Weis Notebook 10-3

On Wednesday at practice, the Notre Dame football team was in shorts and shoulder pads. Usually, the Irish don the full practice gear for the second of three practice sessions. Just a few weeks ago, head coach Charlie Weis took his players back to "training camp" with an emphasis on being physical. The look on Wednesday was a result of a grueling, yet productive practice on Tuesday.

"The hardest we've hit since I've been here was yesterday," Weis said on Wednesday after practice. "I would say, physically, easily the best practice since I've been here, as far as physical play goes. We took them to the ground for third-thirds of the practice. I don't know if me telling them my plan before practice was part of that positive residual effect."

Weis let his players know beforehand of the practice schedule, a possible answer for the high-intensity effort on Tuesday. The Notre Dame head coach had a good reason for the physical session yesterday. Weis wants to get his team out to a fast start, a continuing problem for the 0-5 Irish.

How bad has Notre Dame been in the first half? So bad that usually the Irish don't have a remote chance for a comeback in the final 30 minutes of action. Here are the halftime scores for Notre Dame this season: 16-0, 14-7, 31-0, 17-14 and 23-0 for a grand total of 101 for the opponents and 21 for the Irish. Weis is trying to find a way to get his team to respond right out of the gate and not at the start of the third quarter.

There was one part of Tuesday's practice that Weis was not pleased with. A defensive player made a good hit on an offensive player at the line of scrimmage for an impact tackle. The problem Weis saw was a lack of emotion on the play from the defense.

"Everyone walked back to the huddle," Weis said. "I stopped practice at that time and said, ‘I don't get it.' This guy just stoned someone at the line and pancaked him to the ground. You would think the guys in that group would be excited. Sometimes you have to make them aware of the perception that they're worrying more about the next play rather than the excitement of making a play by one of their teammates."

***Cartier Field is currently three practice fields of grass. That won't be the case in the future. Weis confirmed a reporter's inquiry about the move to FieldTurf on two of the three fields, with the third staying as natural grass. The Notre Dame head coach said "that's in the plans" and it allows the team to practice in all types of weather. It will also let intramural sports participate there when the football team is out of season.

***Weis was surprised with how freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen looked Tuesday at practice after sustaining a hip injury in the Purdue contest. It forced Clausen to miss the end of the third and all of the fourth quarter. The Irish head coach said the freshman signal caller "definitely looked normal" on Wednesday and Clausen will get the start Saturday night. Still, with the way Evan Sharpley came off the bench and performed against the Boilermakers, the junior quarterback has garnered additional snaps this week at practice.

"Evan has earned more reps," Weis said. "So he's got more reps than he did last week. It's still heavier Jimmy than Evan. But it wasn't 25 percent like it was last week. Evan has got more."

***Junior wide receiver David Grimes was not at practice during the 20-minute media portion of practice for the second straight day. Grimes hurt his ankle in the loss at Purdue and Weis said the junior will make the trip to Pasadena but be a game-time decision.

As for Dan Wenger, the sophomore offensive lineman was at practice on Wednesday. Wenger has missed the past two contests with an ankle injury and has been replaced in the starting lineup by classmate Matt Carufel. It's up in the air if Wenger will play or if the sophomore will get his starting spot back at right guard.

"I would have to see how it's going," Weis said. "I don't automatically put someone in there on the offensive line. When you're coming off an ankle on the offensive line, if you're not full-go, you can get yourself into some bad situations in a hurry. He's getting pretty close."

***Freshman wide receiver Golden Tate is one of the best athletes on the Notre Dame roster. In addition to football, Tate was a star centerfielder for his high school baseball team back in Hendersonville, TN. The speed and athleticism the freshman would bring to the diamond are appealing attributes. Weis has a clear policy on two-sport players: if they're good enough to play a lot, then they have the blessing of the Irish head coach.

"How much football he misses will be directly related to how good he is," Weis said of Tate if the freshman decides to play baseball during spring practice. "If he's a backup centerfield, I'll give him to them for a few days. If he's the starting centerfield, I'll take him less because I'm all for the other teams having a chance to win, just like we did with Will (Yeatman)."

***Weis on UCLA being ready for Saturday's contest in light of what happened last year in the last-second loss to Notre Dame in South Bend: "That's a safe bet. They're 4-1 and having a good year. They lost one game to Utah and that was kind of a gadget game. They got caught by surprise. I don't think we'll catch them by surprise. We're going to have to play well to win. But I think we're going to play well."

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