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Football: Injury-free scrimmage ends pre-season camp

Mike Gilloon | Monday, August 28, 2006

The best news was no news for Charlie Weis this weekend.

Notre Dame’s intrasquad scrimmage in the stadium Friday night ended with no injuries – a welcome report for Weis and his staff as the season’s first game week kicks off today.

“I’m a creature of habit,” Weis said Saturday. “I’m looking forward to getting into my normal schedule, because until this point, nothing [has been] normal.”

After three weeks of fall camp, Weis stressed a typical routine in the scrimmage.

The team went through regular pre-game preparations Friday, even saying an opening prayer.

“We did everything,” Weis said. “At the end we got in the locker room and [Irish offensive guard Bob] Morton led us in the fight song.”

Notre Dame spent two-thirds of Friday’s scrimmage on Georgia Tech and now turns its full attention to the Yellow Jackets, with just five days before the season’s first game.

The Irish will “tone it down” physically this week so “we’re as fresh as we possibly can be,” Weis said.

Fresh legs will come in handy when the Irish defense lines up against Georgia Tech All-America receiver Calvin Johnson.

Irish backup wide outs Richard Jackson and Darrin Bragg played the role of Johnson in practice last week against the first-team defense. Weis said both were used to simulate Johnson – who averaged 16.4 yards per reception in 2005 – to challenge the secondary as much as possible.

Notre Dame spent the final third of Friday’s scrimmage on finding repetitions for younger players. Weis said that the first and second spots on the depth chart are mostly solidified, but “there are still some issues” between the second and third spots.

Up to 70 players will board the flight to Atlanta for Saturday’s 8 p.m. (EST) kick off. Sixty of those spots are filled, and Weis said there is a handful of Irish competing for the final 10 spots to make the trip.


– The returning defensive players are ahead of where they were last season – physically and mentally.

Starting free safety Chinedum Ndukwe is “in the best shape he’s been in since I’ve been here,” Weis said.

The returning defenders also understand the game more than last season, Weis said – something he hopes will pay off against Georgia Tech.

“Everyone’s telling me how bad the defense is – I guess we’ll just have to wait till next Saturday night to find out,” Weis said sharply. “We’ll see if we have any speed or not.”

– Irish right tackle Sam Young will start against Georgia Tech – impressive considering he’s a true freshman. To help Young adjust to Division-I football, Weis assigned another lineman who started as a true freshman to be Young’s mentor – senior left tackle Ryan Harris.

“Ryan’s been valuable in helping Sam mature through this process,” Weis said.

While Harris, whose first career start came at Pittsburgh in 2003, sat out much of fall camp with an injury, the Irish coaching staff kept him busy by having him help “coach” Young each day.

“That’s how we kept [Harris] mentally involved in the game, because the tendency is to let your mind wander when you’re not in there,” Weis said. “Now that we’ve assigned him that coaching responsibility, that’s kept him sharper at the same time.”

– Notre Dame will dress in coats and ties on the jet to Atlanta this week. If the Irish lose, Weis said they will wear the same outfit on the trip home. If they win, they will wear sweats.