Weis: First Practice With Pads "OK"

Charlie Weis was not blown away with his team's performance on the first day with full pads, but he sees the team moving in the right direction. Weis noted that Tuesday's practice gave the coaches and the players a benchmark and that the squad cleared that mark with the first of two practices on Wednesday.

"I'm in training camp mentality, so I'm always in an ornery mood in training camp when it comes to things. First day in pads, first day in full pads, first day live, first day taking them to the ground, it was an OK start. I wouldn't rate it an A, I wouldn't rate it an F," Weis said. "I'd say it was an OK start. What it did do is it set a bar that you come out there and it gives you something to judge from. Today's practice was significantly more up-tempo than yesterday's practice. I think that yesterday at least gave me an opportunity to come in, after evaluating what we did, to talk to about tempo. I think this morning's tempo, like I said, was better than yesterday's."

The emotion of the players at the end of yesterday's practice was not the kind that Weis wanted to see and he told them that.

"I was dissatisfied when we were on the goalline, not so much the people playing in the game, but the people on the team really not feeling it. I stressed that about three or four different ways. Some I can create myself," he said. "But as I said to them…once the team, once the players start controlling the emotion and not the coaches, then you're well on your way. Today's practice was one of those ones where I said very little as far as that subject went and I wanted to see how they reacted and that's one of the reasons why I was pleased this morning because it was one of our more boisterous practices today."

Emotion and tempo can be created by the players, the coaches or both.

"Today it was dictated by both. I had two meetings this morning, one was with the coaches and one was with the players. I said, basically ‘OK, that's the bar from yesterday. So, I expect it to be significantly better this morning than it was yesterday.' Tonight we're going uppers, so we'll be in shoulder pads and knee braces, so therefore you won't be taking them to the ground-tempo," Weis said. "So, this morning was the best judge to see, especially now they're in day six, they're a little sore, those practices are long. I think that today was a good judgment day to find out where we are as far as the arrow pointing up and before I even watch the tape, I can tell you I was very pleased that the tempo was significantly better than it was yesterday."

That emotion can only carry the team so far though, and come fall it's going to need to show results.

"Attitude takes place when you're actually winning, right now you're doing all the things that it takes to get you to win," Weis said. "The last 24 hours is more about, ‘OK, we've gone through five days of installation, now I'm trying to pick up the tempo.' A lot of guys are just trying to feel their way through the installation. Now the heavy installation starts to go down some, it gives you an opportunity to start picking up the pace as far as getting them to play with more enthusiasm."

With a team still dominated by underclassmen, it's on the staff and the veterans to teach the players how to use that attitude.

"When you have a veteran team, they've learned it over the years," Weis said. "When you have a team that's growing, which I still think that this team is more of a growing team because the majority of the numbers are still junior-sophomore-freshman, I think that you have to count on the seniors and now some of the juniors, now some of the sophomores to all get on the same page. But every year you have to reiterate this, but the more older guys you have that take charge, the less you have to say."

Weis was asked about leadership and went back to the theme he talked about on Media Day.

"That ‘Dive right in' analogy that I gave the first day, it's pretty obvious that there's a whole bunch of people that are in that group. But we don't have enough of them, we want more and I think that those people are already confident," he said. "Let's just cite the three captains for example: Maurice Crum, he's pretty confident that things are going to go well. David Bruton, he's very confident. David Grimes, he's very confident. But in addition, they're backing that up on the field every day in practice too. Those three guys have not had a bad practice yet and usually the guys that practice well everyday; usually they're the guys that you know you can count on. It's the guys that have two on days and one off day, they're the ones that jury is still out on that you're trying to find out are they going to be without or are they just going to wait and see how it goes."

Later, Weis talked about that group of guys again.

"I'm just looking for more guys that are in that group that I talked about with Bruton and Grimes and Crum. I just want more guys that are going to show up everyday and you know what you're going to get everyday. It's easy when you can talk about guys from the past," he said. "Let's talk about Brady Quinn. Brady Quinn would show up everyday, everyday he'd show up. There was never a day when Brady Quinn didn't show up. You want more guys that are going to show up everyday. Everyday may not be a good day, but they're going to show up for work everyday and I think that Crum and Grimes and Bruton have already showed that they're in that category and you just want to get more guys like that because those are the guys that you want to put on the field."

