Charlie Weis was not happy when his offense got whipped in an offense-defense scrimmage two Saturdays ago, so this past Saturday he had the units bang heads again, only this time the offense was allowed to cut. Weis was much more pleased with the result.
"I think the day was pretty even," said Weis, who admitted that the defense came out fast before the Irish offense developed its running game.
"I think it went back and forth then for the rest of the scrimmage and ended up with a significant play by Jimmy to Duval for a touchdown on the last play," said Weis. "As coaches you always want no mental errors, but the number of mental errors went down.
"I was a lot more pleased than I was the previous Saturday, mainly because I thought it was very competitive."
Probably the best thing about the scrimmage was the fact that Notre Dame did not lose a player because of cut blocking.
"We've got guys banged up, but none of them were due to cut blocks," said Weis.
Weis updated the injuries of center Dan Wenger (hip), running back James Aldridge (shoulder) and wide receiver Deion Walker (Achilles, calf). Weis said that all three have missed time, but does not believe that any of the injuries are too serious.
When asked about what had impressed him thus far in the spring, Weis held out judgment on the Irish passing attack because so many receivers had been out with injuries or, in Golden Tate's case, baseball. But the head coach did acknowledge that the running game is coming along.
"I expected us to be better at running the ball and I think we'll be better at running the ball," he said.
Defensively, the thing that has stood out has been the speed.
"The thing that has been glaringly obvious is how fast they're playing and they're playing very fast," said Weis. "Easily the fastest we've been since I've been here."
Weis cautioned that the defense has to make sure it stays in its running lanes and not let that speed be used against it.
"With young defensive linemen you've got to make sure that when you're bringing heat as much as we bring heat, you don't let them run right by you," he said.
The head coach singled out offensive lineman Andrew Nuss as an individual who has impressed him.
"There's the name of a guy that we've probably never talked about, but if we were playing a game today with guys being banged up and not being in, he'd probably be our sixth player," said Weis. "There's a guy that coming into this camp, I would not have given you that as a name. But coming out of it, I would definitely say that I think our coaching staff would have confidence that we could play him in a game and there wouldn't be a huge dropoff in performance."
Monday's practice featured the return of Tate, from baseball, and Michael Floyd, who did not participate in Saturday's scrimmage because of injury. With the wideouts back, Notre Dame was able to work on multiple wide receiver sets on offense and multiple defensive back sets on defense.
Tate was his usual playmaking self on Monday, although it was clear that he was not in game condition.
"He's still a dynamic speed guy. To be honest with you, I think the thing he is missing the most is stamina," said Weis. "Baseball and football are two different sports and I think just the stamina involved with going multiple plays I think more than anything else."
The coach noticed the receiver looking for a breather after about five or six plays during the team session.
"He was looking for a relief pitcher," laughed Weis. "He's catching the ball great, he's getting open, but I think the one thing he would admit is that he's lacking a little stamina right now."
With only four practices left this spring, including the Blue-Gold Game, Weis is hurrying to get in all of the things that he needs to get in.
"We really only have two legitimate practices left, this Wednesday and the following Wednesday," he said.
Notre Dame will use that time to put in red zone, goal line, third down as well as special team situations and things that will not be seen in the spring game.
"There's plenty of stuff that you'll never show until you're playing games, so you have to get that stuff done too," said Weis.
Two things that can wait are the selections of team captains and members of the leadership committee.
"Normally I would do it by the end of the spring," said Weis. "I think we might carry it right into training camp before we vote for captains and the leadership committee because there's a lot of contenders."