IE Notebook

Today's notebook focuses on Tuesday's press conferences with Charlie Weis and Michael Haywood. Both coaches talked about the offense and how the operation with Haywood sending the plays in went and how much of a role Weis played in that at the end. Also, more on Golden Tate and what's the deal with the snappers? And has Weis talked to Tom Brady yet?

He thought he was speaking to a private audience, but Charlie Weis' words eventually found their way to the national media and eventual until the Michigan bulletin board.

It was just before the April Blue-Gold Game when Weis said "To hell with Michigan," but Weis insists the words came more out of respect than disrespect.

"Anyone who is a Michigan fan should know and understand that that comment pays respect to Bo and his mentality versus when playing an opponent," Weis said. "As a matter of fact, (Bo Schembechler's son) and I had a big chuckle over this in summer during training camp. And we shared a moment that this question would probably be asked on this day. So take it for what it's worth. But I think that's a very respectful comment towards Coach Bo's "To hell with Notre Dame."

When asked if he possibly downplayed the rivalry in his first couple of years here, Weis agrees.

"I think that there's definitely merit in that statement. The problem is every week there's a game, especially with most of our schedule, there's several repeat opponents that you play year in and year out," he said. "So if you sit there and put all the emphasis on Michigan, what are you saying about Michigan State? What are you saying about Purdue? What are you saying about Stanford?"

But Weis insists that he understands how important the Michigan game is.

"Now, with that being said, you know you definitely feel the magnitude of the game when you're playing against a team like that. So let me not underestimate the magnitude of the game," he said. "It's a rival in several ways. It's not just the traditions of the school. It's locale. It's recruiting. There's a whole number of factors that are involved in it. Besides just the winning and the losing, I think there's a lot that could be gained by going and putting a good performance against a tough opponent."

When Tyrone Willingham's squad lost to Wolverines 38-0 he used the number to remind the Irish during the offseason. Weis' bunch got beat 38-0 in 2007, but he says that he would have to go back to 2006 when Notre Dame lost 47-21.

"I'd have to go back two years if I wanted to do that. We'd be doing a lot more than 38," he said. "Because two years in a row they've whooped us pretty good. So we'd be in the 70s. We'd be doing a lot more than 38."

IRISH ID: One thing that the win over San Diego State did not give Notre Dame is an offensive identity. Weis and his staff talked about pounding the ball, but it was the passing game that rescued the Irish from defeat on Saturday. There has been no indication of a change in attack for Michigan this week, but fans should find out a lot about their offense on Saturday.

"I know they're stout on defense. I think that we'll be able to know a lot more about where we are after this game is over," said Weis, "You're going against a very formidable front. So I think that it won't take much for everyone to figure out how things went."

Weis said that he would try to get his team to continue the momentum from the fourth quarter of last week's game into the first quarter of this week's.

"If you really go back and break the game down into quarters and segments rather than starting with the first quarter, I'm starting with the fourth quarter. Because if you pick up from the play between of the two safeties, (Kyle) McCarthy and (David) Bruton, and you just watch that play until the end of the game, I don't know if there was one bad play. I don't remember it. But there probably was but I'm talking offense, defense and special teams," he said. "So for almost an entire quarter every play was good or close to every play was good. One of the things I'm going to talk to the team about today, and I talked to them about it yesterday, we go back to the first quarter last week or are we picking up from the fourth quarter?"

Offensive coordinator Michael Haywood was not completely disappointed with the rushing attack, but admitted that it needed some improvement.

"I think that it was OK. I don't think that it was as good as it should be. We really worked heavily on it today to increase the run game and increase productivity in it. It's at a point in time in which we definitely have to get better," he said. "I think we attempted to pound the football enough, but we got into a situation in which we needed to speed up the offense."

The players felt the same way as the staff in their assessment of the running game.

"I think we ran the ball pretty well. Obviously there are some things that we can work on so that we can run the ball a lot better. That's what we're working on this week," Armando Allen said.

"We did all right. We definitely can do a better job and we plan on doing a better job this week," Robert Hughes said.

Offensive lineman Chris Stewart said, "I think it was decent. We definitely have to get more consistent. We opened up some holes, some plays we didn't open up as cleanly."

Allen started the game and Hughes saw time in relief, but Haywood faulted himself for not playing James Aldridge.

"I take full responsibility that it was my fault that we didn't play Robert or James more than what we should have. We played Robert in situations in which we were pounding the ball which he does a very good job of," said Haywood. "I should have put James in somewhere around that third quarter. I got him ready and then all of a sudden the complexity of the game changes when we decided to go two-minute. When we decide to go two-minute than that takes him out of that package."

Look for Aldridge to see action against the Wolverines.

"We're putting packages together for all three backs this upcoming week," said Haywood.

