NOTRE DAME, IN (UHND.com) – The Fighting Irish hit the practice fields Sunday for potentially one of the most important weeks of practice in the young Charlie Weis Era. After a 0-3 start to season which has seen the Irish outscored 102-13, Weis announced the Irish would be going back to training camp and focusing on fundamentals until they got them right this week. Just how much better the Irish can get in one week remains to be seen, but for the future of the program, this week’s training camp could be one of the most important Weis will ever experience for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s disastrous start to the season has the Irish as the laughing stock of college football right now and without some concrete visual evidence of improvement this week, this will only get worse for the Irish.
“Obviously after three games in the team’s heading in wrong direction. The only way I know to fix it, is to come out swinging.”
Showing improvement shouldn’t be all that hard considering the Notre Dame offense has scored just six points this season and has lost enough yards on the 23 sacks its allowed to be in the negative rushing yards for the season. Weis’s getting back to basics approach will hopefully involve a return to one offensive system – the one we all knew and loved for the past two seasons.
The biggest mistake Weis has made in his almost three years at Notre Dame was to install a completely different set of plays for Demetrius Jones and another for Sharpley and Clausen. By having two very different systems, the Irish have ended up not being able to do either adequately.
“It really doesn’t make a difference who we’re playing until we start getting good at something,” Weis said when asked when he’d begin game planning for Michigan State. He would add, “Right now we’re grab-bagging and we’re not really getting good at something. We have to have a staple. We have to have something to start from and that has to be our approach.”
Not being able to develop that staple to build on is what has Weis the most concerned this year. “I feel the worst that I have not been able to create a small niche that is a staple or foundation of which for us to grow from,” Weis explained. “That’s what I have not accomplished at this point, three games into the season; and you would like to think that three games into the season, there is some things you’re starting to do better and better and that has not happened.”
Complicating matters further is the transfer of Jones which now levies most of the spread plays the Irish have wasted practice time on unusable. Thinking he could install a package of spread plays to compliment the base offense has turned out to be a major miscalculation by Weis – a miscalculation Weis all but admitted to in the aftermath of Saturday’s debacle in Ann Arbor.
“I think what I really need to do is start going about finding a way to fix the problem, rather than try to just try x’s and o’s, and technique, and do something different each week. I think the only way I know is by going back to work and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Weis lamented in the post mortem of Saturday’s loss.
Going back to work meant skipping the film review of the Michigan Sunday and hitting the practice fields. “We will not be watching the tape. We will not be having meetings on this game. We will be practicing tomorrow. That’s what we’ll be doing,” Weis alerted the media in his opening remarks Saturday night.
Practice this week will also be focused on installation and working on fundamentals with the Irish squaring off against each other instead of running Michigan State show teams.
“We’re going 1′s against 1′s in practice. It’s not going to be show teams. It’s going to be the first offense going against the first defense. After I wear them out, it’ll be the second offense against the second defense. And whoever’s left, they go next. And then we’re going to start it all over again until we get it right.”
Finding the niche that Weis mentioned several times will go a long way in determining if Weis can save this season before it spirals out of control even more than it already has with this 0-3 start. Find a niche in one week of practice won’t be easy for the Irish, but Weis laid out how intends on using his allotted 20 hours of practice saying, “Four hours on Sunday, four hours on Tuesday, four hours on Wednesday, four hours on Thursday, and one hour on Friday. That’s 17, the game counts as 3. That’s the hours we’ll be using. The difference is, instead of watching tape and then running and lifting, tomorrow we’ll be practicing.”
Whether or not the return to training camp mode will produce positive results remains to be seen, but the bottom line is, Weis has to find something this week that translates into on field success if he wants to keep this team from giving up and if he wants to keep Notre Dame’s #1 ranked recruiting class intact.
Right now the obvious selling point to recruits is the potential for playing time, but unless Weis can right this ship in a hurry, it would not come as a surprise if a few recruits jumped overboard. Playing time can only go so far to top notch recruits. Most don’t just want to play, they want to play well and win and right now those are two things this Irish team just isn’t doing.
Each loss has added more and more pressure on this team and the coaching staff, and with many college football analysts predicting an 0-8 start for the Irish, it won’t take much work for opposing coaches to get into the ears of the 19 verbally committed players Weis and staff have already secured.
For now though, Weis’s main concern has to be finding some semblance of an offense and keeping this recruiting class held together until this storm passes. Clear skies are out there for the Irish, they just can’t wait another five games to find them.