Charlie Weis feels good about what his team has shown through a week of spring practice.
"The arrow is pointing up in a lot of different directions across the board," he said.
But one of Weis' pre-spring objectives was for the team to become more mature and that was not shown during Saturday's practice.
"I was dissatisfied today with a walkthrough period and you never should be dissatisfied with a walkthrough period," Weis said. "There were just too many people that weren't focused in on running the plays.
"That means that you still have a number of players that still haven't turned the corner yet…It means we have a ways to go."
The Irish still have a ways to go in regard to their offensive installation too, but they are not off schedule.
"We're still going through a couple more days of situational installation," said Weis. "By Wednesday of this week we'll have finished going through third down, red zone, short yardage, goal line, all of those last few aspects of installation."
The Irish offense struggled against the defense during the scrimmage portion of Saturday's practice, but Weis will try to even it up next week.
"Because we blitz so much, it puts the offense in such a gross disadvantage, for one of the few times since I've been here we're going to turn the offensive players free for next Saturday and let them cut the whole day," said Weis. "You're watching Brian Smith looking like he's getting a sack on a play that he's going to get cut.
"Part of the problem when you're trying to protect your players' knees a little bit is that sometimes the competitive advantage or disadvantage becomes a little bit too much. That's why we're going to turn them free next Saturday after we finish the next couple of days."
Notre Dame needs to take advantage of its next week or so of spring because the end will come fast.
"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 to the Wednesday afterward," Weis said. "You come back that Wednesday afterward, all you've got left is the day before the spring game and the spring game."
Weis offered up a number of players on both sides of the ball who have impressed him during the spring, but few were surprises. The head coach has been pleased with Darrin Walls' return to the team and Harrison Smith's return to the secondary.
"Darrin Walls being in such good shape. That's not a surprise, but that was more of a hope that he would look that good coming back, like he hadn't missed a beat," Weis said. "Another one that's not necessarily a surprise, but that Harrison looked so comfortable back there at safety. I wouldn't call that a surprise."
"Obviously me putting Kapron in there with the starting group with the initial depth chart, it's not a surprise that he's playing well, but at least he is playing well," said Weis. "One guy who has probably shown up a lot for us that has 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 give us a little bit more of position flexibility."
The most important position on offense this offseason is left tackle, where Paul Duncan is trying to replace Michael Turkovich, who exhausted his eligibility last season. Weis was not able to say Duncan's name because the process of applying for his fifth year of eligibility is still pending, but it was clear who he was speaking of.
"There's 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," said Weis. "Joseph Fauria is really pushing [Mike] Ragone for that second tight end spot."
"Robby Parris has done a nice job for us with all the transition with all of these receivers," said Weis. "He's really held the fort with these guys while guys are going in and out especially with Michael, Duval and Golden."
Tate is spending most of the spring with baseball, although he will be back for the team's next practice on Monday, while Floyd and Kamara are nursing injuries.
"Floyd has a strained quad and Duval has a strained hammy," said Weis.
Notre Dame is experimenting with moving James Aldridge from halfback to fullback and so far it is going well. Weis said that with Aldridge playing both running back spots, it will give the Irish the ability to put two running backs on the field without the defense knowing if one of them will line up at receiver.
"Now all of a sudden you're running or passing against base defense because you have a base offensive personnel group out there without a putting a lesser-skilled player in a position to do that," he said. "I think there's some serious options that would open up if this continues to move in the direction it's going right now."
Weis also talked about the development of Jimmy Clausen as a leader. Earlier in the week, Clausen talked about how his head coach was working with him to stay involved with his teammates even when things are not going perfect.
"It's easy for everyone to be a bandwagon guy when things are going good," said Weis. "But when you come off the field if something bad just happened, regardless if it was you or somebody else, you have to be a guy just like a coach that is saying, ‘OK, let's go fellas.' Or, ‘Wake the heck up.'
"You also can't fake your personality and I think that he needs to understand that he can't just go sit down on the bench. The quarterback just can't go do that or he can go do that just to collect his thoughts, but then he's got to get up and start picking everyone up. That's part of being a leader as a quarterback."
Weis is not worried about Clausen having enough time to get both himself and his teammates straight.
"We're the king of the TV timeout in case you didn't know,' he laughed. "So there's plenty of time for him to collect his thoughts and still go to work at getting the team ready to go for the next drive."
The head coach used Saturday's Irish Eyes drill as an opportunity to teach early enrollee Tyler Stockton an early lesson. Stockton got beat by guard Chris Stewart and the senior-to-be made sure to tell the newcomer all about it. Weis stopped the drill to speak with Stockton.
"I just said, ‘That's not the way you're ever going to make it around here if you let that happen,'" said Weis. "Not that I'm looking to instigate, but at the same time it was a perfect coaching point for him, saying, ‘You're going to have my blessing in that situation. He's standing over, he's in the wrong. Don't count on Brian Smith or somebody else to have to come to the rescue, stand up and defend yourself.'"