Past, Present and Future

IrishEyes recaps Charlie Weis' Tuesday press conference with a two-part column focusing on Saturday, 2005, and the game's potential impact on the program's future.

Irish head coach Charlie Weis reflected on the ND/USC series' storied past while reiterating his belief that the '09 Irish are an improved group in today's crowded press conference at The Gug.

Oh yeah, there might be a few future Irish onhand Saturday in South Bend as well.

(Almost) All Hands on Deck

Weis began his weekly press conference with well-wishes for USC senior tailback Stafon Johnson who is out for the season after suffering a serious neck injury in a weightlifting accident prior to the Trojans October 3 game at California.

As USC's roster returns to health (most notably junior receiver Ronald Johnson who is expected to see his first action since suffering a broken collarbone in August), so too do the Irish after their Bye week respite.

"Everyone's a go," Weis answered when asked specifically about Jimmy Clausen (toe), Armando Allen (ankle) James Aldridge (shoulder) and Darius Fleming (hamstring). "As a matter of fact in warm-ups today you'll even see (Michael) Floyd out there in a uniform today. He won't be playing…but he looks like he might be ahead of schedule.

"Come November we might get him back playing again," offered Weis of his star receiver. "He can go out there – he can't catch balls but he can run around today.

As for the rest of the walking wounded.

"Jimmy's ‘Jimmy.' The turf toe is better but he'll have it until after the season. Fleming's back, Aldridge is back…they're all back."

Weis was understandably asked to clarify Floyd's status heading into the season's second half.

"Today is the first day we're letting him run around with pads so the players will be a little surprised.

"We're going to get another – I believe it's a CATscan – on the second of November. I think (November 1) would be six weeks (since Floyd's surgery). Based off the results of that CATscan, we would determine if and when we could get him back.

"Obviously, fingers crossed, the earliest we could get him back is Pittsburgh."

There's no Willis Reed moment on tap for Floyd Saturday, but his reported progress is encouraging news for Irish faithful.

A Nod to the Future

Notre Dame's biggest game of the 2009 season coincides with its most important, and busy, recruiting weekend.

"This is a very active week for us because we're playing against one of the best teams in the country and we have a ton of recruits coming in both officially and unofficially," Weis explained.

"When these kids want to come in for a visit during the academic year, well, they want to come in for a big game and what bigger game is there as far as buzz and everything else as this one?"

When asked to comment on the matchup's recent past and his(purported) mantra of "We need you" directed toward recruits following yet another Irish loss, Weis deferred his answer to focus on the overall Notre Dame experience.

"I'm counting on them to be caught up in the excitement of the day," he offered.

"When we bring them in for a recruiting weekend it's not just a game. There's academic support; admissions…there's a lot of things, besides them eating about eight times (jokingly). Every time I turn around they're eating another meal.

"With that being said there's more to a visit at Notre Dame than just a game. But we'd like to think we've already lived through the tough times. We're on the other side of that era. That era (came) and flipped and its going in the other direction."

The Hosts with the Most

Weis was asked if, as in recruiting weekends past, senior James Aldridge, sophomore Dayne Crist, and early enrollee freshman Tyler Stockton remain among the common players on which Weis would rely the most to entertain the school's honored guests.

"It really depends on the personality of the kid you have coming in. If a kid is a guy who wants to stay in and play video games…we have plenty of guys like that," Weis joked.

"Our job is to match personalities so when somebody is here they can hang with (kids) just like them. ‘Apples and Oranges doesn't make sense.'

"When you have over 100 guys on your team you have plenty of opportunity to mix and match and find people to deal with each specific recruit."

Everybody's Favorite Loss

Weis was asked about his memories of the '05 classic between the Irish and the Trojans, a contest in which USC prevailed 34-31 after eventual Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush pushed former Heisman winner Matt Leinart into the south end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

"Well from a recruiting standpoint I thought the atmosphere and the game itself was a benefit," Weis grudgingly admitted.

"Personally I can never forget how miserable I felt after the game was over. For everyone else they might have had a good time but I was absolutely just completely miserable."

