I feel like a little kid at 4am waiting for his parents to get up on Christmas morning. Media day was just a tease... it was sneaking under the tree, picking up the presents and trying to guess by weight and size (with a little pulling at the corners) what we were going to unwrap this year.
Chuckles gave us a few presents out of the stocking to hold us over. First up, confirmation that Travis Thomas is indeed moving to linebacker in an attempt to get some speed there. The Rock Loves! this move. Loves it. Loves it like a new action figure to play with. This one comes with speed, a nasty streak and with a full complement of action figure mobility.
I look at the Thomas move and think of Frank Stams. It's the kind of thing championship coaches try. Hell, if it don't work out, move him back. In the meantime, let's take that sucker out the box and see if he can be our go-to action figure on defense. But, our action figure LB won't be called Apache anymore because that was too "un-pc".... seriously.
There's been a lot of word on the street about Travis Thomas, so let's talk about that one. Last spring Travis and I got together and I told him I felt I was one of best 22 players on our team, and I wanted to know if he would be interested in trying to play linebacker on our team. Of course, anyone who looks at a possibility of starting when he's a backup behind Darius would love that opportunity. So last spring we started it and went through the summer, and what I'm going to do is give him an opportunity to be a starting linebacker on our team.
Now I would not let him play defense if it wasn't for the fact that I'm going to give him an opportunity to start. I told everyone we were getting more athletic on defense, he's one of the best tacklers we have on our special teams, played strong safety in high school, he's dying for an opportunity to get on the field on a full time basis and I'm going to give it to him.
Now the logical question will be, let me get this straight, Aldrige isn't ready to go and you're moving Travis over there to defense, Travis is also going to play offense, so I've created a two way monster here. So right now I'm not going to worry about him practicing on offense for the first week at least, see what he can do on defense, if it doesn't pan out, we'll bring him back to offense full time. But we'll give him an opportunity to start at linebacker for us.
Let's talk about some major position battles going into training camp. One of the biggest battles will go on actually is the backup position, that's the backup quarterback. We all know Brady is No. 1, but the two freshmen, Frazer, Jones and Sharpley are going to be given an equal opportunity to be number two. I told Peter his biggest job is developing those three guys and see who ends up winning that competition.
Running back because I'm going to let Travis work over there to be a starting linebacker and because James isn't ready to go, very near.Munir Prince and Luke Schmidt are two freshman; Luke although he'll play halfback and fullback in training camp, those two guys along with Junior can get the ball to the backup carries behind Darius.
Q. You said you started the process with Travis Thomas last spring. What did you start?
COACH WEIS: First thing we did, when you have a kid who it's his fourth year in the program and he's a great athlete and a backup, you look at your linebacker position and you see that you're not real happy with the speed that you have at the position. Well, then you have to figure out where the answers are. Now are the answers are the freshman coming in, Smith and Richardson, or do you have the answers currently here already on your team.
And coming from the Patriot mentality, you always try to build from within; that's what I did. I evaluated our team to try to feel who I had the best opportunity to go over there and not just to go over there but go over there and play. So I went back and researched. He went to high school in Pennsylvania, he was a great defensive player when he was in high school. I went, he was also one of our best tacklers on special teams. So we started talking then and started meeting with Rick then. It's been an ongoing process. It's not like we're going to go out there and wing it. He knows if I need him on the second play of the game to carry the ball, he'll be ready to go and do that, too.
What he did is all summer long see, I don't do it when you guys are around. So all summer long when I'm not there, the whole summer, he worked at linebacker, that's captain's practices. We're not there. So I'm interested just like you to see what this project looks like.
Q. Do you have a specific linebacker position you're looking at him as?
COACH WEIS: I'm looking to put him in at the weak side linebacker where he gets a chance to run or he's covered up and gets to run. I'm off on a tangent right here, but I changed the name of our one linebacker to the Sam, or strong side linebacker. In a time of political incorrectness I just didn't feel comfortable with Apache. I'm serious, that's why I did it. So I changed the same name of it to just Sam, Mike and Will. So the Will is the weak side linebacker. Right now that's where Travis would be playing.
Q. And you mentioned, if he starts, he would be a starting linebacker but you would still play him someplace on offense?
COACH WEIS: Well, it's going to depend on James and Munir and Luke. If I have as much confidence in the freshman, you know I'm not afraid to play the freshman so I have as much confidence in the freshman as I think I'm going to, I might not need to but I know one thing I'm not going to go in here saying, well, what am I going to do if Darius goes down and not have an answer, so you need to have your bases covered just in case that happens.
