News and Notes: 11/13/2007

Saturday is Senior Day for Notre Dame as the Irish will host Duke. The battle between the 1-9 teams will kickoff at 2:43 PM and NBC will have the national television broadcast. One Notre Dame player, while being able to go through the festivities of the afternoon, won't play in the contest, ending a long streak of consecutive starts.

Center John Sullivan was injured in the 41-24 loss to Air Force last weekend. The injury is to such an extent that the fifth-year senior won't be able to give it a go on Saturday against the Blue Devils. Sullivan has started 43 games for Notre Dame, including 31 in a row. It'll come to an end as the fifth-year senior will be replaced in the lineup with sophomore Dan Wenger, whose natural position is at center.

"This would be a borderline play in the second week," Weis said on Tuesday about Sullivan‘s injury. "It would be a borderline. For him, one thing that you always get concerned with, and it's natural for anyone that's towards the end of their career in the last couple games, and you know that on the horizon is the NFL Draft and all those things, you're always concerned about something happening which would cost you a little time.

"He'll be healthy in a hurry. I think he's disappointed by not being able to play this week, but that doesn't mean he won't be out there helping coach the offensive linemen. That doesn't mean he won't make sure that Wenger is making all the right Mike calls. We'll give him a constructive role this week where he won't just feel like he's pushed off to the side. He'll almost be like an extra assistant coach out there, which that will help us, too, this week."

***Next season, at least three of the four captains will be gone. Safety Tom Zbikowski, tight end John Carlson and running back Travis Thomas are all fifth-year seniors and will be playing their last home game of their careers on Saturday. Other captain Maurice Crum is a senior and hasn't decided whether or not he'll come back for a fifth-year. On Monday, Weis was surprised to get a phone call from one of his players at 5:30 AM.

"My phone rings and one of the players on our team is outside (the Gug)," Weis said. "I said, ‘Oh, no, here we go again.' He wants to talk to me so he knocks on my door. I thought we had another person that was looking to pack his bags and go.

"And it was just the opposite. He said he hasn't slept all night. He's an underclassman. He hadn't slept all night and he felt he needed to step up and take on more of a leadership role, and he was asking for some advice on how to do that. I mean, that's the type of guys you want on your team, guys that aren't sleeping because they're worrying about how they can take on more of a leadership role. I thought that was a good way to start the week."

***Weis said freshman tight end Mike Ragone is doubtful this week after getting injured in the loss to Air Force. Ragone, a speedy threat in the passing game, has caught one pass for seven yards this season. If the freshman is unable to go, it'll leave Notre Dame a little thin at the tight end position. Carlson and sophomore Will Yeatman would be the only two options because of Konrad Reuland's transfer earlier this season. It'll force Weis to practice sophomore Luke Schmidt at two positions this week.

"One thing he's going to be able to do for us this week is with Michael being banged up at tight end, he's going to be cross-trained at fullback and tight end this week," Weis said of Schmidt. "He's going to have double the opportunities to get involved this week because he'd be our tweener guy."

***Speaking of Carlson, the fifth-year senior is 96 yards away from passing Anthony Fasano on the Notre Dame career list for receiving yards by a tight end. Carlson has totaled 1,006 yards while Fasano racked up 1,102 in his career.

***A total of 68 different players have seen action this year for the Irish. Of the 68 players, 37 are either freshmen or sophomores.

***Weis on how close or far the team is away from improving in 2008: "First of all, recruiting classes, as much as we like the kids that we're dealing with, that's all on paper, as you know. You still have to get them in there. Those guys still have to go through growing pains just like the guys that are playing now go through them. But one good thing is in the springtime we're going to have a large volume of guys that are going to be playing next year here and as a unit, as a group and ready to go.

"I mean, you really think about it, there's not very many losses from either side of the ball, and it gives you an opportunity to get to work. These guys will be in the weight room, we'll give them a week off after the game to kind of emotionally and psychologically and physically catch up. I'll meet with them at the end of the next week after I come off the road recruiting, and the following Monday we'll be back on the eight-hour program, the program where we start setting the tone for next year in the first week of December. The last couple years we've been in bowl practices for that month. Now you start the strength and conditioning. You start that the first week of December and start trying to set the tone right then."


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