Editor's Note: I can think of a few thousand other people off-hand that didn't have a "good time" that weekend either, actually…

Has Weis unearthed any of his now-famous motivational tactics from the '05 classic:

"I think it's easy to get up for a game vs. USC," Weis explained.

"We've done a number of things in the last two weeks working toward them. And you can get them (the players) to a fever pitch but you still have to go compete against USC Saturday. You can use a number of (tactics) as you get ready to go but its still one of the best teams in the country coming in here at 3:42."

Does Weis often think back to what could have been?

"We had chances to win the game (in '05) and we didn't and for me to reflect on that other than the disappointment and the emptiness that you felt from that game would be the wrong way to approach it.

"We had our opportunities. Hopefully the guys that were here in 2005, which there are a few, will remember how crummy they felt and hopefully it will help them this Saturday."

As for one positive from the deflating '05 defeat in South Bend?

"Well there's a whole bunch of the guys that are now currently in this 4th year class that were all on that visit. I can't name all of them because it was double digits.

"But a lot of them were there and a lot of them jumped onboard."

How About, You Know…Winning? Would that Help?

We've heard notable stories of Irish stars (Darius Walker visiting South Bend for the Florida State game in '03 and Michael Floyd in South Bend for USC in '07) that have signed with the Irish despite attending a brutal Notre Dame defeat.

So how much does good old-fashioned "winning" help a recruit make up his mind as he returns to his high school life?

"Sometimes (winning helps) yes," Weis responded. "That's a good question, because sometimes it really doesn't matter. Its all the other ingredients that come with a recruiting weekend. But there are several players that want to see if you're going to be good enough to compete at the top level.

"A lot of these guys that come in here, that's the caliber of player you're dealing with. The best of the best. So they want to see whether or not they can envision playing for Notre Dame with Notre Dame being one of those teams that's playing at the top level."

And the draw of playing at that level has permeated the Irish roster.

"Our players understand the importance of recruiting. Some of them really like to be involved. I'm not overly concerned that we won't be properly managing the recruiting weekend."

And how would a win Saturday impact the recruiting class of 2010?

"Obviously the positive residual effect from playing a great game this week could be tremendous for our recruiting process."

Weis also mentioned that his appointments with recruits on Sunday will take up most of the day, from "8 in the morning to 5 o'clock at night just so I can sit down and have a meeting with each guy after they've gone through Saturday."

As a result, the regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon meeting with the media has been canceled.

Stranger in a Strange Land

Weis was asked about his post-game foray into the victorious Trojans locker room falling the epic '05 battle in South Bend.

"It was really hard to do but it was also the right thing to do. A lot of times people don't like it when I bring my family into things but I thought as bad as I felt, I thought that the game was that great of a game (where the visit was warranted).

"I never can feel good about a loss but I thought it was a great teaching experience for my kid and I thought it was a great teaching experience for handling yourself under duress.

"So I just went over and congratulated them (USC) on the win and wished them well the rest of the year."

No Lying in the Weeds

Weis was reminded of Grass-Gate '05 and the claim that Notre Dame intentionally allowed the Stadium grass to grow higher than its usual level in an attempt to slow down the speedy Trojans' skill position players.

"It was kind of long that day but the weather has something to do with that too. One of the problems we have here, as the year goes on when you get into October and November – when you have a lot of home games in a row – if you cut it razor thin at this time of year you can end up ruining your field for the whole year.

"It was kind of long that day but…both teams were playing on it. The intent wasn't to gain an advantage."

Well, Yes, at Present. But Those Who Forget the Past…

Apparently a baseball cap sits in Weis' offense emblazoned with the phrase: "USC OWNS NOTRE DAME"

What's the origin and why does Weis display the heinous reminder?

"I do have that cap but I keep it for a different reason which is kind of private. With that cap came a letter from somebody with a very derogatory comment toward my daughter. Until we win a game (vs. USC) I'll hold onto that cap. But when we win a game that cap won't be around anymore.

"But it's kind of a refresher for me, and rather than share the derogatory comment I'd rather keep that private."

For Part II, click here.


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