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NDNation.com Staff: Scott Engler - Michael Cash - John Vannie - Mike Coffey - Kayo - Bacchus

Friday, August 07, 2009

No Time for Words: Weis On the 2009 Season

posted by Scott Engler

(The Rock Report) - At least Charlie struck the right tone to start his most important season at Notre Dame. Irish fans, weary of empty promises, such as “we’re going to pound it” were instead treated to a short, mostly fact-based press conference to start 2009.

In a theme Weis repeated again and again throughout the short press conference Weis stated, "There are a lot of things going into this year that I'd rather not say because I want to prove it on the field." Fewer words actually begot some interesting information that shows what Weis was thinking last year.

First, let’s start with the big picture.

Depth, Health and Experience

Only Hafis Williams wasn’t cleared to start practice this year and he’s expected to be back in a short amount time. What that means is that not only are the Irish returning the most depth and experience they’ve had in the Weis era, but this year’s team is also starting out fully healthy and ready to go.

Charlie cited experience as the one thing that will enable this year’s team to improve on last year’s performance and UND.com provided some context to back that up. The 2009 team will return both the most monogram winners and most returning starters of any team in the Weis era and 90-100% of all of last year’s rushing productivity, passing productivity, receiving productivity, scoring productivity and all purpose yards.

I Am and Will Be the Offensive Coordinator

Charlie announced he’ll call plays, but in explaining why, he provided some insight into what wasn’t working previously. Weis said he can afford to focus on the offense because for the first time he has complete confidence in the defense under Tenuta. The flip-side of that is that since Minter’s final year, Charlie’s had to spend more time on defense than he would like because he didn’t have confidence in the coaching. He also talked about how he had to devote more time to special teams last year (which did improve across the board.)

So Charlie will call plays for the foreseeable future at Notre Dame. He said he could foresee someone else calling plays if he had “somebody that thought the way I did. I don't mean call plays exactly. I mean thought the way I did, where I understood why they're calling what they're calling..” The implication here is that Charlie didn’t understand Haywood’s play calling last year.

Summing all of those thoughts up, Charlie didn’t have confidence in his defensive coordinator, special teams coach or offensive coordinator last year. It's not hard to see why. We had a first time offensive coordinator combined with a second year defensive coordinator and a first year special teams coach with limited coaching experience.

I’m wondering how we won 7 games.

From Offensive to Offensive?

The most important news on the offensive line is the juggling of talent in the middle. Dan Wenger, who struggled last year, has dropped on the depth chart and Eric Olsen has moved to his center spot. Chris Stewart has flip-flopped to left guard to make room for Notre Dame’s most talented young player, Trevor Robinson, at right guard.

Weis said that the move had been choreographed for some time and that they started experimenting with Olsen at center in the spring. Weis also mentioned that right guard is a critical position in the Irish offense because “with our scheme the guy who gets isolated a whole bunch of times is the right guard... he (Robinson) gives us the best chance athletically to be successful.”

This is an important development for a couple of reasons. The first is that it has the potential to turn a weakness (Wenger last year) into a strength by getting the five best players on the field. The second, and biggest factor, is that it shows that for the first time Notre Dame has depth and quality depth. Many fans forget that the Irish actually played a Blue-Gold game with less than two full units. Now, as Weis said, “this is the first time we've had this many guys on scholarship on the offensive line. To have 15 guys on scholarship has put a little different light to it. We're going to go out there for the first time. Let's not talk about quality depth, let's just talk about depth right now. This is going to be the first time we're going to start training camp and we have three units who legitimately play left and right tackle, left and right guard and center. It's encouraging to know we have numbers to start off with.”

The Irish have the second most returning starts on the offensive line of the last ten years, behind only the 2005 team. A look at the newly released roster is encouraging from a size perspective. Alex Bullard at 290, Lane Cleland at 290, Matt Romine at 295, Mike Golic at 293 and Chris Watt at 295 at least have the physical size to play effectively on the offensive line. Just as interesting to me was the fact that Chris Stewart and Sam Young both slimmed up from last year, which hopefully means the Irish have dropped the Belushi conditioning model.


72 Paul Duncan 6-7 315 Sr.

77 Matt Romine 6-5 295 Jr.

73 Lane Clelland 6-5 290 So.


59 CHRIS STEWART 6-5 330 Sr.

52 Braxston Cave 6-3 310 So.

68 Alex Bullard 6-3 290 Fr.


55 ERIC OLSEN^ 6-4 305 Sr.

51 DAN WENGER 6-4 302 Sr.

57 Mike Golic Jr. 6-3 293 So.


78 Trevor Robinson 6-5 305 So.

76 Andrew Nuss 6-5 300 Jr.

66 Chris Watt 6-3 295 Fr.

or 65 Mike Hernandez 6-2 280 So.


74 SAM YOUNG 6-8 320 Sr.

75 Taylor Dever 6-5 301 Jr.

70 Zach Martin 6-5 285 Fr.

After the offensive line, Jimmy Clausen is the second key to the Irish season.

From Hype to Leadership

Weis also talked about Clausen from physical, mental and leadership perspectives and highlighted the fact that when Clausen arrived as a freshman he was 197 pounds, he’s now up to 223 pounds.

Weis spent more time with Clausen this year working with Jimmy to lower his interception ratio, and work on his presence and movement in the pocket. Said Weis, “First of all, the percentage of touchdown to interceptions has to change, okay? We have to be a lot more careful with the ball, not forcing the ball into coverage. I think that's going to be very important. I feel confident that that ratio will drastically change from where we've been in the past to now. I feel very confident of that. Some of the things I identified as weaknesses of his, he spent a lot of time in the spring working on. I think some of those things he's already shown some great improvement…Now the things like the interception ratio, presence in the pocket, shuffling in the pocket, some of those little things that really didn't spend as much time on, now you can spend more time on. When you're doing those, the trickle-down effect, the positive trickle-down effect, it allows you to become much more of a leader because you now feel confident within your own role of what you're doing. When you first come in, you were just figuring it out yourself. Once you figure it out yourself, it becomes a little easier to take over more of that leadership role, which by all accounts, that's what he's done.” Jimmy, Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph got together over the summer to spend a week throwing for eight hours a day. Weis believes that will pay immediate dividends.

UND.com highlighted the fact that Clausen’s stats are better then Quinn’s or Powlus’s to this point and that even with the USC and Boston College games, Clausen’s put up a 136 passing efficiency rating his last 11 games, far and way ahead of those of the national peers in Clausen’s recruiting class.

Weis stated that he has “ a lot of confidence that Dayne could run our offense. Probably since I've been here, this is the most encouraging depth chart I've been able to go into the season with. Not only do I have a quality gunslinger in Dayne, but I have a fifth-year guy in Evan who has experience back here, too. This is easily the most depth we've had with talent at the quarterback position since I've been here.”

But Weis also touched on a sore spot for Irish fans, mainly the lack of creativity on offense, “what we have to do is become just much more efficient in the passing game across the board. You know, for example, if people decide they want to come out and play two cover to try to take away your two outside receivers, then who will be the inside guys to go ahead and do the damage when that ends up happening? That's when the Kyle Rudolph comes into play, or Duval, Robby Parris, come into play, or running backs coming out of the backfield.”

Rudolph, who is at 260 pounds and Ragone at 251 pounds, should stabilize the Irish Tight End position this year, but if one of those goes down Notre Dame might have to turn to 248 pound transfer Bobby Burger or Freshmen Tyler Eifert who’s up to 237 pounds.

Weis also talked about the health of Mike Ragone noting that everything with Ragone is “structurally sound” and that he expects Ragone to be a big contributor once he gets his confidence back after two ACL injuries. Weis acknowledged that lack of depth and ability at tight end, has also limited the offense, "It gives you a lot more what you can do schematically... you're not pigeonholed as a one tight end offense all the time"


7 JIMMY CLAUSEN 6-3 223 Jr.

10 Dayne Crist 6-4 235 So.

13 Evan Sharpley 6-2 215 Sr.

FB 34 James Aldridge 6-0 225 Sr.

30 Steve Paskorz 6-2 245 Jr.

47 Mike Narvaez 5-11 238 Sr.


GOLDEN TATE 5-11 195 Jr.

