Weis Delivers Message

SOUTH BEND - Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis said he was going to answer the question "very cautiously." He didn't want to be sarcastic in using that familiar New Jersey rhetoric. Weis took a moment to find the right words, and delivered a message for the opposition and for really anybody to hear.

"So let me just say people better enjoy it now, have their fun now," Weis stated after yet another blowout loss, this one a 38-0 rout by No. 9 USC at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The loss drops the Irish to 1-7 on the season, guaranteeing a losing record, while USC, who's on the opposite end of the spectrum and has been for years, improves to 6-1.

Weis's message could have also been geared towards the younger players currently on the Irish roster, the recruits who have already verbally committed for next season, and prep prospects Weis and his staff are currently or in the future looking at or going to look at.

Was it right Weis made the statement? Who cares. Take it as this. That the program in South Bend, the one people left for dead in 1985, will rise again like it did just three short years later with a 1988 National Championship. Weis fully intends to build what Pete Carroll has put together at USC, at Notre Dame, or die trying anyways.

"They are where we want to be, and that's what we're going to shoot for and that's what we're going to drive for until we get to that point," Weis explained. "And I will work till the ends of the earth until that ends up happening."

The thing is, unless you weren't looking, you could've seen this dreadful season happening. In Weis's first two years at his alma mater , he had the benefit of playing a lot of veteran guys in reaching two Bowl Championship Series games. Most of that talent has moved on to the NFL or graduated, leaving the cupboard pretty bare.

Notre Dame returned just 30 letter winners this season, but most of those players earned their monograms by playing special teams the year before. An astonishing 23 different players have registered their first-career start this season, including five freshmen. It's not surprising the Irish have taken their lumps in having to replace 15 starters from 2006.

Though nobody thought it would be this bad.

One of those people that saw all this coming was Carroll himself, who noticed that Notre Dame's depth chart was filled with veterans like Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and Derek Landri the last couple years.

"Three years ago you could see it coming," Carroll said. "They had all the juniors that played and started and they had a really good team and they played all the seniors the next year. They were fortunate to keep a few of those guys around that could have left.

"It's just all about recruiting, and if you're able to restock, but that's hard to recover from all of those losses from those experienced players," Carroll continued, a guy that knows a thing or two about restocking talent. "Those were two, three-year starters, maybe a couple four-year starters. Some of those guys did play forever. So that's hard to overcome. I know they're working at it."

They sure are, as Weis and Carroll probably cross paths on the sidewalk in front of a top recruits' homes.

Weis is still lined up to bring in possibly the nation's No. 1 recruiting class this February. That would be arguably three-straight top-10 recruiting classes. This current team is young and taking it on the chin, but if the Irish continue to show the same heart they do on a week-to-week basis over the next couple seasons, this thing could be rebuilt in no time.

It's obvious the Irish are getting dominated at the line of scrimmage by the elite teams, heck even just average teams. But as the young guys continue to develop, and the recruits gets bigger, faster and more athletic, the product on the field will soon look much different. The program just needs a little seasoning, and that comes naturally with time.

So four games left, no chance for a bowl game, what does Weis do? Just consider these next four games as part of next season. Not exhibition games as they still count, but get the young guys even more game-day reps. They should be able to match up with the likes of Navy, Air Force Duke and Stanford much better than Michigan, Boston College and these Trojans. Lets see more of Armando Allen and Robert Hughes alongside James Aldridge in the backfield. Get Ian Williams more snaps at nose guard. Have Raeshon McNeil see the field more in the secondary, and Toryan Smith at inside linebacker. The list goes on. But in doing so, that would cut into the snaps of players who've laid it on the line for the program for years.

"I think it's a consideration," Weis said of a youth movement. "But I think that there's also, there's probably some of those older guys, especially those fifth-year guys, who probably played pretty well, and if they played pretty well, do you sit there and say, okay, thanks for your eight games and now you're done? I just don't think it's the right way of treating people.

"Now, conversely, I think you have to start getting more guys into the mix that are going to be playing, and I think what you're not going to do is go through four games and not have worked on developing guys to get ready for next year," Weis continued. "I think that that's a very important point."

A point that the older guys on the team do realize.

"These four games are the opportunity to build some momentum for the younger guys on this team going into next season," fifth-year senior center and captain John Sullivan said. "That's one of our goals as older guys to leave this team in a better position going into next season than we are now."

Same goal with Weis, so a message to the opposition. Enjoy it while you can.


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