Return of the King

Irish head coach Charlie Weis touched on a variety of items and had a mixed bag of injury news for the assembled masses at today's weekly press conference.

The Walking Wounded

Due to popular demand, Weis began his Q&A session by listing the team's injuries of note and started with sobering news.

"Dayne (Crist) does have a torn ACL," Weis stated. "He's going to get operated on Friday. He'll be out about 4-6 months. Fortunately there are not a lot of other things wrong, but that needs to be done and will be this Friday.

"Obviously Evan Sharpley moves up to #2 and John Goodman will be practicing as a "Slash" guy as of today," Weis noted of the depth chart movement to replace Crist as Jimmy Clausen's backup. "(Goodman) will be working at both quarterback and wide receiver."

Weis offered to the assembled media (roughly the same group is generally at the weekly open practice session later Tuesday evening) that we'll only see Goodman working at quarterback during our viewing, due simply to the fact that the first three sessions of practice will have Goodman working on quarterback drills, after which he'll rejoin the wide receivers for the duration.

Weis answered (a direct question) that Goodman will be a wide receiver, but Weis mentioned that by training him now (as a precaution) he'd be more likely ready to go if Clausen or Sharpley were to go down over the next four games and the Irish weren't be left scrambling in an emergent situation.

"We don't want to take away from him competing at the wide receiver position," Weis noted of Goodman's short prep work at quarterback. "He'll be a marginal rep guy at quarterback (in practice)."

Weis added Goodman was a bit rusty in practice as of late when throwing passes in gadget situations.

The list of injured starters and contributors is thankfully beginning to thin as the Irish hit the home stretch.

"(Robby) Parris is back, he's ready to go," Weis stated of the senior receiver who sat out last week as a precaution after reinjuring his ankle vs. Boston College.

"Kapron Lewis-Moore is probable; Armando (Allen) is day-to-day; Trevor Robinson is ‘Doubtful.' He's making good progress but he's still doubtful for this week but I'm not ruling him completely out at this point."

Each of the three is battling ankle injuries with Allen's first occurring late in the game at Michigan. The junior half back has missed or been held out of games vs. Purdue and Washington State. Lewis-Moore and Robinson were both injured Saturday in San Antonio.

"There are two other guys I wanted to mention: Bobby Burger – we're holding him out. He has to get some more tests done on his neck so we're going to be cautious. Until he gets cleared he will not be playing."

Burger was removed from the game against Boston College after executing a block at the line of scrimmage and going to one knee after the collision.

Note: This is pure speculation on my part, but I believe Burger might have initially injured his neck taking a post-play hit near the pile vs. Washington.

Weis offered a final update on Fort Wayne freshman Tyler Eifert.

"Eifert went out to Phoenix and the (prospective) surgery he would have had would have been career-ending," Weis explained. "There's a rehab program that the doctors recommended instead that should have him ready to go…easily by the spring.

"He's going to be on this rehab pretty much the rest of his life though," Weis continued. "Fortunately he doesn't need to have surgery but he has an extensive rehab program (that he's already on) and he's on his way back to recovery."

November's No. 1 Draft Pick

Sorry, I'm not breaking relevant news regarding a certain junior quarterback…

Weis followed the unfortunate update regarding Dayne Crist by offering an answer to the otherwise sure-to-be-asked-first question:

"Michael Floyd is back, he's ready to go," Weis stated before moving through the team's injury report.

"He got cleared…our trainers and doctors have done a great job but we even checked with ‘The Guru' (presumably Doctor James Andrews) in Alabama and he totally agreed."

Weis offered the gathered media a glimpse of the decision-making process regarding Floyd's return.

"Michael and I sat down, and Michael called his mom to make sure we were all on the same page. I let Michael make the call (to play). Once we got cleared to go it was still his call whether or not this was the week...

"He came back (from speaking with his mother) and said he was ready to go."

As for the reaction of a certain signal-caller?

"I think No. 7 might have been as happy as No. 3 was."

The obvious concern surrounding Floyd is that he's back on the field too soon, and that re-injury to his clavicle would (this time) end his season. Failing that worst case scenario, there's certainly the possibility that Floyd will be tentative regarding the injury.

"No, we have a plan for what we're going to do with Michael. He won't play every play. We wouldn't put him out there and he wouldn't go out there if that's how he was thinking (worrying about another injury).

"The biggest thing for him is to get tackled once. He'll get hit in practice some but I doubt we're going to try him out in practice to see how that shoulder feels getting tackle. We're going to have to wait and find that out in the game."

As for a possible protective shoulder harness or similar device?

"No. It's healed. The doctor's would not clear him without it being healed," Weis stated.

Golden Moments to Continue?

A question was posed to Weis: Had Floyd not been injured, would Golden Tate still have become such a versatile, impact player this season?

