Weis Offers Early Evaluations

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis met with the media following Friday's practice. Weis addressed a number of issues including his recent piece on ESPN.com, early evaluations and more spring standouts.

Charlie Weis opened his doors a couple of weeks back to ESPN.com writer Ivan Maisel, who penned a somewhat flattering piece on Weis and the Notre Dame program.

According to Weis, the story along with him being featured as SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation were the final pieces of him repairing his relationship with ESPN after previous issues, but he decided not to offer too many details.

"Everyone kind of knows my personal feelings that I had toward that organization and I think we've kind of cleared the air with that organization," Weis said. "Without going into any details, we've kind of cleared the air some to kind of move forward.

"That was just kind of the end of that process to clear the air."

The Irish will scrimmage tomorrow and Weis is hoping that he will get a better idea of where the team is when the offense is allowed to cut defenders.

"You don't want to root for offense or defense, you want to look for production," he said. "If I can walk out of there with few mental mistakes and a clean operation and see production regardless of where it's coming from, that's what I'm looking for."

Weis evaluates the offensive linemen during practices and looks at the defense afterward, but on Saturday, he will get a chance to see them go head-to-head.

"I'm not necessarily looking for the 15 offensive linemen that are going out there," he said. "I might be looking for the eight offensive linemen. Who's the backup tackle, is it a backup left tackle and right tackle? Who's the backup guard? Who's the backup center? Of the front line guys, do we have them placed right? Is it a slam dunk lock at a position?"

Weis is predicting that the defensive line will be as deep as any that he has coached at Notre Dame.

"With the youth that we have on the defensive line, I think that it is going to allow us to roll some people in and out of there and be a little bit fresher than we've been in the past," he said.

One of the players who has added to that depth is Hafis Williams, who worked on the scout team as a freshman last season.

"The one thing that was constant with Hafis, he went as hard or harder than anyone in practice every single day. Every offensive lineman will tell you that he was a pain in the butt," said Weis. "He only knew one speed and it was 100 miles per hour. I wish everyone would play on the show team at that same speed and the show team would be that much better.

"I think that he benefited greatly from going against the good guys all year long and not backing down. I think that's one of the reasons why he's so strongly in the competition right now."

Weis is confident that the defense as a whole will have a different look next season.

"I was talking to Coach Parcells the other day and he asked about the defense. Of course, he could care less about the offense," said Weis. "I said, ‘Well, we're experienced in the secondary, we're young upfront and we've got a bunch of guys that can run.'

"He said, ‘Man, does that go against the prototype at Notre Dame.'"

Linebacker Toryan Smith and receiver Rob Parris were singled out by Weis at the end of Friday's practice. Parris has done a nice job filling in for receivers and Weis is confident that Smith will be a contributor.

"I don't know if he's going to be a starter, I don't know how much he's going to play," Weis said of Smith. "But I know one thing, when we play against Nevada, he'll be on the field."

Offensively, Weis has been impressed with tight end Mike Ragone, who is coming off of knee surgery in August.

"He's just rallied recently. I think that when he first come back he was a little bit afraid, not afraid of playing football, just of having one knee and shortly after that having another knee," said Weis. "When you first put the stuff on and you go out there and you start hitting each other, I think he was a little bit anxious early on. But the last couple of days have probably been the best couple of practices that he's had the entire camp."

Joseph Fauria and walk-on Bobby Burger have also been impressive in their first spring practices.

"The arrow is pointing straight up on Joseph," Weis said. "You can throw Bobby Burger into this mix. Very seldom do I call out a walk-on this early, but I'm not going to be afraid to play this kid."

Weis ran the offensive scout team for a period everyday last season and Burger shined in his first year after transferring from Dayton.

"Almost everyday, the two guys that would stand out would be Jonas Gray and Bobby Burger," said Weis.

After freshman Kyle Rudolph was the only tight end that the Irish could count on last season, Notre Dame now has a full unit with the return of Ragone and the maturity of Fauria and Burger.

"You go from one that can play to three or four that you can put on the field and it gives you a lot more flexibility," said Weis. "It opens up a whole personnel grouping and a number of things that you can do from that personnel grouping."

The coach has also seen a renewed focus from Dayne Crist, who took the majority of first-team reps on Friday to give Jimmy Clausen a break.

"I think he was worrying too much early in camp about just beating out Jimmy rather than getting Dayne better," said Weis. "Let's not worry about who the starting quarterback is because right now it's him, it's not you. I think that helped him."

Both Crist and Clausen have had to deal with receivers shuffling in and out of practice with injuries.

"The quarterback, probably, is the one that gets more frustrated than anything," said Weis. "You read the coverage right and you go to the right spot and you have a lesser guy who is getting wired at the line of scrimmage where with one of the normal guys, you just know that it would be a throw-and-catch situation."

Weis said that Deion Walker has been nicked up, but has not missed anytime. Kapron Lewis-Moore is out with a foot injury that will not require surgery, but will be rested. Sergio Brown missed Friday's practice for a family wedding and Taylor Dever missed last weekend's practices for a similar reason.

Notre Dame will give wide receiver John Goodman a shot at playing quarterback in a couple of weeks. On Wednesday, April 15, Goodman will spend the entire individual period with the quarterbacks. Safety Dan McCarthy may get a similar look in the future.

"I think that Goody and Danny are both so much into the mix at receiver and safety that right now I don't want to pull them away from them trying to get themselves on the depth chart at the position they regularly play," said Weis.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories