Charlie, you are almost halfway through spring practice. What are your impressions and are you meeting your objectives?"We're still going through a couple more days of situational installation. Like you see today, we didn't practice third down because all we've done on third down so far is pass in little deeper situations, then third in one or two and three. We've been in third and five plus, so Wednesday of this week we will have finished going through third down and red zone, short yardage, goal line, those last few aspects of installation that we have to get through. The problem we have is that we have until a week from Wednesday to kind of get settled in really for good, because then there is an entire week off from that Wednesday prior to Easter till the Wednesday afterwards. Then you come back that Wednesday afterwards and all you have left is the day before the spring game and the spring game. So, I really think we are a couple days away from being settled in on all aspects of the situational football. Another thing is because we blitz so much, it puts the offense at such a gross disadvantage. For one of the few times since I've been here, we're going to turn the offensive players free next Saturday and let them cut the whole day because even when you watch there, you're watching Brian Smith like he's getting a sack on a play that he's going to get cut. So I'm trying to say without giving him up in front of everyone, I'm saying pull off the quarterback. You know he's going to end up cutting you there and he's saying, ‘I'm trying to pull off him,' and I said, ‘Yeah, right.' You can hear that conversation. I think that's part of the problem when you're trying to protect your players' knees a little bit is that sometimes you get the competitive advantage or disadvantage becomes a little bit too much. So that's why we are going to turn them free next Saturday after we have finished the next couple of days. As far as the objectives go, I think the arrow is pointing up in a lot of different directions across the board with the objectives. But I think specifically I was a little dissatisfied today. I'm going to be more specific here. I was dissatisfied today with a walk-through period. You should never be dissatisfied with a walk-through period because a walk-through period is a teaching period. And a teaching period right before we went to team, Ron's (Powlus) giving them numbers and we're going through some plays right there. There were just too many people who weren't focused in on running the plays. I'm getting to my maturity aspect. You know maturity was one of the main things I was worried about. That means you still have a number of players who haven't turned the corner yet. Because in a walk-through period, when your whole point of emphasis is focused on mental sharpness and they come out there and have that many mistakes, that means we have a ways to go yet."
I noticed all the coaches had headsets on today. Did you do this last year?"What ended up happening is there would be a problem getting the play communicated to all the coaches because last year it would be Corwin (Brown) and Michael (Haywood) and they would give the corresponding things to the defense and the offense but it wouldn't necessarily get to the coaches fast enough where they could give it to the players fast enough. So the reason we did it this year when I called something or Jon (Tenuta) called something, now the assistant coaches immediately knew what the call was. It's not so much for the guys that are in the huddle, it's so the guys on the sideline know what the play is and can get a mental rep when the play is going on. We felt that was an area where too many people would end up missing an opportunity in a situation like that."
What is going on with Michael Floyd?"Floyd has a strained quad. Duval Kamara has a hammie. So they both went through individual periods, but it was one of those ones where I wasn't going to go the last half hour Saturday practice and ruin all of next week. That's what it was, Michael has a strained quad and Duval has a strained hammie."
I noticed the first string defensive line had some of the young guys on it today. How is that coming along?"As you looked out there today, you probably saw Ethan (Johnson) moved out to end and Hafis (Williams) running in there with the first group. I think there have been guys who have put themselves in a position that has given us a little flexibility to move some people around. I'll cite Hafis is one of them. Hafis isn't a big name around here but he has been one of the guys in practice for the last week that just keeps on showing up which, if that is the case, allows you to get bigger by putting Ethan out at end. Now all of a sudden you have a bigger guy out there - an athletic, big guy out there - that can really help us in base defenses."
Will Ethan be playing on the outside or will he move inside also?"This is the first week we've put him out there in base defense, but in nickel he moves inside anyway. So both he and Kapron (Lewis-Moore), I don't know if you noticed but the first nickel, he and Kapron were the first inside guys, so they are both playing defensive end in base but when we go to nickel, we get them inside both potential three techniques and then get more edge pressure when we get speed rushers in there."
Have there been some guys who have surprised you or jumped out at you?"I could start with the obvious one being Darrin Walls being in such good shape. Now that's not a surprise, but it was more of a hope that he would look that good coming back like he hadn't missed a beat. Another one that is not so much a surprise is Harrison (Smith) looks so comfortable back there at safety. I wouldn't call that a surprise but obviously me putting Kapron in there with the starting group in the initial depth chart. It is not a surprise that he is playing well, but at least he is playing well. One guy who has probably showed up a lot for us and kind of helped us out a little bit is Toryan (Smith) which has allowed us to move Brian (Smith) around a little bit more and gives us position flexibility with Brian as well. On the offensive side of the ball, there is a left tackle that has been one of the more pleasant people for me to look at so far in camp. It's been a good thing to watch. Rudy is Rudy (Kyle Rudolph). Joseph Fauria is really pushing (Mike) Ragone for that second tight end spot. Robbie Parris has really done a nice job for us with all the transition with all these receivers. He has really sort of held the fort for all these guys while guys have been going in and out, especially with Michael and Duval and Golden (Tate). Golden is back on Monday, but put him in the mix as well."