18 DUVAL KAMARA 6-5 219 Jr.

1 Deion Walker 6-2 193 So.

19 George West 5-10 196 Sr.

11 Shaquelle Evans 6-1 203 Fr.


9 KYLE RUDOLPH 6-6 260 So.

83 Mike Ragone 6-5 251 Jr.

86 Bobby Burger 6-3 248 Sr.

80 Tyler Eifert 6-5 237 Fr.

or 88 Jake Golic 6-4 232 Fr.


3 MICHAEL FLOYD 6-3 220 So.

82 Robby Parris 6-3 205 Sr.

81 John Goodman 6-3 203 So.

21 Barry Gallup Jr. 5-11 190 Sr.

84 Roby Toma 5-9 175 Fr.

Which brings us to the running game.

Run Armando, Run

Weis reiterated the goal is to average 4.6 yards a carry in the running game, “if they try to stop the pass game and you have to have an answer and the answer would be to run the football. That's what we've been spending the whole season to not be pigeonholed.”

Weis also shed some light into how he’ll work with new offensive line coach Frank Verducci. After breaking down film, Verducci will identify the four or five runs from the Irish core running game to use against a given opponent and then Weis will combine those with play-action passes and incorporate those into the game plan.

As far as running back by committee, thankfully, that looks like it’s come to an end.

Weis says, “Armando's first… I kind of like having the ball in Armando's hands," everyone else will be fighting for carries. Last year it seemed as if we’d put the wrong runner in for the wrong package. The long-term good news is that rumors about Jonas Gray not being eligible appear to be unfounded. Gray has the physical tools to be a great college running back. 225 pounders with 4.35 speed and moves don’t come around very often, but Weis emphasized that the key to starting in the Irish offense is to be able to do everything well.

Steve Paskorz, listed behind Aldridge at fullback, is up to 245 pounds.


5 ARMANDO ALLEN 5-10 200 Jr.

33 Robert Hughes 5-11 234 Jr.

25 Jonas Gray 5-10 220 So.

20 Cierre Wood 6-0 218 Fr.

or 32 Theo Riddick 5-10 195 Fr.


34 James Aldridge 6-0 225 Sr.

30 Steve Paskorz 6-2 245 Jr.

47 Mike Narvaez 5-11 238 Sr.

The story on the defensive line is coaching and how both big and small players are getting.

The Young and the Aggressive

On the quiet confidence around the defensive line, “It isn't just Coach Tenuta, you have Coach (indiscernible) and Brian Young involved in the line. We're excited about our youth, our athleticism. I think with youth and athleticism comes some uncertainty as you go in.”

Weis talked about gains and losses across the board, singling out Ian Williams as having “never been in the shape he's been in right now.” In fact, the big guys inside have all lost weight. Brandon Newman, Hafis Williams and Paddy Mullen all checked in under 300 pounds. Interesting after Bert Berry pointed out how out of shape they were after the spring game.

On the flip-side, Kapron Lewis-Moore is up to 270 pounds and Ethan Johnson is at 280 pounds (and listed inside at defensive tackle.) Kerry Neal is the other first team defensive end and has added 10 pounds of muscle to last years frame. It’s unclear if the depth chart shift of Johnson inside is because Hafis Williams isn’t ready yet or simply because Kerry Neal is back.


89 Kapron Lewis-Moore 6-4 270 So.

53 Morrice Richardson 6-2 255 Sr.

91 Emeka Nwankwo 6-4 274 Jr.


9 Ethan Johnson 6-4 280 So.

79 Hafis Williams 6-2 295 So.

98 Sean Cwynar 6-4 283 So.


95 IAN WILLIAMS 6-2 295 Jr.

99 Brandon Newman 6-0 295 So.

92 Tyler Stockton 6-1 290 Fr.

93 Paddy Mullen 6-3 295 Sr.


56 KERRY NEAL 6-2 250 Jr.

90 John Ryan 6-5 255 Sr.

97 Kallen Wade 6-5 245 Sr.

And the Irish will have some big players behind them supporting the run defense.


