Weis on Cardinal

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis met with the media on Tuesday to go over the Irish's next opponent, Stanford. Weis talked about the things that the Cardinal do well, the experience that they have, what problems they can pose and about their second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.

Charlie Weis did not cross paths with Jim Harbaugh much while the two were in the NFL, but Weis is acquainted with him and with the changes that he has implemented in just over a year at Stanford.

"I think mentality, one, and recruiting, two," Weis said of the biggest differences he has seen in the Cardinal since Harbaugh took over. "Stanford is very similar to Notre Dame in the fact that you have to make sure that you're going after guys that are high academically-orientated, but still can play football and I think he's done a nice job in recruiting.

"I think that he has the mentality where he gets the players to come from those classes and come to football and now they're football players. I think that sometimes people don't understand the complexity of going and getting that done and I think he's done a nice job on both ends."

Harbaugh has also installed a mentality that places a strong emphasis on the running game.

"The thing that got me is that they're averaging 4.7 yards per carry and their leading two rushers are averaging even better than that," Weis of Toby Gerhart, who is averaging 5.7 a carry and Anthony Kimble, who is averaging 5.3 per rush.

Gerhart left last week's game against Washington with an apparent concussion, which means that Notre Dame could see a lot more of Kimble, who had 157 yards and two touchdowns against the Huskies.

"They have very good depth at running back, with good players," Weis said. "Even though (Gerhart's) their leading carrier, leading ball carrier and a strong, hard runner, they put Kimble in and he's been chopping at the bit… He's a little different because he's got really good quicks and change of direction."

Stanford is one of the few California teams that rely heavily on the ground game.

"A lot of schools, especially from the West Coast, you see are more spread out, spread out, sling it all over the yard, run read option and things like that. Whereas, he's more of a 21-12 type of guy, which is a regular Detroit, whatever vernacular you use. Only two wide receivers on the field a whole bunch of the game and just play more conventional," Weis said of Harbaugh's squad. "(They) try to run it down your throat and play-action pass and I think that the players obviously have bought in and you're seeing production to go along with it."

The running game is only a portion of the Cardinal offense.

"They've been highly productive when they got in the red zone," Weis said. "When they've gotten in the red zone where they're scoring 70 percent of the time touchdowns."

In last week's 35-28 win Washington, Stanford rushed for 244 yards and threw for 222, while converting seven of 11 third-down chances and its only fourth-down opportunity. The Cardinal scored touchdowns all three times that they entered the red zone and did not allow a sack.

"I think they're coming off as good a performance as you could expect," Weis said.

Senior quarterback Tavita Pritchard will present a different challenge for the Irish defense this week.

"The one thing that concerns me the most is that he is the most mobile quarterback that we've seen," said Weis.

It is not clear exactly what targets Pritchard will be throwing to as Stanford's has had some injuries at both tight end and receiver.

"So far (tight end has) been handled by (Austin) Gunder as their main tight end and (Coby) Fleener as their move tight end/spread out kind of slot wide receiver-tight end," Weis said. "Jim Dray got back, who had been their starter, he just got back from injury and they're kind of easing him back in. He would probably go to the primary tight end."

At receiver, junior Richard Sherman did not play against Washington and is not listed on this week's depth chart, but Notre Dame will still prepare for him. One guy that the Irish definitely will have to be ready for is sophomore Doug Baldwin.

"He saw a lot of time last year as a true freshman and the thing I noticed about him is he looks like he has developed into a solid player for them," Weis said of Baldwin. "He's got good quicks and good speed and he can run, he can accelerate."

The Cardinal feature three returning starters in senior left tackle Ben Muth, senior center Alex Fletcher and junior right tackle Chris Marinelli. Sophomore left guard Chase Beeler, a transfer from Oklahoma, and sophomore right guard Andrew Phillips round out the starters on the offensive line.

"It's a fairly veteran group even though they have a couple of guys that are new to the action," said Weis.

Ron Lynn and Andy Buh replaced Scott Shafer, who joined Rich Rodriguez's staff at Michigan, as co-defensive coordinators. Lynn and Buh like to blitz, but not quite as much as Shafer.

"Probably not as heavy percentage-wise as they were last year, because Coach Shafer, he likes to really dial them up. But really, we kind of expect more pressure every time we go out there. So we'll practice against higher blitz percentages than show up in a scouting report," Weis said. "We won't practice at the percentage we see, because it seems like last week, we practice at a higher percentage, going against Purdue and they dialed up a lot more blitzes than they had done all year long. So I don't know really know the reason for that, but just they do, so we'll practice at a higher percentage."

The Cardinal defense has applied pressure to opponents in both the run and pass games.

"They're very good against the run, they're only giving up 3.4 per carry," said Weis. "They also, after five games, have 15 sacks so that will be a big area of concern."

Stanford's defensive line will go two-deep, which provides depth.

"(Pannel) Egboh, who gave us fits last year, starts at one end and (Erik) Lorig at the other end. (Tom) McAndrew is kind of their swing end," said Weis. "I see four guys playing inside and they really have confidence in all of them. (Ekom) Udofia and (Sione) Fua look to me like the nose and three-technique, but (Brian) Bulcke and (Matt) Masifilo will both be in there as well."

Weis has been impressed with the play of Stanford's linebackers.

"I think that they have a couple of big-time linebackers. (Clinton) Snyder is considered one of the best linebackers in the Pac-10. He's their active career leader in tackles and sacks, forced fumbles. He's physical and he'll hit you," said Weis. "(Pat) Maynor is a fifth-year senior and he's a Butkus Award candidate. So between those two guys and then you get (Nick) Macaluso and (Chike) Amajoyi handling the Mike, they kind of split it up some."

Stanford also has a nice mix of speed and strength in the secondary.

"(Cornerback Wopamo) Osaisai is the Pac-10 100-meter champ, so he obviously can run" said Weis. "(Sean) Wiser right now is down as the starting free safety, he's Jimmy (Clausen's) high school teammate, but (Taylor) Skaufel really started the first four games, he didn't play last week and I'm not really sure why. (Bo) McNally starts as the strong safety and he's really the leader of the secondary, he likes to come up and strike you."

As always, special teams will be an area of emphasis for the Irish this week as Stanford presents some different problems.

"The one unit that stood out to me the most was the punt return unit, they're averaging 15 yards a punt return," said Weis. "(David) Green will handle the punting, it's a little different because he's a lefty. So, Brandon Walker will have to do a little punting for us and we'll have to get that JUGS gun spinning the other way this week so that when we're catching punts, we get it from a lefty."

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