"I used Golden Tate this morning as an example to the entire time as what you can do by running full speed on the show team," Weis said on Tuesday. "Sometimes when people are running the ‘look squad' to simulate the opponent's offense or defense, they look at that like it's a penalty.
"Other guys use it as a way to get themselves down the other end of the field, and that's what he's done. For the last two or three weeks he's easily been the best player on the field going against our defense. And when you watch the tape, and you see him make these plays, then you want to get him on the field on offense."
What made Tate's performance even more amazing was the degree of difficulty of the three catches. All three were go routes and the freshman wide receiver was able to come down with the reception each time. A playmaker in the passing game could stretch the opponent's defense and possibly open up the running lanes for the nation's 119th ranked ground attack.
Tate also caught a pass in the loss to Penn State. But it was called back because of a holding penalty. The route? Of course, a go route. Tate's progress learning other routes will only make the freshman a bigger force at wide receiver.
"We all found out the other day that he can run and catch the ball in traffic," Weis said. "That's what he's done in practice every single day. Now we have to make sure he can run a handful of other routes and run them with some type of precision, so you're not guessing where he's going to be on different routes. That's what we're going to work on this week."
***On the injury front, Weis said wide receiver David Grimes and offensive lineman Dan Wenger were questionable for UCLA. Grimes hurt his ankle in the defeat at Purdue and is 50-50 for this weekend. The sophomore wide receiver leads the team in catches with 15 grabs for 117 yards. Wenger hasn't played since being injured in the loss to Michigan. The sophomore offensive lineman has sat out the past two contests.
The good news is that senior defensive end Justin Brown, who has also missed the last two games, is probable for Saturday night after rolling his ankle a few weeks back in practice.
***Sophomore Eric Maust got the start at punter against Purdue. Maust booted the ball three times for an average of 44 yards per punt. The sophomore got the nod in West Lafayette because of Geoff Price's performance against Michigan State. The fifth-year senior shanked several balls in the loss to the Spartans and hurt Notre Dame in the field position battle. After finishing 5th nationally in punting in 2006, Price is 51st with a 41-yard per boot average. Weis made it clear on Tuesday that Maust will remain as the punter heading into the UCLA contest.
***Special teams has been a problem for Notre Dame this season. Last weekend in the loss to Purdue, the Irish missed two extra points and had a 35-yard field goal blocked right before halftime. Both Nate Whitaker and Brandon Walker missed a PAT each while Walker was the kicker on the blocked field goal attempt. To put the pressure on, Weis will scrap the first individual session at Tuesday's practice and force the kickers to make field goals in front of the players and the media.
As far as the other areas, the numbers aren't much better. Notre Dame is 100th in kickoff returns and 45th in punt returns, although PR Tom Zbikowski hasn't had many chances. The Irish are 81st in punt return defense and 103rd in kickoff return defense. This is not what Weis was aiming for when the Irish head coach made all the coaches responsible for special teams back in spring practice.
"I think we can do a much better job in the return units," Weis said. "You always can do that. For example, on kickoff return last week, although our field position was good, especially on the sky kicks that I thought we converted very well, I thought Robert (Hughes) and Junior (Jabbie) did a nice job on the pooch kicks over to our left.
"The ones I was more disappointed in were the deep ones, because it seemed like the separation between the wedge and the returners was too much, and when the ball was kicked deep, we were starting on the 25 versus when the ball was pooched, we were starting around the 40. Every 10 yards it's not a first down the offense has to get. I think in the return units, if you do a better job of holding up your guys, the field position is going to be better."
***A look at the defensive statistics will show that Trevor Laws leads the team in tackles with 41 stops. Second on the team is Maurice Crum with 40 tackles. Laws' play has been impressive at the left defensive end spot in the 3-4 personnel defense. The fifth-year senior also leads the team in tackles for loss with 4.5, quarterback hurries with three and tied for first with two fumble recoveries. Weis said usually in a 3-4 scheme, linebackers lead the team in tackles. It shows the type of season Laws is putting together.
"He's having just a banner year," Weis said. "I had more scouts last year not notice him, and almost everyone that comes in says, ‘He's playing very well.' That's one of the reasons why Trevor came back was to make sure he was part of an upgrade in his stock. That was one of the reasons why he came back, and I think he's certainly doing that by his performance on the field."
***Here's a scary stat Weis informed the media of on Tuesday: when UCLA scores 30 points or more, the Bruins are 20-1 under head coach Karl Dorrell, including 15 in a row. Also, UCLA is 19-2 when holding teams to under 20 points. Notre Dame has allowed all five opponents to score over 30 points this season and has not broke the 20-point barrier.