A couple of things stand out about the Irish linebacking corps. The first is the battle for the SAM spot where Scott Smith, Darius Fleming and Steve Filer are all listed as possible starters. Dan Fox, who many expected to see at Will, came in at 230 pounds. He was an underrated player in recruiting circles.

Toryan Smith appears to have a firm hold on the number one Mike spot with only Posluszny and Calabrese behind him. Brian Smith, generally acknowledged to be our best linebacker will be backed up by all-world freshman Manti Te’o.

Probably a bit of a different depth chart than most Irish fans expected.


41 Scott Smith 6-4 245 Sr.

or 45 Darius Fleming 6-1 240 So.

or 46 Steve Filer 6-3 236 So.

48 Dan Fox 6-3 230 Fr.


49 Toryan Smith 6-1 244 Sr.

36 David Posluszny 6-0 225 So.

44 Carlo Calabrese 6-1 235 Fr.


58 BRIAN SMITH 6-3 240 Jr.

5 Manti Te’o 6-2 244 Fr.

54 Anthony McDonald 6-2 230 So.

Secondary Thought

The secondary wasn’t even brought up, which shows you how much confidence everyone has that this will be the best Irish secondary in some time. The fact that a talented Junior like Gary Gray is third on the depth chart tells you most of what you need to know. They’re deep and talented. Sergio Brown apparently jumped out of the gym in vertical testing a short time back.


12 Robert Blanton 6-1 185 So.

8 RAESHON McNEIL 6-0 190 Sr.

4 Gary Gray 5-11 190 Jr.


22 HARRISON SMITH 6-2 207 Jr.

15 Dan McCarthy 6-2 203 So.

6 Ray Herring 5-10 200 Sr.

24 Leonard Gordon 5-11 187 Sr.


28 KYLE McCARTHY 6-1 210 Sr.

31 Sergio Brown 6-2 205 Sr.

17 Zeke Motta 6-2 215 Fr.


2 Darrin Walls# 6-0 190 Sr.

26 Jamoris Slaughter 6-0 185 So.

37 Mike Anello 5-10 180 Sr.

27 E.J. Banks 5-11 185 Fr.

What About Recruiting?

Weis pretty much summed up what most are speculating about the Irish’s recruiting fortunes, " I think we're sitting there with a nice, solid core of guys that are committed. We're involved with a whole bunch of really good ones. I think some of the top recruits take the normal wait-and-see attitude, and justifiably so. We're hoping that the wait and see goes strongly pro Notre Dame." If the Irish have a good year on the field, with Corwin Brown fighting recruiting battles, they’ll likely land a top 5 class.

Shut Up and Win

Overall, Weis summed up, “I think that Notre Dame's in a good place right now... let's not talk about it; let's go do something about it.” Lost in the press conference was the subtle bar setting by Weis. He stated that every team's goal is to be a BCS team. That''s not true, the goal of top teams and traditionally at Notre Dame is to win the national championship, not just be invited to the BCS. Unfortunately, the last few years have made a BCS berth look pretty damn attractive.

"I read this book when it first came out and it had a very powerful impact on me. Recently my daughter was going through a rough time and I thought this book would be just the ticket to help her and guess what? She called and thanked me after she read it and passed it to her sister who also got a lot out of it and she just gave it to her husband to read. Now my other 2 daughters are demanding to read it. It can have a pretty powerful impact on the young and the not so young."

"As a son, a father and now a grandfather I found ten secrets a truly inspiring book. I read it cover to cover within an hour. My only regret is that the book was much too short.":

"""""""This book is one of the best that I have read. It is simple, meaningful and life changing. It was recommended to me by a priest as one of the best books that he has read. Not a religious book- but many positive, powerful thoughts."

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Blogger Chris said...

Nice article

8/07/2009 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger oaknd1 said...

I can't believe Robby Parris and Barry Gallup are Seniors already. I remember hearing about how they were going to set the world on fire.

8/07/2009 04:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa...where's the SPOILER ALERT?
His "penultimate season"? I guess next year is going to be awful.

8/07/2009 06:02:00 PM  
Anonymous hpo said...


