Weis All Business to Kick Off Spring

Irish head football coach Charlie Weis took his seat in front of the microphone on Wednesday for his first press conference of spring practice and got down to business. Weis addressed a number of important things in the first 15 minutes, and then opened it up for questions. It was obvious Weis had anticipated many of the media's questions with his initial offering.

First order of business: Injuries.

"John Ryan, he had both a right shoulder surgery and a sports hernia surgery," Weis said. "He's running around pretty well. He's going to be held from the spring."

"Robbie Paris, he had a sports hernia. He's practicing, but he's probably not in the greatest shape because he hasn't run that much in the off-season.

"Mike Turkovich, he had an appendectomy not too long ago. "He's up and going. He's not full speed, but he's able to start practice today."

"On a lighter scale, Ian Williams, he had a little infection in his right ankle but he's a full go."

Next order of business: Missing players.

"The two guys are Duval Kamara and Paddy Mullen," said Weis while explaining why two of his players wouldn't be seen at all of his practices. "Occasionally you'll see them miss part of practice. Academically, some classes conflicted with football and I okayed for them to go ahead and do that in both cases."

And what about the mid-year guys?

"Our two mid-year guys, both Trevor Robinson and Sean Cwynar, this has probably been our best situation we've had as far as how the guys are doing on and off the field," Weis stated. "They've looked great in the weight room, and they've done a great job in the classroom. It's been a very, very good transition …smooth transition for both of these guys so far."

What about his meeting with Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer to discuss special teams play?

"Due to scheduling conflicts he wasn't able to have us there yet," Weis explained. "We're going on April 1st. Next Tuesday is the day that we'll be spending the time—both myself and Brian (Polian) will be with coach Beamer and his staff."

Weis also went over some coaching objectives his staff hoped to accomplish at the conclusion of spring practice.

"The obvious objective that everyone can see is we need to improve fundamentally and technically across the board," he said. "There isn't one position that's exempt from that.

"We felt that the team didn't have much confidence as we went through last year for a number of reasons. Confidence is one of the goals this spring….confidence/ swagger. On defense, there's some schematic things that we're interjecting as we're transitioning coach Tenuta into the staff…..some of his defensive philosophies that are meshing with (Defensive Coordinator) Corwin (Brown) and (Defensive Line coach) Jappy (Oliver).

"There's some obvious goals for the spring that are very, very important to our coaching staff. By the end of spring ball we want to have established some clear-cut depth charts. We want to establish some leadership, because I think that who the leaders are, in some cases, are going to be in question. We're going to wait until right until the very end of spring, right before the spring game, to pick captains."

Also noticeable were some impressive weight gains from some Irish players on the depth chart. Weis also commented on some players he felt made considerable progress this off-season in both strength and conditioning.

"There's some obvious improvements and some subtle ones," he said. "Let's start with a subtle one…David Bruton for example. We just finished testing. His measurables are off the chart. He may be a pound or two lighter. His body fat is like 3 ½ (percent). He's vertical jumping 41 ½ (inches). He's in phenomenal shape. He's not alone. There's a couple of other guys. When you watch the shape and conditioning of Sergio Brown in the secondary, watch the conditioning of Eric Olsen on the offensive line, you'll see a couple of guys that are in phenomenal shape as we go into this off-season. I can't say that for everyone.

"A couple of people, in the off-season, that it was very important that we got some weight gain and strength without succumbing to having additional body fat, for example Jimmy (Clausen). Last year he started off at 194 and he's walking in at 212 for the first day of training camp, which is obviously a significant gain. His body fat is status quo, but he has a lot more lean muscle.

"Dan Wenger, last he started off at 282, he's at 300 right now. Sam Young started off at 309, dropped down to 287 by the end of the year, and he's at 330 right now."

Weis also explained the switch of Sam Young from left tackle back to his previous position at right tackle on the depth chart released today.

"Another thing with Sam, we're going through over a year now with dealing with a right wrist problem," he explained. "That's the main reason why we moved him last year from the right side to the left side, because he couldn't punch anyone with his right hand coming off the edge on the right side, therefore we had to move him over to the left side. Now that wrist is recovered."