Brockington appears to be healthy as does Crum who'll be the MLB. Banda is gone from the team for medical reasons. Frome looks to be back and Leitko is back, at least as a walk-on for now. Is Leitko really 290? Rumors abound. Rhema is in better shape. Remember he has 'exceptional quickness.' Junior Jabbie returns to the team as a backup RB.
In the broken action figure box: Aldridge is out for a few weeks or more, which jibes with what we've been hearing. Harris is gone for one to two weeks -- same for Chase Anastacio -- DJ Hord is out for the year.
Will the defense be better?
Q. And beyond better speed at linebacker, more athleticism, what leads you to believe that the defense will be better this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, we have a lot of reasons to believe that, and you know sometimes experience can be a negative, not a positive. Everyone says, well you have to have everyone back. It's what they are doing being back. I think that both on a coaching side and players side, we have fixed a lot of problems, and I expect that to show up early in the season.
A lot of times in the first year, not to go off on a tangent but a lot of times in your first year, you're just putting it in and not really having a chance to tweak it. I think that we've had time to research evaluation and some other outside resources, put us in position to take it to a
different level than where we were at last year.
Q. Do you feel like that was one of the big problems last year, the defense being too slow?
COACH WEIS: No, I think that we played slow sometimes. That doesn't mean we ran slow. There's a difference now, and sometimes when you play slow you think too much and that's true on anyone who plays football. Anyone who has to think about what to do, you can't just go out there and let it loose, is going to be hesitant. I think that was one of our big focuses in the off season.
Q. Are you confident that the defense will be coaches say that defense wins championships, do you think the defense will be in that range?
COACH WEIS: Put it like this: They are going to be played as the underdog the whole time, and it's something that psychologically is easy for me to play on. "You guys aren't any good, anyway. That's what everyone is telling you, anyway." They might hear that once or twice, about every five minutes.
Will the offense be better?
Q. This is your second year here and your system in place, is that an advantage, and do you feel more confident heading into this year knowing what you have?
COACH WEIS: I think every year it's going to change based on everything is based on in our system, everything is based on what the quarterback can do as far as what you call, it's based on what the quarterback can do. Obviously you have to deal with the components you have with a veteran offensive line, that helps. I'm not really thinking too much when you have four starters back on your offensive line, Harris, Sully and Horton and it eases your pain a little bit. Well, what do I have to do to protect the offensive line. Those type of things help.
So personnel definitely dictates a lot of what you do. But when you have a veteran offensive line, when you have veteran tight ends, both John and Marcus are experienced, you have a veteran running back and veteran ran wide receivers; when you have a bunch of veteran players here, then what you have to do is see what you can do mentally to take it to expand and expound on what you do.
That's pretty much all you can really expect out of a presser except for this line, which is my new favorite,"We just try to do things right. I would like to think that people would respect us for the way we run the program, whether you like us or not is really not that relevant."
In other news Mickey Mouse and Goofy, otherwhise known as Carroll and Weineke, or however you spell their names, apparently threw a hissy fit after learning they'd been frozen out for talking to Paddy Mullen in their hatchet "series" on Clausen and Weis. Weis has a strict rule about talking to players without permission, which he reiterated for the hard of hearing or the hard of ethics, "Please follow the protocol. Don't try to go behind the scenes to try to get to any of the guys."
I would have thrown them out for malicious intent and abuse of reporter privilege... but that's just me. In any case.... good riddance. These two will now be looking for any trash they can throw on ND, but at least ND isn't giving the Foxes the keys to the Hen house. Let them scrounge around in the barn yard for their cow chips.
Just to keep them in line, whenever one of these hacks writes an article on Notre Dame, we'll evaluate it here piece by piece pointing out the journalistic, ethical and factual faults with their articles and link that on the page so that any patterns will be noticeable (and you won't have to click on their articles and give them more "eyeballs.") I'll call it the Hack of Fame and use the same ethos the writers used in their "articles," I'm going to focus only on the negatives. Certainly gives me a column every week.
Enough wallowing in the mud... it's Football time and all that negative probability crap I spewed over the summer was just that. I'm no longer rational.
Here's my new prediction:
Notre Dame will beat Texas to win the National Championship in the Fiesta Bowl
Stick that in your Leprechaun corn cob pipe and smoke it.
~ The Rock