Charlie Weis is not taking any chances.
He has said that he has complete confidence in Michael Haywood to call the plays, but Weis is installing some safeguards just in case.
"I'll wear a headset but I'm just not going to hold a call sheet. Because a call sheet would be just like asking for trouble," Weis said. "So what I'll do is I'm going to have one of my guys hold onto a call sheet both offensively and defensively so that if there's lulls in the action and I want to go look at it, I'll have something available to me. But I'll have a headset and I'll click it off on both offense and defense unless I have to say something."
Weis intends for his comments to help move things along more than anything.
"One of the things I probably feel that I'm going to have to say to Michael early in the game is get him used to the timing of the 40-second clock. I'll say, ‘OK, let's go personnel,'" Weis said. "It will be my way of making sure that I kind of expedite the process. It will have nothing to do with calling plays. Or I might go to Corwin (Brown), ‘What have you got? And what's their personnel?' Just things to more speed up the process, because sometimes one of my pet peeves is when things go in too slow."
Last week, Haywood said that he had already started coming up with the opening script for San Diego State, but apparently that process has come with little input from the head coach.
"I'm not scripting the openers. The offensive staff is scripting the openers. Now, they'll run them by me on Friday morning before they laminate it," said Weis. "Why would they not do that, to not use that reference? But I told them to meet and let them do it. And if there's something I would say, ‘Why would you do that?' We'll just eliminate it. Or if it's something that, ‘Can we run this, too?' So might there be a play or two that either gets eliminated or added? Yes. But I'm not doing that."
Weis gave up the playcalling duties because he wanted to have a stronger overall impact on the team.
"I'll try my best to be a head coach," he said.
As head coach, Weis will still make some critical calls.
"First of all, fourth-and-one will always be my decision. I'd never hang the coordinator out to dry on that. That is always the job of the head coach to have to make that decision, because right or wrong, you're going to have to live with that decision. And you don't hang your assistants out to dry on that one," he said. "OK, that being said, I might say to him on third-and-one, ‘Hey, if we don't make it we're going for it on fourth-and-one so go ahead and take a shot.' And it's incomplete and everyone is booing it could be because I've already told him to go ahead and take a shot because we're going for it on fourth-and-one. Usually third-and-one and fourth-and-one could be a predetermined two-play sequence when that ends up happening. They need to know that in advance.
"Normally you wouldn't throw the ball on third-and-one unless you already had the backing from the boss that you were going to go for it on fourth-and-one. Or if you didn't, don't worry about it, we're going to just punt in that situation."
BOOTH ASSIGNMENTS: Weis also talked about the locations of the assistant coaches during the game with Haywood and Latina up in the box and Brown on the field.
"I have a very unique experience that Corwin likes to be on the field and Tenuta likes to be in the press box, because we've talked about even the location of where the coaches would be," Weis said. "Jon likes to be in the press box. He likes to see the game from the press box.
Weis laughed that Brown likes to be on the field so that he can do some celebrating.
"He has that bubbly enthusiasm. He likes to chest bump and all that other stuff right there," he said of his defensive coordinator.
Haywood will be joined by offensive graduate assistant Kevin Loney in the press box while Tenuta will have defensive graduate assistant Patrick Graham with him. According to the Notre Dame game notes, the rest of the assistant coaches will be on the field.
HAYWOOD DIFFERENT OFF THE FIELD: If one judged Notre Dame's offensive coordinator on his meetings with the press alone they would think he was a pretty boring guy. If they looked at Haywood's demeanor at practice, they might think that he was sort of a jerk, but according to his players, there is more to him.
"Off the field he is the best guy you could ever meet. When you're on the field, like every coach, it's business when you go on the field," running back Armando Allen said. "All of the playfulness goes out of the way and it's time to attack everything that we have to do for that day. So he really gets serious when he's on the field."
James Aldridge agreed with his fellow back.
"He stays on us, but off the field he's one of the coolest guys you could meet," said Aldridge. "But when we get on the field he's going to crank it up on you and that's just how it is."
Allen doesn't expect much to change now that his position coach will be calling the plays.
"He's a great coach and everybody has faith in him, so everything will be the same," said Allen.
