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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Big changes for Irish during spring practice

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Notre Dame, still stinging from a 3-9 finish last season, is going through big changes as spring practice gets under way.

Jon Tenuta, the new assistant head coach for defense, is mixing his schemes in with those of defensive coordinator Corwin Brown. Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood is adjusting to running the offense after watching head coach Charlie Weis do much of the job the past three years.

The big question heading into last spring -- Who would be starting quarterback? -- is not an issue. Jimmy Clausen, who is up to 212 pounds after starting last season at 194, is back as the starter and will be the only quarterback on scholarship who will be at every spring practice. That's because backup Evan Sharpley will miss some practices while playing for the Irish baseball team.

The rest of the players, some of whom have switched positions, will be adjusting to more physical practices, including taking running backs down to the ground on every play in an effort to improve the way the Irish play.

The biggest change, though, is at head coach. Weis is changing many of the ways he does things. He is adjusting to being both more hands off and more hands on.

Weis, who focused primarily on offense in past years -- especially on the quarterbacks -- will alternate between attending offensive meetings one day and defensive meetings the next, including going to position meetings.

"I'm going to make sure I'm around every position, not just the quarterbacks," said Weis, who won't call plays for the Irish in the fall.

But Weis isn't just trying to change how he runs things, but how he is perceived by players. Weis is concerned that with the Irish depending on so many young players, some players might not understand his sometimes caustic demeanor.

To change that, he's been regularly attending 6 a.m. workouts to encourage players and to let them get to know him better. He's also been inviting six to 10 players over to his house on Sundays. He's hoping the added friendliness could help players understand better why he gets on them at practices.

"I think it gets them to buy in a little better to realize the reason you're doing it is to make them better, not just to drill them all the time," he said.

But Weis also is trying to make sure that players understand that his more friendly approach won't carry over to the practice field.

"I don't believe you can back off of players on the practice field. I don't believe in that mentality. But at least when they understand there are two sides to you, not just one side, it's made this evolvement a lot smoother. It's probably something I should have done a year ago," he said.

The goals for spring practice are to establish a depth chart, identify team leaders, get better at every position and to instill confidence in the team. Asked how a team regains its confidence, Weis said simply: "You make plays."

It's something the Irish didn't do nearly enough of last season.

Notes: The depth chart Weis handed out Wednesday had a number of position changes. Former linebackers Morrice Richardson and John Ryan were listed as defensive ends. Fullback Luke Schmidt also was listed at tight end. Sam Young, who switched to left tackle last season, is back at right tackle. Weis said a right wrist injury to Young forced the switch last season. ... Ryan will not take part in spring practice after undergoing right shoulder surgery and sports hernia surgery after the season.

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