“For the first time in their career, they got to walk out that door and be on the practice field,” head coach Charlie Weis said. “I think that was a great feeling for everyone. More for them than for me. You had a bunch of 310 pound guys riding bicycles form the stadium over here to practice.”
In practice, freshman David Bruton was working with the first-team defense at a safety spot opposite Tom Zbikowski. The Miamisburg, Ohio native gives the secondary some height (6’1”) and athletic ability. Weis said don’t look too hard into this one.
“We’re mixing and matching a bunch of different people between first and second teams and third teams,” Weis said. “The one thing about David is that he is very athletic. I think a lot of times what happens when you play experienced guys, an inexperienced guy has communication problems. We want to mix and match some people so that we always have the younger guys playing with the older guys to help with the communication.”
*One of the top concerns for Notre Dame will be the ability of the secondary to cover the opponents the receivers. The troubles of last year in this area have been well documented. A year experience for most of the older veterans such as Mike Richardson and Zbikowski hopes to help along with the emergence of the younger players.
Defensive line coach Jappy Oliver wants his guys to do their part. A good pass rush can help with a secondary in many ways. Oliver said his line is getting a lot of work in practices with the new offense they see everyday but will shake things around to accomplish the goal of sacking the quarterback.
“As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have guys coming off the edge that have 4.5, 4.6 speed, you got to do some things to help them out,” Oliver said. “That’s what we are doing. You may see us doing more movement. I like the mobility of our tackles inside. Just because they’re tackles inside don’t mean they’re going to stay there all the time rushing. You many see them coming around corners and doing different things. We’ll do some different things scheme wise to help the pass rush.”
*Much has been made of the Irish’s schedule, especially the early part. The first four of five games will be on the road. Trips to Pittsburgh, Michigan, Washington, and Purdue await the team in a crucial stretch of games.
Weis has made the transition to the college game from the pros in a span of eight months. In that time, he has an idea of what to expect from the schedule and the schemes his team will see.
“I think it’s significantly easier because the intricacies of the system,” Weis said about making the jump from the pros to college versus going college to pro. “Pittsburgh doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out what they’re going to do. Michigan, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon. Michigan State will have played two games by the time we’ve played them. Washington three games. Purdue has a bye in there so they also will have played three games. I’ve looked at the schedule.”
*Steve Spurrier, now the head coach at South Carolina, tried to make that jump from college to the pro game a few years back with the Washington Redskins. The Ole Ball Coach brought the Fun N’ Gun from Florida with him, which had huge success at the college level. It won Spurrier a national title and numerous SEC championships. Weis has an idea while his offense did not translate to the world of professional football.
“First of all, Steve is a great coach,” Weis said. “I think the one thing that is a little different though is that the defense in the NFL they will figure you out in a hurry. If every time a team blitzes and you throw a slip screen, that’s just what he did. Everyone in the league knew it.
*Tomorrow, the team will once again take a large portion of practice time to work on special teams. The last half of the second part of practice in the morning will be utilized to go over the punt and kickoff coverages and the return game. Weis simplified the reasoning as to why they would be going over those aspects once again.
“I think the only way you get better at it is by working at it,” he said.