OPERATION SMOOTH FOR HAYWOOD: Aside from having to adjust to not being in his players' faces, Haywood said that the move to the press box to call plays was an easy one.

"The operation went really smooth. What I have to get used to as not being hands-on on the sideline," he said. "That's a new experience for me."

In the second quarter, Haywood delegated the responsibility to Weis to fire up the offense, which is something that he used to do.

Haywood thought that the Irish struggled in situational football.

"Anytime you get into 3rd and 5 or less on eight out of 12 occasions you should have a better conversion rate," he said. "We have to get better at red zone, we have to get better at 3rd and 1, 3rd and 2-5, 6-9 and 10-plus. Those areas of the games we have to get significantly better at."

Haywood intimated that the red zone plays could change this week.

"We basically need to get a stable of plays that guys feel a lot more comfortable with. We had a really good red zone day on last Thursday; Clausen was 100% in the red zone. However, we get into the red zone and we just don't execute. We have one interception in the red zone and then we turn the ball over at the 4-yard line," he said. "When plays don't work you take full responsibility of the play not working as a playcaller."

As for the plays that did work, especially toward the end of the game, both Haywood and Weis have said that the head coach ‘assisted' in the playcalling process during the two-minute mode, but it is not clear how much.

"The way we have to get it executed is that Coach has to assist us in getting those plays in. I think it's really important that he and Ron do a really good job of getting it in in a hurry," said Haywood.

When pressed on how much influence Weis had Haywood merely said, "As much as he does every Wednesday and Thursday. It was a smooth operation and he and Ron do a really good job of getting the plays in."

Also, Weis said on Tuesday that the Irish might have been holding back a bit of their offense for Michigan. Later on Tuesday, Haywood offered a look into how much.

"We probably had about 85 plays on the wristband and we probably ran about 45 different plays," he said. "We probably usually get about 50, 55 plays when there's 72 plays that have been run or 77 plays run."

TURNING TO GOLDEN: Much has been made of Golden Tate's growth as a player so far in his sophomore year, but Tate gave everyone a clear indication of how much on Tuesday. Tate was talking about how he and Jimmy Clausen changed the route before his game-winning touchdown grab against the Aztecs. Tate said that he wasn't sure that he would have picked up on the change as a freshman.

"I probably would have ran the original route and he would have thrown it might have been picked off and I would have just been like, ‘Wait, what's going on?' I wouldn't have known what was going on," he said.

Another thing that has changed this season is the fact that the Tennessee native feels more like he belongs on the team and can help.

"Last year the game was just moving way too fast it was almost like I was playing a sport that I never played before," he said. "Last year, I was just hoping to play. Now I feel like I'm essential to the offense. I care a lot more than I did last year."

CHANGES AT SNAPPER?: According to the depth chart that Notre Dame released on Monday, there have been no changes at the long snapper positions. But Weis said that the staff would look at it after a couple of poor snaps against San Diego State.

"Kevin (Brooks) would be the back-up at the short snapper. Kevin, that's all he does all practice long is snap. Braxton (Cave) is a center in practice. He gets freed up in practice to go snap. I would imagine if all he did all practice was snap, you know, his accuracy would probably be better, because that's all Kevin does. So if you ask who I would pop in there, that's who I would pop in there," he said. "The thing in the short snapping I'm just a little reluctant to put in a smaller body in a situation like that. Although, in practice this week that will be one of the things we judge based on how things are going. If we have to put in a smaller body to get a better snap, that's what we'll do."

THE MORE YOU WAIT: While those NBC commercial breaks can be agonizing to fans at home and even more so to fans in the stadium, Weis said that they don't bother him so much.

"Surprisingly not. Because there's a lot going on on the sideline when they're not in. The only thing that really slows the game down besides the dreaded TV timeouts, the thing that slows it down is when the offense, the opposing offense is on the field for a long time," he said. "That's the one time that really the game seems like it takes an eternity. Then and only then is when the game seems like it's going slow. Because you want to get the defense off the field and you want to get the offense back on the field. When that happens, it was like in the first quarter last week, you talk about later in the game, the first quarter is the one that felt like an eternity for me because we weren't on the field very much on offense."

WEIS REACHES OUT TO BRADY: Weis opened his Tuesday press conference by sending his best wishes to former New England Patriots and University of Michigan quarterback Tom Brady, who will miss the entire 2008 NFL season with a knee injury.

"I'd be remiss if I didn't start this press conference with Notre Dame/Michigan week with saying something to Tommy (Brady), one of my two favorite Michigan players of all time. Obviously Corwin (Brown) being the other one. But here's to a speedy recovery and a quick return back to the field," Weis said. "Not too long ago, we were sharing texts. About an hour ago, to tell you the truth, we were sharing some texts. I told him I was going to mention him at the press conference, so he didn't get caught off guard so I didn't have to listen to him whine at me or something like that." Top Stories