IE Notebook

Today's notebook looks at the results of offensive coordinator Mike Haywood's self-scout and how close Haywood came to working for Ty Willingham at Notre Dame. Also, what Notre Dame players took in an SEC game over the bye week and who are the latest freshmen to prove to the staff that they are ready to go?

Charlie Weis left the self-analysis of the team over the bye week up to his coordinators.

"I made the staffs do due diligence and all I did was reap the benefits of being able to read the summary," Weis said.

On Tuesday evening we heard from Michael Haywood on the results of the offense's self-scout.

"We discovered some technique issues that we had in running various plays in which we spent significant time on last week to correct. We also discovered that there are certain plays that we may not be running enough," said Haywood. "A run play might be averaging 6.5 or 7 yards a carry. It may be a check play, but we may not be running it enough. So instead of it being a check play, it'll be a play that we call."

The offensive staff went over every snap, run and pass, thus far in the season and after critiquing everything, some stuff was thrown out.

"It just provides you an opportunity to know who you are a little bit better," said Haywood.

Haywood also had the offensive assistants evaluate him while the offensive coordinator's own evaluation was simple: "Not as good as I should."

Haywood and the offensive coaches placed a large emphasis on the red zone where the Irish are scoring just 54.5% of the time. Notre Dame has 12 scores in 22 red zone trips, all touchdowns.

"There's some plays that we need to get to a little bit more as we talk about staple plays. Running those a little bit more and formation them differently so that they look like they're different plays but they're the same thing. Throwing those a little bit more in the high red as opposed to creating new plays for the defenses," said Haywood. "Also, in a similar situation repping more plays in practice in which the quarterback becomes more comfortable with. In the medium red do the things that we do best to get us into the low red because low red has been really good for us."

Haywood talked about how Notre Dame breaks the red zone up into high, medium and low zones with six to eight plays per area.

"Our red zone is divided into three categories and then goal line is divided into its own separate category. Defensive coordinators change, maybe at the 20 they're playing something, when they're at the 12 they're playing different coverages or different fronts," he said. "Blitz percentages change so what we do is we go into it and we say, ‘What are the things that we're doing well? What are the things that have been most successful?' Then we try to make sure that we do those things and we get better at the things that we've limited."

HAYWOOD AND TY: Much of the talk heading into the game this week centers on Weis and Washington coach Ty Willingham. But while Weis and Willingham don't have much of a relationship, Haywood and Willingham were almost linked at one point.

"I know Coach. I wouldn't say that I know him well, but we've sat down numerous times and conversated," said Haywood before being asked if he had ever talked about working with Willingham. "I would say that's a true fact. The year before I came here I was offered a job here and I stayed at Texas instead of coming."

Haywood talked about what went into the decision of not returning to his alma mater in 2004, one year before choosing to come back.

"It just wasn't time for me to move. I'd only been at Texas for one year and I learned from Lou that whenever you give a commitment you at least should honor your commitment for two years," said Haywood. "So it just wasn't time for me to move. But I think he's a wonderful man, I think he's a great guy. The last time I sat down and talked with him we were at this future head coaches meeting and he had come to speak. I sat there in the back of the room with him and talked to him at least for 45 minutes to an hour and he's a great guy."

Haywood is familiar with all of the key characters in the Washington program and does not envy the tough positions that they are in.

"It's a really tough situation because the president was an LSU guy when I was there, the new AD Scott Woodward is one of my best friends and I think Coach Willingham is a wonderful man, so it's a tough situation for everyone," he said. "So I feel for them all."

Haywood may feel for them, but he stopped worrying about them well before game day.

"But we have a job to do. Friendships and those things, feelings that you have for other people are on the back burner and they really don't matter," he said. "No, I don't worry about it now. I think about it when it's over, but I don't worry about it now. Because there's nothing I can do about it."

GOALS FOR THE SECOND HALF: With the bye week coming smack in the middle of the season it gives Notre Dame the chance to break the year into two halves. Weis talked about how expectations have risen since the start of the season.

"Two months ago we were here. Now at the halfway mark of the year, we've raised the bar to here. So now that's where we're starting from now," said Weis. "We're not starting from back down here again. So now you've raised the bar to here, so really, Washington is the first opportunity you have to take a step forward from where you've raised that bar."

Weis offered a pair of key things that he wants to see out of his team in the second half.

"There's two obvious ones that you could state, but without getting too specific, the two obvious ones are the fact that unlike the first half of the season where you played four games at home and two games on the road, the second half of the season you're going to have four games on the road and two games at home," he said. "So I think that the first thing you're going to have to do, and it starts this week against Washington, is go away from the can you win on the road question mark and start making the statement that you can. In other words, I want to eliminate the question mark and start doing something about it. And I think that this week's game gives you an opportunity to start in the right direction.

"Secondly, I think that it's really important in the composition of the schedule to realize there's no more byes here now. This is six weeks here, not like let's play to that four-day weekend off. I think what they need to realize is we've gotten to the point we are now to put us in a position where we can make this season into a pretty solid season. You'd better get off to a quick start or else you could find yourself wallowing around just like we were at different times last year. So we want to make sure that the second half of the year start is just as important as the first half of the year start was."

Sophomore running back Armando Allen had a short list just like his head coach.