Where does Brian Smith fit in as a leader?"As far as playing on the field, we don't have any more heart and soul of the defense than Brian. He was a little bit that way last year - even though Mo (Crum) was the revered guy that everyone looked up to - because he plays the game with such passion. He just plays with passion and has fun doing it. It's too quick for me to judge where this is all going to end up, but you would hope he would be one of the guys that continues to move toward the forefront."
Is his maturity showing up?"We'll see by the end of the spring. The arrow is pointing up right now; there's no wavering on that one. You'd have to say, the arrow is clearly pointing up."
How is Toryan Smith moving around helped out?"(Steve) Filer's been moving around too. He has bounced around now between Will and Sam, one standing inside and the other is standing on the line of scrimmage. As Toryan has become more of a steady player, it allows us to move some people around and take a look at a couple people."
How long did it take you to comprehend all that comes with being the Notre Dame head football coach?"I don't think you are ever done evolving in that role. I think when you first come in to any job, especially from an assistant coach to a head coach, there is that level of transition. You do wear an awful lot of hats here and it's a never-ending process to be perfectly honest with you. I think one of the things that I have been able to do better as the years go on is to continue to evolve along with the job."
Would you like to comment about Trevor Robinson's hair?"No (laughing). I'll tell you what; I've got some beauties don't I (laughing)? I have quite the contingent. Whether it be (Eric) Olsen or Trevor, every day I turn around it's somebody new I'm dealing with. Harrison Smith, just put them all in that group right there."
What does James Aldridge bring to the fullback position?"The good thing is, now James is repping in there and that will eventually allow you to put in formations where you can take somebody like Armando (Allen) and line Armando out of the backfield; now all of a sudden you are running or passing against base defense because you have a base offensive personnel group out there without putting a lesser skilled player in a position to be able to do that. I think there are some serious options that would open up if this continues to move in the direction that it is going."
How do you factor Manti's (Te'o) potential into the linebackers' situation?"Well, you see Manti is a person that can play Sam, Mike, or Will. He could play any of those positions, so I think what you do is find where you are most vulnerable, where are you weakest, and then put him in a position where he can compete at that position. I think we are a long way away from having those answers yet. Remember Darius (Fleming) isn't out there hitting every day. He is another guy who is a potential Sam linebacker as was listed on the depth chart. I think by the time spring is over and all of a sudden it's summertime and he's in here too, you have to see where you find yourself most vulnerable. He has position flexibility which gets you an opportunity to at least put him in a position to compete relatively quickly."
How are you going to insulate Manti from all the fanfare?"He's a different kid now. He just says, ‘Hey, Coach Charlie Weis.' He doesn't call me Coach Weis. Coach Charlie Weis. I think he understands what he is getting into. I think it may be a bit overwhelming when he is away from the Gug, but I think once he gets here for football, he is such a level-headed kid for his age, he'll handle it just fine."
How has Ron Powlus helped Jimmy Clausen in regards to being the Notre Dame quarterback on and off the field?"No one was more maligned than Ron was. He didn't have a free pass for the four years that he was here. Jimmy has taken quite the beating figuratively and literally and some of it is justifiably so and some of it isn't, but that's not the point. The point is that Ron, having lived that life already, I think has been a great sounding board to push him to the point where he is right now. He's at a different point right now than he has ever been before. There are things that Jimmy already has readily admitted that he has had to change to just get to that next level himself. Ron has been a great resource for him in doing that. You want to know something? No matter how much advice I want to give him about what it takes to be a great quarterback, I didn't play. So I think having him there in that position is a big plus."
Have you talked to Jimmy about the process of being a leader in good times and bad times?"What I have said to him is that it is easy for everyone to be a bandwagon guy when things are going good, but when you come off the field and something bad has happened, regardless of whether it was you or someone else, you have to be a guy just like a coach that's saying, ‘Okay, let's go fellows. Wake the heck up.' Regardless of what needs to be said, you can't fake your personality. I think he needs to understand he can't just go sit down on the bench. The quarterback just can't go do that. Now, he can go do that just to collect his thoughts, but then he has to get up and start picking everybody up because that's part of being a leader as a quarterback."
How do you get a balance of time for collecting your thoughts and also being a get-up-and-go leader?"I think it's definitely good to give them time to collect their thoughts, but collecting your thoughts for 10 minutes while the defense is on the field is a little different. We are the king of the TV timeouts, as if you didn't know (laughing). So there is plenty of time for him to collect his thoughts and still go to work and get the team ready to go for the next drive."