"Coach (Chuck) Long has been there for three years now and he's been well-groomed after working for Hayden (Fry) at Iowa and Kirk (Ferentz) and then Bob Stoops," Charlie Weis said of San Diego State's head coach. "Besides having an illustrious career as a quarterback he obviously has got a good pedigree."
The Notre Dame staff is not taking anything for granted even though the Aztecs lost to Cal-Poly of the Football Championship Subdivision and Weis said that the game could have very easily turned out differently.
"They lost a close game, really the game was lost because they turned it over five times, they had three fumbles and two interceptions," he said.
Perceived as somewhat of a quarterback guru, Weis was impressed with the Aztecs' new signal-caller, Ryan Lindley.
"I thought he did an admirable job as a redshirt freshman quarterback. I thought he was a little rattled early in the game, but as the game went on he got better," he said. "He was tough, he showed good poise, he showed a good arm and he showed he's accurate."
Indeed, Lindley started the game just 3 for 7 for 11 yards and an interception before completing 24 of his next 38 passes and throwing for 341 yards in the final three quarters.
The Aztecs did struggle running the ball as they gained just 27 total rushing yards as a team. Sophomore tailback led the team with 43 yards on the ground and had nine catches for 64 yards.
"Sullivan obviously was the main dog and was the leading rusher and the leading receiver," said Weis. "They were missing (Atiyyah) Henderson, he didn't play because he had a hamstring, but we expect to see him this week."
Senior captain Tyler Campbell is the lead blocker as well as a captain.
"He's the son of Earl Campbell by the way," said Weis. "We talk about pedigree, it doesn't much better than that."
Weis expects to see a variety of formations from the Aztecs.
"They usually play three wide receivers, although they do have packages where they play 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends) and some other personnel groups as well," he said.
Sophomore Vincent Brown is San Diego State's top receiver.
"In 2007, he was third in school history with the most receptions by a freshman, so he's one of their go to guys," said Weis. "Last week he had seven (receptions) for 98 (yards) and a touchdown. He's got good speed and good ball skills."
"(Mougey) is a tall guy. He's like 6-6, 230 and even though they list him as a wide receiver, it's almost like a big tight end that's out there because he has a good body presence," Weis said. "Wallace is considered one of the more talented receivers on their roster."
San Diego State figures to play multiple tight ends.
"They played two tight ends most of the time," said Weis. "(Matthew) Kawulok is the smaller of the two, he's more of their move tight end and (Waika) Spencer is the bigger, he's more of the around the line tight end."
The offensive line, which struggled against Cal-Poly, features a few guys who have shifted positions.
"It's anchored by (Trask) Iosefa, who is the returning starter at center. They have (Peter) Nelson and (Mike) Schmidt on the left side. Schmidt is the captain, he's playing left guard, a former defensive lineman switched over to the offensive line," Weis said. "Their starting left tackle, Nelson is also another former defensive lineman they switched over to the offensive line. (Ikaika) Aken-Moleta at right guard, (Lance) Louis is a former tight end that is now playing tackle for them."
The San Diego State defense earned Weis's respect in a couple of ways with their performance last week.
"The most impressive stat that came out of last week for me was that they held Cal-Poly to 2 of 13 on third down and 0 of 2 on fourth down and they had three sacks," he said. "So they were getting off the field on third down and they were getting some pressure on the quarterback."
The Aztecs defense features a couple of front line players.
"There is two veteran defensive players that are well known and well respected, their Sam linebacker (Russell) Allen and their free safety (Corey) Boudreaux," Weis said.
The defensive line suffered a few injuries in the loss to Cal-Poly, which will cause Weis and his staff to be prepared for some changes.
"There was a bunch of guys that got banged up and they're shuffling some guys in there now due to the injuries. It's going to force us to have some contingency plans just in case they do get short at the position," he said. "We had to go back and look at a situation that they had last year and in the second game last year…they ended up playing some odd (fronts), so we went back and took a look at that just in case they get short."
While the defensive line is a concern, the rest of the defense looks steady.
"At both the linebacker position and the secondary position I think that they feel very comfortable with the health of the guys they have here," Weis said. "In the secondary three of four starters are back, both corners are returning starters. Both (Aaron) Moore and (Vonnie) Holmes are both returning starters at corner.
"(Boudreaux) is a captain, he was granted a sixth year of eligibility this spring, so this is his sixth go around and obviously he's a veteran."
Many of the special teams players have little experience.
"They do have new specialists, a new kicker, a new punter, a new long snapper," Weis said of Lane Yoshida, Brian Stahovich and Aaron Brewer respectively. Yoshida did not attempt a field goal last week, while Stahovich averaged 39.5 yards on four punts. "At returner there's two dynamic guys. I mentioned (Mekell) Wesley before because of his speed, the other guy (Davion Mauldin) has a big track record in junior college."
Weis admitted that after 2007, this year's season-opener is even more important in some respects.
"I think that this game is really important for our team in the whole mantra of getting off to a fast start. I think that this game has more importance than a lot of other first games for us because we need to get out of the gate fast," he said. "I think it's important that we play well from wire to wire in all three facets."
Weis expects to see his team get off a to a good start.
"I will not be happy if we sputter on offense, I will not be happy if we sputter on defense, I will not be happy if we sputter on special teams," he said.
Still, he has given his coaching staff instructions to keep the players' heads up if everything isn't completely smooth right out of the gate.
"What we talked about as a staff is if there is some rough periods in the game, just have a calm demeanor," he said. "We've been this camaraderie group this whole spring, this training camp, what you can't do is all of a sudden flip the switch and turn into a raving maniac after you've been building on this team."
As usual at the start of the season, the Irish are just ready to see other faces across the line of scrimmage, which Weis believes will have them pumped up for Saturday.
"They're tired of hitting each other and having a fresh opponent will be exciting in its own right. Take that put it in Notre Dame Stadium with over 80,000, a home opener, all of our college kids are here in town, all the fans come rolling in, the band is playing," he said. "I think they'll be plenty excited for this. At 3:40 on Saturday I think they'll be ready to play."
Weis saw a change in his team from the first practice of the week.
"Yesterday was the first time in practice that it felt like a game week. They were chirpy," he said. "Normally, you talk to them during stretching they're just trying to get to the next drill. Yesterday they were bouncing around with a little spring in their step. You didn't have to coerce high tempo out of them even in individuals because they know gameweek."
While San Diego State was able to shake off any rust from the preseason last weekend, the Irish got the chance to rest.
"Their legs will never be fresher than they are this Saturday," said Weis.
Earlier in training camp Weis made no secret of the fact that he is looking for his squad to be a run first football team and wants to see that right away.
"You would like to hope so," he said. "The flip side of that is when you say pound it, the other team is going sit there and load up the box and see if they can keep that intact. So something is going to have to give."
Health-wise, the Irish look to be in solid shape heading into the opener.
"Jashaad Gaines will be the only guy that definitely will not play in the game because there is a health issue that he is dealing with at home," Weis said. "He's the only guy who definitely won't play in the game, and obviously Mike Ragone…Everyone else, (Anthony) McDonald is back out there, George West is back out there. A couple of those guys are still hobbled some."
As always, Weis has posted the team's top ten list of goals for the week and he offered a couple on Tuesday.
"One of the team top ten, I think it's number eight, I have down ‘Expect the unexpected.' One of the early ones I have is ‘No substitution errors,'" he said. "To make sure that people remember when they're supposed to be on the field. Sometimes it's easier said than done when you're dealing with communication for the first go around."