"Our biggest thing to accomplish is going out there and playing Notre Dame football," he said. "Going out there and playing hard on every play, not giving up and not overlooking anybody and not underlooking anybody. I think that's very, very important."

IRISH CAN RELATE TO WINLESS HUSKIES: Notre Dame lost its first five games of the 2007 season, so the Irish understand what 0-6 Washington is going through. The Irish believe that this should prevent them from being complacent.

"We were in the same situation last year so we know how important it is for them to get that win," said right tackle Sam Young. "They played BYU right down to the wire so we're going to come out and we're going to take care of what we need to take care of."

"We've been there where we've struggled," Golden Tate said. "Actually looking at film, I thought they're corners were pretty good guys. They're fast, they have top-end speed and they're physical. We're going into the game like it's important, we must win this game."

Weis is hoping that the self-analysis will keep his players focused on what they to do rather than the opponent.

"We can't worry about Washington because we've got more problems worrying about us. We've had time to go ahead and analyze us and see where we are and get well-rested and all those other things, and we're just dialing up the schedule, and Washington is up first," he said. "I think that in a normal case, if this were like in the normal flow of things where you had just finished a game and now you're, boom, going into the next game, that could have been the case. But because of how the framework worked out where you ended up having a bye before that took place, I think it kind of alleviates -- kind of downplays the possibility of that coming to fruition."

IRISH CHECK OUT VOLS: A few Notre Dame players headed down to Tennessee to watch the Vols beat Mississippi State during the bye week. Jimmy Clausen, Duval Kamara and Brian Smith joined Allen and Tate in Knoxville for the game on Saturday.

"It was just great to get away and to actually watch a game instead of being on the field and embrace the atmosphere there," said Allen. "I tried to watch the game as a fan."

But for Allen, the game was not the best part.

"The food, the food, the food was obviously the best part," he said.

Allen said that the Irish players did not draw too much attention.

"For the most part I think we stayed low key," he said. "It was just something we just came upon and we figured we'd do it."

Tate seemed more impressed with the atmosphere at Neyland Stadium after a Tennessee touchdown than Allen.

"The stadium was shaking, it was shaking and I couldn't hear myself think," he laughed.

DUNCAN OUT, GRIMES DOUBTFUL: Weis explained that offensive lineman Paul Duncan is out for the year after having hip surgery and that David Grimes will be listed as doubtful this weekend as he continues to struggle with back spasms. Duncan is a senior, but could be eligible for a fifth year in 2009.

"Paul Duncan this morning had his hip -- he had cartilage repaired in his hip. He'll be gone for the year. We had that done this morning. We had several questions about this over the last bunch of weeks, and we decided over the last week to go ahead and have that done, so we had that done this morning. He's fine, and everything went well. But he'll miss the remainder of the season," said Weis. "(Grimes has) had this nagging back injury for a while, and I would list him as doubtful in this game...and then Luke Schmidt is still out indefinitely. That's still the case."

Weis said that Grimes' situation is a delicate one.

"What they do is sometimes when you have these spasms, they do things to try to get the spasms to go away, and the problem is they haven't gone away. The only thing that really helps at this point is rest. So you're in a catch-22. If he goes out there, he's not full speed," Weis said. "So I told him today I decided I'm going to rest him until they go away. Now, the sooner they go away, the faster we'll play him. He knows this is not about holding him, and he knows as soon as he's healthy we're going to put him in there. But at this point until they go away, I think that he'd be a lesser player than the guys that are behind him."

Grimes did practice on Tuesday, but we will monitor his health throughout the week.

MORE YOUNGSTERS READY: According to Weis, a few more freshmen have proven that they could play if needed, but he is just not sure that they're needed this year.

"Let me group two guys on offense and talk about one on defense, because -- let's talk about both the young wide receivers. OK, now, both the young wide receivers, meaning John (Goodman) and Deion (Walker), have made significant strides from when they first got here, to the point where if I had to play them in a game, I believe they would do just fine," he said. "If I had to play them in a game, I believe -- now, I would not have said that at the beginning of the year. But at this point right now, if I had to play them in a game, I think they would do just fine.

"Let me take Kapron Lewis-Moore. He's a very athletic guy who athletically we could get on the field right now. But is he going to be as good or better than the guys that are already out there playing? It's not a question of whether he'd be good enough to play. The question is do we gain anything from that being the case. But they're three guys that if we had to play them this week in a game, I'm convinced that all three of them could play in a game and do just fine."

Haywood also talked about the progress of some of the freshmen, saying that next year the media would be impressed.

"Next year you guys will say, ‘Well, what was this guy, why didn't he play?' And you'll be wondering what happened. Well, the bottom line is that these young men that are playing as freshmen now grasped the concept of offense a lot faster than some of the other guys and that's why they're maturing and having so much success," said Haywood. "Next year you'll say, ‘Wow, this guy's having a really good year.' Well, it may have taken him a little bit longer to grasp the concept. He may have played another position in high school and now he's trying to learn the position and then you're going to say, ‘Wow, he's a pretty good player too.'"

Asked point-blank if he too was referring to the two freshmen receivers, Haywood admitted he was.

"Yeah, they're going to be good players," he said. "They're going to be really special players."


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