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Notre Dame's Haywood becoming more media friendly

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

By TOM COYNE

AP Sports Writer

SOUTH BEND -- Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Haywood is letting his shield down.

In his first three years as the Fighting Irish offensive coordinator, Haywood was guarded in his answers to the media. If he was asked about a specific player, he frequently would talk about players at that position as a whole and appeared intent on giving as little information as possible.

It got so bad that he didn't draw much a crowd of reporters when he did talk to the media, and there were many weeks when no reporters requested to talk with him.

This season has been a total turnaround.

Part of the renewed media interest in him is because he has taken over play-calling duties. But he also is drawing a crowd because he's not only forthcoming, but downright entertaining as he tells stories about players and himself.

Asked Tuesday about the change, Haywood said a media adviser who watched videotape of his talks with the media told him he should let reporters get to know him "because they think one way about you, which is only one-tenth of who you are. So let them see who you are."

"So I just talk a little more freely instead of having that wall of lack of trust," Haywood said.


GONG SHOW: Ryan Burkhart is getting another chance at taking over place-kicking duties from Brandon Walker.

Walker missed field goals of 51 and 41 yards against Michigan State and a 47-yard attempt in the season opener. All three were long enough, but wide, and came on shaky snaps from the center. Walker, a sophomore, is 6-of-15 overall in 15 games and just 1-of-10 from beyond 28 yards.

Notre Dame is just one of three FBS division teams that have yet to kick a field goal this season. New Mexico State is 0-for-1 and Arkansas is 0-for-2. Only 13 other teams have attempted fewer than three field goals so far this season.

Coach Charlie Weis was asked about Notre Dame's inability to find someone to kick the ball into the end zone on kickoffs. Weis said it wasn't because of a lack of trying.

"We've had Gong Show after Gong Show just so you know," Weis said. It isn't like we haven't given people opportunity to do exactly this. But you want to know something? When it comes time to do it in front of eyes, it's amazing how much different those kicks look. They might be the greatest backyard kicker in the entire free world, but when all of a sudden when it comes to actually having to do it in front of other people, just somehow it doesn't play out the same way."


GOLDEN MOMENT?: Haywood also talked Tuesday about how the coaching staff has a list of "playmakers" who they try to make sure are in position to make big plays. He said receiver Golden Tate, who ranks fifth in the nation in receiving at 20.2 yards a catch, is at the top of that list.

"We'll find ways to make sure he stays in the game and be able to make plays no matter what they do on defense," Haywood said.

Weis said if opponents want to focus on Tate, that's fine with him, saying that will be single coverage for other Irish receivers.

Tate had his only big game last season against Purdue, when he had three catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.


GOLDEN LOCKS: Jimmy Clausen, who let his hair grow over his collar during the offseason, showed up for his weekly news conference Wednesday with a near buzz cut. Clausen said he planned to cut his hair after Notre Dame lost its first game.

"It was getting old," he said.


LAPTOPGATE: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said he accepts Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis' explanation that a laptop computer in the coaching box at Spartan Stadium on Saturday was the result of a student manager being unaware it wasn't allowed.

Weis said the student manager was simply typing in downs, distances and defenses to be placed on videotape so coaches would not what the situations were as they reviewed the game the next day. He said the computer was not used by anyone on the coaching staff.

Dantonio said he is satisfied by the explanation.

"I've never seen a computer or a camera make a tackle, catch a ball or anything. The game is played on the field," he said.


BY THE NUMBERS: Notre Dame's red-zone offense is the second worst in the nation, scoring on 4-of-11 chances, a 36 percent success rate. Florida International is last, scoring on 1-of-3 chances. ... The seven catches by receiver Michael Floyd against Michigan State are the most ever by an Irish freshman. ... ... Notre Dame is third in the nation in kickoff coverage, allowing 14 yards a return even though it has not yet had a touchback this season. ... Notre Dame hasn't yet scored a point in the third quarter. ... Notre Dame is 14-1 at home against Purdue since a 1974 loss.


WEIS SAYINGS: "You can't be satisfied with where you are at this point as far as how the running game is going."



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