Another notable change was the moving of both sophomore linebackers John Ryan and Morrice Richardson to their new home at defensive end.

"Morrice Richardson, and John Ryan, you'll notice both of these guys are on their way to 260 and rising," Weis said. "They're both in the high 250s. We moved them from outside linebacker positions to defensive end positions. One of their biggest tasks in this off-season will be to continue getting bigger slowly and methodically where we're not trying to gain too much wait too fast…to try to get them closer to the 260-270 range by the time we kick it off in September, which is what our goal is with both of these players as they transition from having their hand up to having their hand down on a fulltime basis."

Another hot topic on Wednesday was the development of Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen. Weis says Clausen has impressed him with his work ethic this off-season, but still has a ways to go when it comes to playing quarterback for the Irish.

"There's a laundry list," Weis said when asked about things he hopes to see Clausen improve upon this spring. "We've been working on the mental aspect more than anything else in the off-season. There's a whole number of things mentally. One of the things that Ron and I are working on right now is ball possession and being careless with the football. Sometimes you throw and interception because you're careless. Or you turn the ball over because you're careless. Or the ball gets tipped because you're careless. That's one of the things we're working on."

"The biggest problem we had last spring was we had managed to just get him through the spring," Weis explained about how things would be different for Clausen this spring. "I think now, going in, the kid is fully healthy for the first time. Last year in the off-season he wasn't lifting weights for his upper body. He was doing stuff for his lower body. When you look at him, you'll see it's an obvious difference when you look at him physically."

Another difficult thing Weis will have to balance this spring is bringing the right mix of physical play while still trying to keep his players healthy for the start of the 2008 season. Weis made it clear that they'll have more physical practices this spring than they have in the past.

"I think our biggest issue is to make sure nothing happens to Jimmy, Evan not being a fulltime player," he said. "That's the thing that could probably ruin our practice the easiest. We're going to have to manage that, but at the same time put in plenty of stuff where we're going full speed with everyone but him. I think we're going to have to take running backs to the ground. I think we're going to have to block and tackle. I think we're going to do those things because if we do those things we're going to leave ourselves short."

Weis also mentioned that this spring will be very much like his first spring as a head coach for the Irish.

"I think the players are definitely going to feel a very, very great sense of urgency, similar to the first year I got here," he said. "There's going to be a great sense of urgency. The coaches are on board. The players are on board. This isn't something that's going to be unique that's going to catch them off guard.

"One of the things by me being around these guys a heck of a lot more this off-season time, it's given me an opportunity to let them know; ‘look, fellas, I can sit here and talk to you and be buddy-buddy all you want, but when the bottom line comes and we get on the field, it just doesn't work that way. The job that coaches have is to push the players to get them to play better.' Because they understand that you have two sides and not one side, you're not just going to be on you all the time, I think that they already know what the expectations are as far as what the tempo is going to have to be at practice. We all know that there isn't one area of the team that you could can say you were satisfied with, not one. The players are on board on that, too."

Lastly, it's baseball season and the Irish have three players who are currently also playing with the Irish baseball team in quarterback Evan Sharpley, wide receiver Golden Tate, and punter Eric Maust. Weis said he plans to let them continue with the baseball team until further notice.

"Evan Sharpley is hitting too many home runs," Weis joked. "Evan and Golden and Eric are all contributing on the baseball team. Right now they'll be here next Monday and Wednesday for practice. They'll be there the following Monday and Wednesday for practice, and there's going to come a time around April 10, prior to the Villanova trip, where we'll see how things are going with baseball. I'm not going to hurt the baseball team and take them off the baseball field if it makes a difference between us winning and losing. Coach Schrage and I have been in steady contact with this. There's days they'll definitely be at football, and days when they'll definitely be at baseball, baseball taking the upper hand until that April 10 timeframe."

Notre Dame officially kicks off spring practice today at 4:15 p.m. today. Irish Eyes will be at practice and the interview room after practice bringing you all the latest from the first official day of spring practice.

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