Charlie Weis would have loved to use all 15 of the NCAA-allotted practices for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, but the schedule just did not allow him to do so. Still, the coach believes that his team will be plenty ready to take on the Warriors on Christmas Eve.
"We definitely feel for this game we've had more than enough to get ready for this game," he said. "Not getting all 15 is more toward the development of your guys."
Weis said that he could have squeezed in 15 practices, but placed academics ahead of what could have been gained with the extra sessions.
"I really had to place exams ahead of those extra football practices," he said. "I just don't think it's right to have kids taking exams and be running between exams and going to football practices."
The Irish had plenty of good practices leading up to the bowl, including a Thursday session when everyone was available because of the way that their class schedules fall. Weis put the players through two full-padded practices after getting into Honolulu early Saturday morning before a limited contact session on Monday.
"We had a very physical practice on Thursday and followed that up with a practice on Friday before we had the buses leave to the airport to come out here," he said. "Today I went with shoulder pads and shorts, but the last two days we were full pads and we were banging pretty good."
Unlike past bowl trips with Weis, Notre Dame's players have had plenty of free time in the afternoon to soak in the sun in Hawai'i.
"Everything this week has been in the morning so the preparation will be done on the front end to maximize the amount of time for the players to enjoy being here in wonderful Hawai'i," he said.
According to Weis, the time has been used wisely.
"It's been business and pleasure," he said.
One player who has not enjoyed Hawai'i is sophomore cornerback Gary Gray, who Weis said did not make the trip because of personal reasons.
"Personal reasons. Things like that really sometimes they're made to be bigger than they are," said Weis. "It's personal, he had to go home and I'm going to leave it at that."
Weis was non-committal on Gray's future with the Irish.
"He's home right now, so we have to wait and see what happens," he said. "Right now I'm just trying to get through this game. I can't be worrying about Gary, who is not here right now. I've got to worry about the guys that are here right now."
But Weis does not seem too concerned about what one less cornerback will mean for the Notre Dame defense even with Hawai'i's wide-open offense.
"Gary was not going to be a starter in this game with them spreading us out. He was a backup player. He was a backup player that probably was going to see some time in the game," he said. "Other than depth, you always want depth not to short-change that, but it has no bearing on our packages."
The return of injured senior cornerback Terrail Lambert eases Gray's absence.
"It's almost like a tradeoff. We've been playing without Lambert for the last few games, now we have him back," Weis said. "I would have liked to have both here, let me not kid myself."
Notre Dame will also get back freshman receiver Michael Floyd, junior receiver Rob Parris, sophomore running back Armando Allen and sophomore linebacker Brian Smith, who all suffered injuries in the late part of the season.
"They're all back," Weis said. "The only one that doesn't look full speed, even though he's ready to go is Robby. But Robby is ready to go too."
Weis took over the playcalling duties from offensive coordinator Michael Haywood before the Navy game and said it will remain the same for the bowl game, but added that there is no problem between himself and Haywood.
"Don't worry, Coach Haywood and I are on the same page on this one," he said. "That's the other thing you read when you do that, all of a sudden you're trying to run somebody out or there's a rift between you, but we couldn't be any closer than we are right now."
Weis rebuffed a further explanation as to why he would be calling plays.
"That's just the way it is, that's why," he said. "No further explanation. That's just the way we're doing it for this game and after this game we'll worry about next year."
Weis was also asked about the lack of production from the offense late in the season and quarterback Jimmy Clausen in particular.
"There came a turning point right about the two-thirds mark of the season where I think that Jimmy along with several players on the offense seemed to get out of synch so to speak," he said. "I think that ever since the last part of the year right through December we have been working on getting back into synch."
Weis said that while Clausen has struggled, his receivers have struggled as well and the head coach spent a large portion of practice time with the wideouts for the first time in ‘a long, long time.'
"Jimmy's part of the problem, but I think that all of the skill people are part of the problem and pressure is part of the problem as well," he said.
Clausen has tried to do too much at times, but that is not the only reason the offense sputtered, according to Weis.
"I can cite different things where sometimes it was he just overthrew a receiver, sometimes he forced the ball, sometimes a guy ran a crummy route," he said. "Some of them are his fault, some of them are things that he has to correct and some of them are things other people have to correct as well."
Weis was also asked about the nation's top prep linebacker, Manti Te'o, who has attended some of the Irish's practices since they arrived in Hawai'i.
"I can't mention any recruits that would be an NCAA violation," said Weis. "I can say that there's couple of dynamic players here on the islands that we would have a whole bunch of interest in. But I believe if Notre Dame isn't doing it the right way in recruiting than who is?"