training camp. But in training camp, he didn't do enough. He didn't/couldn't do enough to really be in contention for that first team."

***On what the offensive and defense lines can expect this week in practice: "There are two things that definitely have been addressed in the classroom but haven't been addressed physically yet. I have a feeling we are going to have a couple of physical practices here the next couple of days. I would make that a fairly safe assumption."

***On seeing more of the usual Weis offense in the Penn State game in contrast to what was seen last week vs. Georgia Tech: "I always put the quarterback in a position to do things they can do the best. That's what we did last week with Demetrius when he was playing. And when Evan came in, we put him in a position to do what he does the best. I'll do the same thing with Jimmy, even though last week was just getting a little taste of it."

***On how much this week is about Notre Dame getting things straightened out and not the Nittany Lions: "No disrespect to Penn State, because that's a very fair question. But I think it's almost entirely about us. You obviously have a good team you're going against who is coming off a 59 0 win that is playing at home. And all of those things are true. We know how good they are on offense and defense, and we know about the specialists, both their returners and the kickers. But realistically, the bigger issue internally is us."

***On feeling the pressure this week after a blowout defeat: "I worked the same every single week. I never change. I think that's one of the things of being a consistent coach is you never change. I don't do anything different this week than if we had won 33-3 because I think it's important as a veteran coach and a leader to not to have emotional highs or lows. You have to be consistent. You have to it's got to be a level playing field. If you win 33-3, you can't come in and goof off for two days. It's got to be the same all the time. You've got to stay consistent. Because if not, you're going to have highs and lows that you're not going to be able to overcome."

***On his impressions of the nine freshmen who played against the Yellow Jackets: "We are very encouraged by a whole bunch of those guys. Some of those guys are just getting their feet wet a little bit on special teams. But I think that you're going to have a lot of guys playing significant roles on this team."

***On Clausen battling the noise he'll face in Beaver Stadium on Saturday night: "The only thing you could do is practice noise. You can't practice the environment. We'll practice noise on Thursday and any time he's calling a play on Thursday, no one will be able to hear him or barely be able to hear him. But as a player, as best you can, you've got to try to get him that tunnel vision and just worry about running that play and not being caught up in the environment.

"A lot of that environment is the hoopla that even takes place before the game. A lot of young players spend more time looking in the stands than they do just worrying about getting warmed up. I think it's really important for coaches to stay on their players and make sure they control their emotions and don't get caught up with the circus atmosphere that's on the sideline sometimes before the games."

***On his first feeling after watching the Georgia Tech tape: "I wanted to vomit."

***On the biggest issue Clausen must deal with in starting at quarterback: "The number one thing for a young quarterback is that you have to have a short-term memory. By short-term memory, regardless of what happens in one play, you have to be worrying about the next play. Often young players let one bad play parlay into a whole bunch of bad plays. I think that's probably the biggest thing that I have to work on with young players at every position; but, of course, at the quarterback position because you are touching the ball on every play. One play at a time. Short-term memory."

***On how much of the offense Clausen will go through: "We're going to have to see. We always have plenty of volume, but it's not how much we have but how much we'll use. I'm not ready yet; it's not whether he's ready. I'm not ready to decide how much we are going to use yet. I still want to get through tomorrow. Normally, I start formulating everything I'm doing by about tonight, but I'm going to take another full day tomorrow before I start zeroing in on exactly what we are going to call in the game."

***On the benefits of Clausen enrolling early and going through spring practice and starting the second game of the year: "I think it would have been a lot tougher (if he hadn‘t enrolled early). I think it can be done, but you'd have to really, really cut it down to bare bones and expand it from there. I think because you had that semester and came in at the semester, because you had the spring with the regular installation that everyone else has. You would be getting that same installation starting August 6th because by the time August comes around; he is getting it the second time around. And now you could start to get into some nuances. I think if you didn't come that way, the nuances would get put aside and you would just have to worry about getting the installation in."

***Prediction: Penn State 34 Notre Dame 17. It's been a tough week for the Irish. Not only has the national press been piling on the team, Weis has put them through a grueling three days of practice. The story of the contest is Clausen's first start. But the No. 1 issue is the play at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Notre Dame's protection against Georgia Tech was pathetic. Can Weis and Latina fix the problem in just one week and go on the road in a tough environment and execute the remedy?

On defense, Penn State doesn't have nowhere near the ground attack that the Yellow Jackets possessed. But Nittany Lions quarterback Anthony Morelli has a talented group of wide receivers to throw the ball to. Georgia Tech signal caller Taylor Bennett missed some chances in the passing game last weekend. Will Morelli be just as inaccurate? Can the Irish generate enough pressure to fluster Morelli? The senior quarterback completed just 54 percent of his passes last year but was on point against inferior competition in the 59-0 victory over Florida International, completing 23-of-38 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns.

Weis has a penchant for trying to take a loud crowd out of the game early. It's possible Clausen, in his first start, goes no-huddle in the first series in an attempt to limit the noise. But the Penn State defense, while not having as good a defensive line as Georgia Tech, has better linebacker and secondary groups. If the Nittany Lions don't blitz early and often, I would be shocked. I believe the Notre Dame offense improves from game one (How could it not?) with the freshman at the helm but still falls short to keep up with the Penn State attack. Morelli hits a few big plays deep and the Irish offensive line doesn't completely keep Clausen off his back as the Nittany Lions revenge last season's blowout defeat in South Bend.


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