TENUTA HELPING BOTH SIDES: The addition of Tenuta to the defensive staff was made to help the unit become more aggressive and it's likely that will show up on Saturday. But what may not be so obvious is the impact that aggressiveness will have on the offense that it faces everyday in practice.
"I think it was good for us. I thought it was good work, hopefully it was good for our defense and helps them play well. I know it was good for us to see it because you don't want to see it on Saturdays unless you've seen it a bunch," offensive line coach John Latina said. "We gave our guys a lot of different looks and a lot of different blitzes. Then we asked them to learn how to live in that environment because that's the way college football has evolved. You're going be in that environment on Saturdays, so you better be in it on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as well."
Center Dan Wenger remembers what happened in last year's opener against Georgia Tech and is glad to have Tenuta on his side this time.
"It's helped a lot. It's something that we saw everyday of camp and that only got us better. Just playing against a zone blitz team, we saw it against Georgia Tech last year in the first game and it hurt us a lot," Wenger said. "We've grown from that and now we've seen it, we've seen everything that can happen. We can expect the unexpected and we'll be ready for it and be ready to adjust."
Going against the 2008 Notre Dame defense in practice everyday has not been very fun for Sam Young, but he knows that it will pay off.
"I think it's going to pay dividends absolutely. Coach Tenuta's defense is a pain the rear. You name it, he's probably going to send it any which way. You never know what to expect from him and just being able to play on the fly," Young said. "I think we'll be better able to handle movement right off the gate. From the time the ball is kicked off, wire to wire basically, we want to be able to control the game."
Left guard Eric Olsen will also bring the education that he received from his own team during camp into the season.
"With Coach Tenuta's defense, there is nothing that we haven't seen," Olsen said. "Every week, every team we face might not run every blitz that we've seen in camp, but we'll know now how to respond to those blitzes because we've seen them all camp and that's all we've worked on."
OLSEN GROWING UP: Olsen, a junior, is being counted on to be one of the key reasons why the Notre Dame offensive line shows dramatic improvement in 2008.
"Well, I kind of like Eric Olsen, because he's one of my northeast comrades. I like his personality. I mean, he came in the spring -- he was in great shape in the spring and he carried over into the fall during training camp," said Weis. "I think that he'll be a very good, dependable player for us on the offensive line who brings a lot of natural emotion to the game. He likes to play the game."
Both Olsen and Weis point to last year's experience as a reason why a lot is expected out of him.
"Last year you're wide-eyed now. When you first start going out there and you're lining up there the first time on the offensive line as a young guy, okay, it's like, whoa, everything is happening real fast," Weis said of Olsen. "Everything's happening real fast and those guys you're playing against are pretty good. Now it's a year later and he thinks he's one of those good guys now. Where last year he was trying to get his feet wet. I think there's several guys, of which Eric's in that group, that I think are in that group now that they're looking forward to being on the other side of that fence."
Olsen totally agreed with his head coach.
"With another year under my belt, experience becomes something that starts to work in my favor rather than against me," Olsen said. "After you get a couple of starts under your belt the game starts slows down and you get to start to be that guy that's playing fast and hard and things start to swing in your favor."
BY THEN IT'S TOO LATE: Weis was asked about the prevalence of college players cramping because of the early season heat. The Notre Dame staff has an interesting view on dehydration according to Weis.
"I was talking to a recruit about this last night, who had cramped up in a game, and he told me, ‘I'm trying during the game every time there's a timeout I'm trying to drink Gatorade,'" said Weis. "I explained to him that we believe 48 hours before the game is when hydration really starts taking place. So you'll see our guys all walk into meeting rooms at the end of the week all carrying water jugs or Gatorade with them because we're trying to get them to hydrate starting Thursday, not hydrate starting Saturday."
Weis said that he was unaware if there were any other factors like the stress of the opening games that would contribute to cramping more in games than practices.
"I don't know if the anxiety comes into play, because really what's the only difference between practicing? We practice at a very high tempo. The only thing I could imagine is there's 80 some thousand people there and national TV," he said. "Maybe that comes into play. Maybe you're using more energy. I'm not a doctor. I just know that Thursday and Friday we're saying hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. And hopefully we keep that cramping to a minimum."