It wasn't that Charlie Weis didn't want his players to show emotion, it was more that the players didn't know how he would react if they did. But before the 2008 season, Weis made it very clear that he wanted them to play with passion and to show it.
"I never controlled them. But now I encourage them. There's a difference," said Weis. "I never told them not to do anything. But they probably felt inhibited like they couldn't. But you know now I kind of encourage them instead of discouraging them."
Talking with the players, it sounds like Weis' assessment is dead on.
"Some of the guys probably felt like, ‘I feel like showing emotion, but that's not the type of team that we are.' But now that we can show emotion those players feel more comfortable," Sergio Brown said. "It has an affect on the player and his teammates because he can pump his team up too."
Sophomore Brian Smith is one of the most emotional players on the team and although he takes naps before games, when he emerges from the locker room he is as fired up as anyone is.
"You can't go out there flat. If you go out there flat especially against a good team like Michigan State they'll try to pound your face in the dirt," said Smith. "We've got to come out and play with emotion and be fired up as we were against Michigan."
The change in mentality is another example of Weis gaining a better understanding of his job as the head coach of a college program.
"There's a growing experience that you go through that you find better ways of doing it different than you were doing it. So I think if you're intelligent, you have to realize that you don't always have the answer and there's better ways of doing it," said Weis. "You have to keep on searching for those better ways of doing it and I'll continue to do that. I'll continue to look for better ways of doing it. And as long as it's a program moving forward and doesn't put our players at risk, on or off the field, then I'm willing to try just about anything."
Senior receiver David Grimes has seen a change in the way the players interact with the head coach and while Weis will come right out and tell his players to show more emotion, Grimes does not consider himself a very emotional guy.
"As the years go by and guys get to know Coach Weis better, they realize that, he wants people to show their personalities and be emotional and be passionate about things that they love," Grimes said. "I'm an easy going guy. I don't ride the emotional roller coaster."
Smith is not that easy going guy, but he was able to show some restraint as he jogged in for that touchdown against Michigan that just about clinched the victory for the Irish.
"I wanted to flip in the end zone, get up throw the ball in the stands, but I'm like that's bush league. I've got to keep it classy. Be pumped up but keep it classy at the same time," he said. "I try to get as close to the edge as I can get because I'm one of those guys who always tries to push the limit in everything. Coach will let me know when I'm pushing the limit a little bit too much, but I always try to push it to the limit."
Smith is not exactly sure where his passion comes from, but believes that he inherited it from his parents.
"I get emotional when I play video games. When I make a big play on defense I'm up yelling and screaming," Smith said. "I don't know where I get it from. My father would say it's from him, my mother would say it's from her because she's emotional too. I guess I come from a good family of emotional people and they made one emotional child."
WEIS RELAXING ON THE MUSIC: Weis is known for blasting Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen during practice, but Weis gave the players a small treat last Thursday after their win over San Diego State. Every song is still one of the Jersey classics, but in between is the hook from a Pastor Troy song entitled ‘Crank Me Up.'
"For me to intertwine a little of their music in the midst of my Jersey guys, that really took a lot for me. It pained me to do that," Weis laughed. "But that's part of letting them enjoy themselves. And I think little things like that with the team could go a long way."
Since the Irish beat Michigan on Saturday, Pastor Troy will again take his place between Bon Jovi and Springsteen later in the week.
"It is part of him loosening up a little bit," Sergio Brown said of Weis.
Brown said that while Weis has allowed them some input on the musical choice, many of the players are starting to enjoy Weis' music too.
"We've grown to like it because we know all of the words now so we might as well join along," Brown said.
Weis has yet to join the team in their new cheer, though.
"We haven't got him to crank it up yet, but we got Coach Brown cranking it up so we've got to move on to the big guy," Brown said.
SAFETIES KEY DEFENSE: David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy have led the Notre Dame defense in tackles in each of the first two games. McCarthy had a team-high 14 tackles against San Diego State while Bruton was second with seven. Against Michigan, it was Bruton who led the team with 15 stops and McCarthy second with 10.
According to Corwin Brown, what makes the two such a great tandem is their selflessness.
"I think the thing with those guys is they don't care who gets the credit. They really don't and that's a good thing. They don't get jealous of each other. They really don't care who makes the plays," Brown said. "I think they genuinely want the other guy to do well and that's always a good thing. The world is full of selfish people, so to be around guys that aren't selfish is like a breath of fresh air. I think everybody can learn something from that."
McCarthy said that it helps that the two are close.
"David and myself have a great chemistry . We're great friends both on and off the field, we came in together as freshmen, we're Ohio boys so we've got a little connection there," McCarthy said. "We're great friends and I think it shows in both of our work ethics and it shows on the field too."
McCarthy was stuck behind Tom Zbikowski at strong safety for his first three years at Notre Dame, but is making the most of his opportunity now.
"No one comes to Notre Dame to ride the pine. I knew that Zibby was a great player and I needed to kind of wait, but in the back of my mind I knew that my time would come," said McCarthy. "I prepared that way and I worked hard in the offseason and my time is here so I'm excited about it."
NO RUTH'S CHRIS JUST YET: Jimmy Clausen promised to take his offensive line out to dinner after the second straight game with no sacks, but schoolwork has prevented him from making good on that just yet.
"I've had a few tests. I've had two this past week right now, and I've got another one coming up," Clausen explained. "So I'm hopefully going to take them out (Thursday) night, but, if not, I'll take them out next week."
Grimes was sitting right next to Clausen and chimed in, " I'll be there, too."
KUNTZ HAIR UPDATE: Don't look for any crazy hairdos out of Pat Kuntz this weekend. After sporting a mohawk, a mullet and a combination of the two since camp started, Kuntz has shaved his head this week.
"I was scaring all of the girls," he said.
CINCO OCHO?: Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson officially changed his name to ‘Chad Ocho Cinco.' Don't look for Brian Smith to head to court anytime soon to change his name, but he has been inspired.
"I already told everyone I'm Cinco Ocho. You can call me Brian Cinco Ocho."