Haywood Talks Tempo

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood met with the media on Thursday to talk about his unit and its progression almost a week into training camp. Head coach Charlie Weis talked about he liked the tempo of his team during the first practice on Wednesday, Haywood was asked about the tempo of the second practice.

"For an offensive standpoint it was tremendously better at the end of practice than it was at the beginning of practice," Haywood said. "I think that's the way it transpired in the first practice and the second practice. We need to be more consistent throughout the entire practice."

The staff clearly wants the Irish to play with emotion in 2008.

"I think it's really important that young men play with passion, play with emotion and play with excitement. I think it adds something to your game and something to your team," Haywood said. "At the same time, when you're playing that way it also builds a little bit more confidence and individuals whom which you're playing with, guys play a little bit faster at that pace also."

According to the Irish offensive coordinator, playing with emotion is something that is especially important for the veterans on the team.

"It comes from the knowledge of the game. When you study the game and you understand what your assignments are and you're not thinking about your assignment, you understand the three or four things in which the defense can do to you. Then you have an opportunity to play a little bit faster," Haywood said. "When you're playing faster, you start playing with excitement, you enjoy it, you're having fun, you're not thinking about what-ifs. When you're thinking about what-ifs you play slower and you don't have as much fun because you're really aren't sure about what may happen and what's going on."

When asked about wide receiver Golden Tate, Haywood used it as an opportunity to talk about the growth of the receiver position as a whole.

"I think that the guys that were here throughout the summer, the older guys have really grasped the various concepts in which we run and the various packages on offense in the passing game," he said. "When they understand the concept, it may be a three-man concept or a two-man concept, it provides you with an opportunity to teach more on technique and fundamentals. It may be in releases, it may be in stems, in may be in getting over the top. All of the little things in which you need to teach wide receivers."

When asked if Tate, a sophomore, is now considered one of "the older guys", Haywood said yes.

"Anytime a guy has had playing experience I think they mature," he said. "Anytime you have any battle wounds, you're a lot better of a player."

Without the quarterback competition that Notre Dame went through a year ago at this time, Haywood said that the Irish are more advanced, but added that at this stage in camp, the quarterbacks are all getting snaps.

"We're much farther along, but the guys are still getting equal reps, however they don't always run the same plays against the same defense," he said. "For example, if we're putting in five dropback passes in a run/playaction period, we may run three times and then we may have five playaction passes or we may only have four. The next guy may have different formations against defenses and then that way you can coach off of tape. Because versus this coverage right here, versus cover two you need to hit the middle read, versus a post-safety cover 3-one foam, you need to hit the comeback route. All of those different things give you a lot of ability to teach."

Senior quarterback Evan Sharpley was one of the players involved in last year's quarterback derby, but seems to have settled into his role as Jimmy Clausen's backup.

"Sharpley has been a really mature young man. He's done a really good job of stepping in and taking control of the second unit and executing appropriately," Haywood said. "We practice against the new 40-second clock everyday and the other day we had an audible and he stepped in, made the audible real quick, changed the cadence and we're off and running. I'm not necessarily sure that would have happened last year."

Running back is the position on offense this year with the most competition as junior James Aldridge battles with sophomore Robert Hughes for carries, while sophomore Armando Allen will be used as a change-of-pace runner.

"All of three running backs get equal reps throughout the entire practice. They're getting equal reps with the 1's, 2's and we're just rotating and spinning them in there. That way it gives you an opportunity to evaluate them a little better," Haywood said. "You evaluate them with the 1's, you evaluate them with the 2's and also you evaluate their leadership when they're running with the second unit because it can also tell you what leadership qualities they have to get that second group going."

While freshman Jonas Gray is not in that top group, Haywood did say that he has been impressed with the toughness of the rookie.

"He's physical, he's a physical kid. He loves to run over people, likes contact, doesn't shy away," he said. "Usually with young players, the hardest thing for those guys to understand is pass protection and they don't necessarily want to put their face in there. Jonas doesn't mind being physical with a linebacker, DB. He's a physical young man."

But Haywood was not going to embarrassed by talking about Gray's size after the team heard comments from Aldridge about it earlier in the week.

"I heard that conversation because my players were talking about James and that conversation wondering, ‘How are you going to comment on another man's physique.' So, I will tend to stray away from that one," said Haywood.

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