Charlie Weis addressed a number of topics during his Sunday afternoon press conference one day after the Irish's 28-21 home victory over Stanford.
Weis said that the injury to offensive tackle Michael Turkovich was not nearly as bad as originally thought. Turkovich, initially feared that he may have broken his ankle, but the injury was actually higher up on the leg and Weis emphasized that it was not a knee injury.
"Much better than we thought it would be," Weis said. "Actually today he handed in his crutches and handed in his brace and he'll be ready to go (Monday), which is something totally, way better than I expected."
Running back Armando Allen was also hobbled during the game, but he too should be fine for the North Carolina game.
"What we'll do is early in the week for the first couple of days we'll just give him a little bit more support on his ankle," Weis said. "Come the game, he'll be fine and ready to go."
Sophomore kicker Brandon Walker missed two field goals against the Cardinal, dropping him to 1 of 7 on the year, and Weis confirmed that Ryan Burkhart will get the opportunity to compete with Walker for the job again this week.
"I think we definitely have to explore Ryan kicking field goals," Weis said. "In Brandon's case, it's obviously not a case of being able to kick it high enough or far enough, but when you're one out of seven kicking field goals, it just doesn't cut it… We're fortunate that it hasn't cost us more than it's cost us already."
If Burkhart does in fact win the kicking job this week, Walker would assume the kickoff duties.
"What I don't want to do is I don't want to overload one guy to put both on him. So I think that if Ryan ended up kicking field goals, I would think that Brandon would end up kicking off," Weis said.
Weis is perplexed by the fact that Walker is a perfect 18 of 18 on extra points, but said that his first thought is that Walker would continue to handle PATs.
"That obviously hasn't been the problem, which is one of my problems," Weis laughed. "One of my problems is that kicking extra points has not been a problem, so why are kicking field goals such a problem?"
This week marks the first time that a Notre Dame football team with a 4-1 record has been unranked. The head coach believes that the Irish are close to breaking into the rankings and would probably do so with a win at Chapel Hill next weekend.
"Looking at the number of teams that have been going in and out of the bottom 15 to 25 range, I'd say you're on the cusp. You're one of those teams that are in the conversation at least," he said. "I can't worry about the polls, but if you go beat North Carolina at North Carolina, I'd say the odds of you being in the top 25 are good."
With a perfect home record and a loss in the only road game, motivation will be easy for Weis this weekend.
"When they walk in there on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30, the team top ten will come out, ‘Number One: Can we win on the road?'" said Weis. "That's obviously going to be the message of the week."
While the Irish have already surpassed last year's win total, there are plenty of things for Notre Dame to work on. According to its leader, the Irish need to get better in every facet of the game, offense, defense and special teams.
"There are so many things from this game that we have to get better at," Weis said. "But when you won it's easier to bring them in there and say, ‘We've got to do this better, we have to do this better. This is what we're going to do about this, this is what we're going to do about that.' Start telling them what the problems are, showing them what the problems are and coming up with some answers."
Jimmy Clausen's career day came with Golden Tate having just three catches for 30 yards. With Clausen showing that he is capable of going through his progressions, the staff does not feel the need to do anything out of the ordinary to get the ball to Tate.
"Right now, our quarterback knows how to read coverages, so I'd rather throw it the open guy," Weis said. "I don't mind throwing it to number 11 (David Grimes) and I don't mind throwing it to number 3 (Michael Floyd) and I don't mind throwing it to number 9 (Kyle Rudolph) and I don't mind throwing it to number 5 (Allen). So, those guys are usually all out there at the same time. So rather than say, ‘How am I going to get the ball to 23 (Tate)?' We're going to throw it to where the coverage dictates us going."
Weis admitted that the staff had discussed the possibility of moving wide receiver Duval Kamara to tight end, but that the difference in positions is greater than some would believe.
"We talked about that when we had all these situations taking place. We talked about that because he certainly would like to eat himself into a tight end," Weis joked. "It's totally different having to put your hand down on the ground, being in a three-point stance and having a defensive end in your face right now. Duval is a very willing blocker, but it's totally different when you're doing it in a two-point stance than at the point of attack with a guy that outweighs you by 60 pounds."
Clausen continues to be compared favorably to his predecessor Brady Quinn, but Weis hesitated to offer any areas where the sophomore has already exceeded Quinn, saying "It's too early." However, Weis continues to see the growth of his current signal-caller as a leader.
"It seems like almost every week he's taking more and more of that role," Weis said before offering an example on an incomplete pass to Tate. "Golden doesn't really bust out of the route, he kind of was surprised the ball was coming to him. This is the first drive of the second half. The first pass we throw, it's a first-down completion basically uncovered over there. When (Clausen) came off the field he went to (Tate) and said, ‘You've got to go full speed on every play.'
"That's a good constructive criticism remark from a quarterback to a wide receiver. He wasn't hanging him out to dry, he wasn't blaming him. He said, ‘You've got to expect the ball, I'm coming to you, I'm counting on you.' I think that when the receivers know that the quarterback is counting on them usually good things are happening."
Will Yeatman's status is still in limbo and although he knows there is nothing he can do it about it, it is frustrating for the head coach.
"I want to either know I have him or know I don't have him," Weis said. "He will practice tomorrow as if he's playing in the game this week."
Almost 24 hours after the game, Weis still had some issues with the officiating. After watching the tape, he said that at least two of the three holding penalties against his team seemed justified, but he was still miffed about the false start calls against Clausen.
"We do that all of the time, sometimes we do it, sometimes we don't," Weis said of the Irish's double cadence where Clausen changes the play at the line. "So we do the same exact thing in the second half that we've been doing for four and a half games, nothing has changed. All of a sudden it's a penalty."
A flag was thrown on Stanford for an illegal substitution, but was picked up when it was ruled that the Cardinal never broke the huddle. Weis said that he has been unable to locate any such rule.
"The answer I was given, we have not found in the rule book," said Weis, who has a call into the Big East offices. "What he told me is that they had 12 in the huddle, but they called timeout before they broke the huddle, therefore there is no penalty. I said that there is no rule that I have ever read that says that. The rule says… it's either two or three seconds, if you have 12 guys in the huddle for three seconds, it's an infraction. I don't know, there might be some double-secret rule that I haven't been able to find. We scoured the rule book today, it might exist, but we just have not been able to find that rule."
Weis also had a problem with the clock on the Irish's final possession. After a 3rd-and-short play, the clock stood at 0:37, which with a 40-second play clock and Stanford without any timeouts should have meant the end of the game.
"I think we got a little shafted on the clock to be honest with you," he said. "I figured out the time on the clock, we weren't even running another play. We weren't running another play, the clock was over, I already had the 40-second deal. Now they call for a measurement, so they stop the clock and reset it at 25 seconds. I was already walking across the field to go shake (Jim Harbaugh's) hand."
When asked if Notre Dame could have refused a measurement, Weis made light of a situation on the opposite sideline.
"I don't think that would have gone over too well and I didn't have a hat to throw," he laughed.
Weis said that he did talk to Clausen about the situation after the game with Harbaugh, but did not want to elaborate.
"We discussed it," he said. "There's always two sides to a story. At this point it's better for me, at this point to let it go."