"It's a subjective question…you'd have to lean towards ‘No' from not having as many opportunities as he's had (with Floyd out)," Weis admitted. "We've had to do a lot of ‘draw ‘em up in the dirt' (plays) to put him in (varied) situations and we will continue to do that," Weis stressed.

"I think it's important for us as a coaching staff to approach (coach) Golden like Michael's not back so we continue to get Golden involved in every game plan. It certainly will take a lot of pressure off of Golden (as well as Kyle Rudolph and Jimmy Clausen).

"It certainly balances out the offense," Weis concluded regarding the addition of Floyd to the mix in November.

Who Had That Guy?

Navy week. That wonderful time of the year when fans, media, pundits, and coaches all stress the need for "Assignment Football" defensively.

The Irish will (presumably) start two defensive ends, a linebacker, and a cornerback (and a host of key defensive contributors) that have never faced Navy's efficient option attack.

Does the lack of familiarity and short preparation time have Weis worried about his player's ability to defend the triple-option?

"I think even if you look at last year…until the ‘900 onsides kicks' (Navy came back late on the strength of two recovered onsides kicks) at the end of the game, the defense had really mauled them. If you think about it they really dominated them last year against a pretty good offense that had been running the ball up and down the field vs. everyone.

I feel really good about the confidence of our defensive improvement, especially when it comes vs. a team that intends to run the ball for 300 (yards) against you. I think that's really been our strength over the last six games and although we'll get challenged with a different schemes I think they'll be up to the task.

And are the Irish better prepared for a late onsides kick attempt this season?

"It was the first special teams issue that we discussed," Weis offered.

It's Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight…

Weis mentioned at the start of his press conference that this Navy defense was "by far" the best Midshipmen group he's faced in his five meetings as Irish head coach.

How does a team full of undersized, rarely-recruited athletes gel defensively?

"The first thing is all of their linebackers are seniors. And all of their DBs are either juniors or seniors. So what's happening is: these guys have been playing together for awhile. Except for one defensive lineman, all those guys are juniors or seniors.

All of a sudden you have a junior and senior-(laden) team that's been playing the same defense together for a number of years…

We already know about the effort of the guys from the Naval Academy. That's never an issue. But now all of a sudden you have guys that have been playing together for a really long time."

They don't try to do too many crazy things on defense. They just try to play sound fundamentally and run to the football and trust me…they run to the football.

Attack of the Double Trio

The most improved unit on the Irish squad from Week One through Week Eight is (without question) the defensive line.

Has there been a recent development of note that explains this ascension from weakness to relative strength?

"I think last week going to two groups of (separate) three-man rotations in Nickel," Weis began referring to the team's standard personnel grouping vs. Washington State. "We had Kapron (Lewis-Moore) and Ian (Williams) and Ethan (Johnson) inside, and we had Darius (Fleming) and Kerry (Neal) and Steven (Filer) outside; the fact that we had two three-man rotations going out there with athletic guys that could stay fresh…in the past that's been one of the things we've all seen (as a limitation) and we'd get worn down (without a rotation).

"Now when (opponents) go to more of a regular ‘just pound ‘em' (attack) we have more guys involved (in 4-3 base defenses): (Sean) Cywnar gets involved in the game; John Ryan's more involved; there are other guys more involved, but collectively as a group I think the whole group has gotten better. We can isolate Kapron because of his production but I think the whole group has gotten better.

Weis was asked specifically about the play of Ian Williams.

"Ian (Williams) is a very explosive guy at the point; he's got quickness to get upfield.

"(In the past) there were times where he felt like a one-man gang and I don't think he feels like that anymore. Now he knows if he does his job he'll have an opportunity to make plays."

The junior nose tackle has posted 18 career tackles vs. the Midshipmen in two meetings.

It's New Art, You Wouldn't Understand

Golden Tate might be the best player open-field runner in college football, but the junior punt returner has returned just seven of Irish opponents' collective 36 punts in his direction this season.

Is there an ultra conservative plan we should know about?

"I don't think it's him being conservative, I think it's that everyone is in this ‘spread punt' now," Weis offered. "It's the big en vogue thing in the country. You spread them out all over the place and instead of having two gunners (outside) you have seven of them (spread across the line of scrimmage). Everyone's playing one-on-one in space…you're blocking one-on-one in space."

Weis continued to break down and advocate the fashionable punt formation.

"There's always one guy besides the outside guy who's running completely free and unaccounted for. In our case it's usually our long snapper. When the ball goes down there it's like having another gunner down there.

"We went to the spread punt this year…Navy's in the spread punt..."

Is there an obvious drawback?

"Unless the punt out-kicks the coverage you'll usually see a bunch of fair catches," Weis observed.

Irish opponents have returned just three of Notre Dame's 32 punts this season.

For nearly two decades, game analysts and coaches have lamented the "lost art" of the coffin-corner kick. Perhaps the spread-punt formation is the new age coffin-corner?


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