Weis Wants to Bring Pressure

Charlie Weis talked about his defense on Sunday and how he sees things playing out at each position. He was also again asked about what the addition of John Tenuta could indicate about the style of defense the Irish plan to play in 2008.

"We intend to bring a whole bunch of pressure," Weis said. "Corwin and I have always been around programs that had blitzed depending on who you had. When you bring pressure, you have to believe that the defensive secondary can hold up because that's who you're exploiting. That's who you're exposing, I should say, they go hand on hand. The flip side of that is that if you don't get any heat on the quarterback, if you don't bring pressure, you're actually putting pressure on your secondary that way too. So that's the Catch-22 that you play."

According to the program, sophomore Harrison Smith is a safety and Sam linebacker is his secondary position. But Smith tops the depth chart at that secondary position, which Weis confirmed was an attempt by the staff to get more speed and Smith particularly, on the field.

"Put it like this, if something were to happen to either (David) Bruton or Kyle McCarthy, there's a good chance that he'd be a starting safety. But while he's not a starting safety," Weis said. "We're very happy with the play of those two guys, he'd be a contender, I'm not saying he'd be ahead of Ray (Herring) or Sergio (Brown) or Jashaad (Gaines), he'd be a contender to be a starting safety. But with that being said, he's put himself in a position with our personnel packages where we just feel that we want him on the field."

Weis said that the evolution of the college game creates a need for players like Smith.

"In lieu of all the spread offenses that people play now, everyone has to have a counter to the spread offenses. What you can't do is just come out and play with a bunch of big linebackers against all of these teams that are spreading the field all of the time," Weis said. "It's a three-safety package that kind of is the counter to not having to change your personnel every time a team comes out there and spreads you out. What you're trying to do is match athleticism with athleticism."

Weis talked about the confidence he had in moving Brian Smith to the Mike position, which cleared the way for Harrison Smith to play some Sam.

"The guy who is in position to make the most plays is actually that (Mike) position, so as we went through the spring, the guy who was making all of the plays or making the majority of the plays on a daily basis was (Brian Smith)," Weis said. "Because we had viewed him as both an inside and outside player, we knew that we would not be putting him in an unnatural position because we had already seen him play in there and play at a high level."

Weis noted that while cornerbacks Raeshon McNeil and Gary Gray are competing for the left cornerback position that was vacated by Darrin Walls, both will get their chances.

"I'd say that you can count on both of those guys being on the field a whole bunch," Weis said. "The big difference is Raeshon has a significant level of experience over Gary. They both have good athleticism, they both have very good coverage skills.

"The one thing is when Gary is running on the show team recovering from a shoulder (last year) and can't hit anybody, all you see him is cover. And also when you're on the show team if somebody runs by you, it's not like 80,000 people are in the stands. Oh well, you gave up a touchdown, well there's no ‘Oh well's anymore. The difference is Raeshon has had to do it for real and Gary hasn't yet."

Weis mentioned that the defensive line is deeper this year, but he won't be able to start saying who fits in where for at least a couple of more days.

"There's a number of candidates that have shown flashes. Like Emeka Nwankwo has shown flashes. Paddy Mullen has shown flashes," he said. "We've brought in these five freshmen here now and by bringing in all of these guys, the reinforcements have arrived now, so now you've got (Brandon) Newman, and you've got Hafis (Williams), and you've got Ethan (Johnson), and you've got Kapron Lewis-Moore and that doesn't even count (Darius) Fleming, being over there with Kerry Neal and John Ryan and Kallen Wade. So we have a lot more candidates.

"I think that with defensive linemen, just like offensive linemen, until you can start really hitting, you can't really tell. Today's the first day we can put shoulder pads on which will significantly up the tempo for those guys."

Weis talked about Neal heading into his sophomore season and why it's important for guys like Neal and Fleming to have both linebacker and defensive lineman qualities.

"Kerry has a very, very high motor and he's in a very competitive position right now. There's a lot of depth at the (Will) position and I think that he had a very good spring and that's carried over into camp. I think the competition at the position has been a very good thing," Weis said. "The Will position for us, very often, not always, but very often has their hand on the ground. So the reason why they're practicing with the D-line is because…when you have your hand on the ground you have to practice certain techniques that are different when you have your hand off of the ground."

Weis was also asked about the defensive end position where Morrice Richardson is ahead of Justin Brown on one side while Pat Kuntz seems safe on the other.

"Mo played better than (Brown) in the spring. It isn't like Justin's not competing for the position, but I think that we're going to try our best to get into a greater example of a two-deep situation than we've been since we've been here," Weis said. "Those guys are getting pressed by those young guys behind them now too. They're coming on fast and it isn't just Ethan (Johnson), because Kapron Lewis-Moore is over there too. I look at him and I see the prospect of this kid at 260 or whatever he is right now and I don't know how big he's going to be when it's all said and done, but he looks like he's going to be a big muchacho as well as Ethan."

Weis said that he spoke with his team about the importance of special teams and how depth on special teams translates to the entire roster.

"I could play David Bruton on all four coverage teams. I could play him on punt team, punt return, kickoff and kickoff return and he'd be one of our best guys. But he's going to play every snap of the game on defense, so ideally what you want him to do is maybe play one or two units," Weis said. "You prefer him to be a gunner on the punt team because he might be the best guy in the country at doing it. But you'd like to take him off those other teams if you could get somebody that's even relatively close.

"I talked to two groups of guys today. One was the older guys who really weren't front line players on either offense or defense and the other one were the younger guys who are just trying to make it on the field. Ideally you'd want somebody out of those two groups to come along to take some reps on special teams away from a guy like David Bruton."

Weis said that his new presence as a special teams coach should signify the importance he places on the phase and that he expects the younger players to take advantage of the opportunity.

"We put a lot of emphasis on special teams, but with me being in there along with Brian (Polian), obviously it's putting a lot more pressure on everyone to perform, to get it right," Weis said. "I think that those (young) guys know that sometimes they're not going to walk in the door and be a front line player on offense or defense and it gives them the chance to compete. For coaches, it's a good situations for us because it gives us more options on special teams."

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