SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -- Usually when Notre Dame offensive tackle Sam Young wakes up early and has trouble falling back to sleep, he gets a glass of water and heads back to bed.
Last week, he walked across campus in flip-flops at 5:30 a.m. to coach Charlie Weis' office instead. He was thinking about how the Irish (2-9) had struggled this season and wanted to talk with Weis -- who usually arrives at the office about 4:30 a.m. -- about ways he could do more to help.
"It just dawned on me and I decided to mosey on over and have a conversation with him," Young said.
Young wanted to talk to Weis about how he could do more for the team, specifically about how he could become a leader.
"We were bouncing ideas off of each other. It was just a brainstorming of sorts," Young said.
Young downplayed the early morning meeting, saying it was nothing special. But Weis said it inspired him.
"That's the type of guys you want on your team, guys that aren't sleeping because they're worrying about how they can step up and take on more of a leadership role," Weis said.
Weis said the move is especially important because there's going to be a leadership void on the offensive line after center John Sullivan plays his final game at Stanford (3-7) on Saturday.
Although he's only a sophomore, Young is the second most experienced player on the line. The highest-rated recruit in Weis' first full class has started all 24 games since arriving on campus. He was the first offensive lineman in more than 50 years to start his first game at Notre Dame.
He's a quiet, easygoing player, but Sullivan said he can see Young becoming a leader.
"I think there's great potential for Sam to have a leadership role, first of all, because he's a hard worker," Sullivan said.
"And it's hard to be a vocal leader if you don't lead by example, so I think he'll have that going for him."
Young agrees, saying he prefers to lead by his actions.
"I'm not always the most vocal guy. What I believe is good leadership is being able to do the right thing when no one's watching, have guys see your example and be able to follow it," he said.
But the 6-foot-8, 317-pound Young said the reason for the meeting wasn't necessarily on how he could become a leader, but how he could help the team improve. If it means he needs to follow, that's all right with him.
It's been a difficult season for Notre Dame, but especially for the line, which has been under scrutiny all season, giving up an NCAA-leading 53 sacks. But lately many of the sacks have been the fault of a running back failing to pick up a blitz from the outside or a quarterback holding the ball too long, not the line.
Young said the reason for the improved line play has been increased confidence. He said the inexperienced line has spent too much time this season worrying about making mistakes.
"Because I think once you start worrying about the outcome, especially if it's a negative outcome, you're setting yourself up to fail. By having that confidence and taking that step and being physical at the point of attack, we've really been able to move ourselves forward," he said.
Young will get to test his theory on Saturday. Stanford ranks 11th in the nation with 31 sacks. The Cardinal will be the sixth team in the top 20 in the nation in sacks per game the Irish have faced. Georgia Tech, which leads the nation with 47 sacks, had nine in the season-opener against the Irish. No. 2 Penn State had six in the second game.
In the past three games against Navy, Air Force and Duke -- none of them known for their ability to get after quarterbacks -- the Irish gave up 12 sacks, although the Falcons had six.
"I think you can see as the year has gone on we've been better able to pick up blitzes and execute," Young said.
Weis envisions bigger things for Young, saying the Irish coaching staff wants him to gain about 15 pounds.
"How many times do you hear you're trying to get a guy who weighs 317 to gain weight, but he's actually on a program where he's drinking extra shakes and things like that. He's so big that he can carry a lot more weight than he's carrying right now," he said.
Young is ready to carry a heavier load in whatever way the coaches want.
"I just want the team to do well," he said.