Building Leaders

As the season approaches, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis wanted to ensure that his squad had its leadership structure in order. The result was the construction of the leadership committee, an arrangement in which players voted six other players from each position as a group of sub-captains.

"The team yesterday voted for the members of the leadership committee," Weis said. "It was interesting how the vote went. What we did do is try to keep the numbers of positions equal. We let the special teams members vote for one committee member and then we grouped the tight ends and the quarterbacks together because of the number of the tight ends and quarterbacks."

Of the players selected, an interesting troupe emerged, ranging from a sophomore to a fifth-year senior.

"The six people that ended up being picked to the leadership committee in conjunction with the captains, the leadership of this football team, on offense, Asaph Schwapp, Sam Young and Jimmy Clausen," Weis said. "On defense, Terrail Lambert, Pat Kuntz, and on special teams, Scott Smith."

The list is comprised of players who contribute on every down, and others who perform their leadership regularly in practice. In the case of Smith, this was the primary reason along with his hard work, and studies.

"Probably the most interesting member out of all those was Scott Smith," Weis said. "It told me, really, two things. It told me something about Scott Smith, sort of what I already knew. Here's a kid that's a 4.0 student. That hasn't been a starter here, isn't a starter here on defense, starts on some special teams. But he was such an overwhelmingly supported player. It also let's me know that our players get it. Sometimes players don't get it, but they obviously get it. Because here they picked a player, he's not the big name, not everyone knows who Scott Smith is but it shows me that the players understand what leadership is all about."

Now that this group is in place, there are certain expectations and responsibilities that Weis is asking on them to perform. Among other tasks, it allows players within a unit to have someone they can turn to, who happens to play the same position.

"If you look sort of like a student council in high-school or even in college, you've got the captains, who really, when I have a problem, the easiest people for me to go to are the captains because they are the guys that were overwhelmingly supported by the entire team as the people that they perceived to be the voice of the team," he said. "But the problem is sometimes because there's three guys, the position players that feel that they don't have somebody they can vent to or have a voice. By having this group of guys, it gives them a mechanism."

This device, Weis stipulated, works best in situations in which the players have someone from their position who can weigh both the positives and the negatives of a problem or doubt.

"For example, the offensive line usually wallows way in anonymity as we know," he said. "But now where they have somebody where they want a voice, something pro or con, they don't have to go to David Grimes, who is a wide receiver. They can go to Sam Young, who could then go to David Grimes, who could then go to me. At least it gives them a mechanism so that everyone on the team could have a voice without feeling that they're not being heard."

This is especially true, Weis believes, when players don't want to voice an unpopular opinion due to the worry of having to deal with dissention.

"Sometimes kids are afraid to voice their opinion because they feel that if it doesn't go along with the party line, there's going to be repercussions," Weis said. "I don't think that's the right way of doing it. Not that we're going to agree with them all the time, but that's not the point. The point is for the kid to at least have a venue to be able to air feelings that they have and that's really how it's set up."

Another selection that stands out is that of Jimmy Clausen. Although he is only a sophomore, the evolution and development he has shown not only as a player, but also as a leader made him a clear choice. For Weis, it's comforting because Clausen is the player with the ball in his hands.

"It's encouraging because he's got the ball in his hands on every play," Weis said. "He's the guy, where the one thing you do know, whether good or bad, he's going to be involved in the mix. And I'm very happy with the whole composition of the leadership committee, and the captains, but I think any time you're a player, you at the quarterback as one of the guys that they want to have a voice for, you're moving in the right direction."

Now that the leadership committee has been set, the Irish are one step closer to completing the pre-season tasks. Next in line is the setting of the depth chart. Over the past two days, Weis admitted that he had been undergoing an evaluative process to narrow it down. This procedure is nearly complete.

"Brian [Hardin] told me I had to get him stuff by Wednesday or Thursday of this week," Weis said. "He's been on me already about giving him stuff, and I haven't given him stuff yet either, but I think that we're well on our way from being three-deep, to being one and 1a.'s and two and 2a.'s so-to-speak."

Although the afternoon was filled with talk of veteran leadership, Weis did say that some of the younger players have been pushing for some early playing time.

"I think that if there are any surprises, it's that some of the younger guys are pushing to at least be in the two-deep. And I think that that's not necessarily a bad thing. And there's a couple of the young guys that are pressing even higher than that." Top Stories