Michael Turkovich saw most of the reps with the first group at yesterday's open practice and seems to be making the most of his chances as he battles with Paul Duncan for the starting left tackle position.

"He's played with a lot of confidence and he's played very physical and as you all know, physicality is one of the things that I've really been trying to stress," Weis said of Turkovich. "He played tackle earlier in his career, then he moved into guard and now he's back out at tackle and I think that he's feeling pretty confident right now that he can help us win."

The staff seems to be pleased with the way that last year's rookies are transitioning to sophomores in 2008. Weis was asked about Ian Williams and Armando Allen specifically.

"Ian is acting like a starter. I don't mean egotistically, his expectations of his play have gone up because now he doesn't have that security blanket anymore," Weis said. "I use that coaching phrase sometimes and sometimes people think it's just a coaching phrase, but it's really reality. The game has slowed down for Armando Allen. Besides him being bigger and stronger, which he is, the game slows down. Because when you first get here as a freshman, you're more worried about learning the plays than the execution of the plays. So now once you know what you're doing, it makes it a heck of a lot easier to perform at a high level. It was never about athleticism, he is bigger and he is stronger, but in addition to that he can see things a lot easier than at any time last year."

It's also clear that Harrison Smith continues to impress the staff.

"We've bounced him down in that three-safety package, we've played him inside at nickel, we've played him outside at nickel, we've played him at safety," said Weis. "I think we can count on seeing Harrison on the field a whole bunch."

This year's freshmen class is making an impact and it's obvious that plenty of them could be in the mix to play right away.

"There's a whole bunch of them that are in different levels, it all depends on who they are and what position they play. I think there's number of them that are playing themselves into the mix, a number of them. I don't think you can cite one, but once again those guys are guys that are going to have to keep on going like this so you can feel comfortable early in the year," Weis said. "All of a sudden San Diego State, are you going to go ahead and start one of those guys? Or let's say not start them, are you going to go ahead and play them significant time in the game? And/or are you going to go ahead and put them on your starting special teams and go ahead an put them out there? I've been very pleased with the freshmen as a group, very, very pleased. Now how much they play, will be yet to be determined."

As an offensive coach, a loud, young, cocky corner like Robert Blanton would get on Weis's nerves, but things are different now.

"That has never changed with Robert. He played like that in high school, he's always been a talker. He's like one of those chirpers, one of those guys that the wide receivers can't stand because he chirps the whole time," Weis said. "Now as the head coach now and not as the guy who has to call the offensive plays, I love guys like that. I used to hate guys like that when I was on the other side of the ball because they're the guys that really annoy you. But that's always been his game. It was his game in high school and he's as mild-mannered as they come off the field, but he's a chirper and he has a lot of confidence in his ability."

That group of freshmen brings the kind of depth that the Irish have lacked in recent years. Weis was asked about the players lower on the depth chart appearing to be more talented this year.

"Well that's because they are, not that they're all great playing right now. We've even put a fourth group and there's some guys on the fourth group, I see a fourth defensive line come out and there's some players that can play," he said. "I'm not saying that they're all going to the Hall of Fame now, I'm just saying that there's a lot more depth at almost every position. You have to start with the first guys playing well, but we like the depth. There's a lot of depth which leads to a lot of competition."

It's apparent that Weis and John Tenuta are very similar in their coaching styles.

"First of all, I like being around (Tenuta). I think he's very humorous, I understand his sarcasm, I understand his coaching techniques. I enjoy being around him, I have to say that I've gotten a few chuckles out there at practice off of some of the things that he said," Weis said. "But the bottom line is I'm very pleased with how the defensive staff has meshed so well. You can be scrutinized when chemistry is not right, but I think that the chemistry between Corwin and John has been excellent and the chemistry between Jappy and John has been excellent. As the linebacker coach, you are the guy that is in between the secondary and the front guys. I think that's worked out very well."

When asked if he could share any of Tenuta's humor, Weis just laughed and said, "No."

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