12 Robert Blanton 6-1 185 So. - ???

8 RAESHON McNEIL 6-0 190 Sr.

4 Gary Gray 5-11 190 Jr.

8/07/2009 06:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good article. I believe this can be one of the most critical years for ND football. If the team can perform the way it is expected all rumors of CW's demise will be put on hold and would be great for the program. Recruiting might get even better and the future would look bright. A 9-4, 8-5 or worse and all bets are off and who knows what will happen.

8/07/2009 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger David said...

Not since the Holtz era can I remember when we were this deep with talent. I have been an optimist with the Irish depth chart before but this is truly the best I have seen since we had Ricky Watters coming off the bench. I am really excited to see how Tyler Stockton and Carlo Calabrese turn out, they remind me of a modern day Zorich/Stonebreaker combo. GO IRISH!

8/07/2009 06:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Bill Weber said...

This article reinforces the fact that the Notre Dame team has lacked - until perhaps now - the necessary quantity and quality of players and the quality of assistant coaching. The team is still remarkably young but at least Weis' recruits are supplanting the older players on the depth chart.

The biggest weakness this year seems to be the defensive line. If only the Irish had landed a couple of those big bruisers that got away.

Not all of the woes of the past four years can be pinned directly on Weis. Yes, he deserves a good share of criticism but he was playing with a weak hand.

I am optimistic about the season (but that's the case almost annually). I will be disappointed with anything less than a record of 11-1 plus a bowl win.

Clausen, Tate and Floyd should each have a spectacular season.

8/07/2009 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im really hoping Deion Walker emerges as the third reciever. the guy has always had game changing speed and is now listed at 6'3 193, a significant weight gain from last year. Kamara is good but is better suited on the outside. Walker is our best option

8/08/2009 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

on an unrelated note...does anyone know if full game replays are available online after an ND game?

8/08/2009 07:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Summing all of those thoughts up, Charlie didn’t have confidence in his defensive coordinator, special teams coach or offensive coordinator last year. It's not hard to see why. We had a first time offensive coordinator combined with a second year defensive coordinator and a first year special teams coach with limited coaching experience."

Well, correct me if I'm wrong but Weis hired the promising but inexperienced Brown as DC in 2007 and promoted a very inexperienced Haywood to OC. ND Nation was just giddy with excitement that we had two black coordinators. Never mind that although those are two very fine men they simply weren't ready to be coordinators on that level. If I could see that I'm sure Pagna and other seasoned observers could, too.

Charlie is to blame for the assistant coaching woes of the recent past. Let's hope this time he got it right. 9-3 is not good enough.

8/08/2009 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Anon., but 9-3 is good enough to keep the coaching staff. Many of us would be thrilled with a 10-2, because that puts the Irish in the BCS. Would we like to see 11-1 or 12-0, of course! However, that is probably another year off.

This was an excellent article. Some supporters of the Irish are still in a dream world.

8/09/2009 11:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an '88 grad with a mature open mind, I can not nor will not support CW if we lose more than 1 game. Call me unrealistic, but some of us remember the late 80's thru the hire of prettyboy, Mr. Lick-his-lips Davie. Go Irish!

8/10/2009 09:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with the '88 grad, not the guy who is willing to settle for more mediocrity and call the rest of us dreamers. If 9-3 was not good enough in year 1 (as Weis himself said), then it certainly shouldn't be in year 5. That is not living in a "dream world," but rather, demanding excellence (like ND fans used to do). But, it certainly is "dream world" to think we can't win a championship this year, yet are somehow just "a year off" from doing so -- next year will be much more difficult as we'll have at least 3 new starters on the o-line, possibly a new QB, and a harder schedule (with less home games and teams whose QBs won't be 1st-year starters anyomre). We've been waiting for "next year" for too along -- enough excuses already, find a way to win it now!

8/11/2009 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CW has been given his promisedland with a fifth year after 2 abortions of seasons and this is it BCS or bust and BTW if we do get to the BCS and loose his fat ass should be fired I am sick of losing big games to big time teams because that makes us look anything but BIG TIME PERIOD. This another year away BS is exactly that BS!!!!!!!!!

9/09/2009 01:16:00 PM  

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