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Football: Weis says competition won’t hurt chemistry

Chris Hine | Thursday, April 5, 2007

As the Notre Dame coaching staff sifts through position battles on both sides of the ball this spring, there are bound to be players disappointed with their spot on the depth charts.

But Irish coach Charlie Weis said he is making sure this disappointment does not turn into disruption – and to that extent, he uses his tell-it-like-it-is New Jersey personality.

“When the [team] realizes that the head coach is really making the decision that’s in the best interest of the team because he doesn’t have any favorites, usually they’re comfortable with that,” Weis said. “So really, it doesn’t divide the team. [The] question implies, correctly so, that you can have division on the team. I think that when they realize that I’m the one making the decisions based on objectivity, usually you don’t have those problems.”

Weis said he hopes to have depth charts set by the end of spring practice and then revise them again when the 15 remaining incoming freshman enter during the summer. He also reiterated that depth charts are not set in stone.

“It isn’t like depth charts never change,” Weis said. “Depth charts change eventually, and injuries occur on top of it. That’s part of being a starter and part of being a backup.

In his press conferences, Weis has been tight-lipped when reporters ask him about position battles. He will often say that he is encouraged by certain positions or how a given player is doing. But he will not comment on who stands where. And that’s by design, Weis said.

“Just imagine if I came in and told you everything that happened in practice today and did that on a daily basis. I mean, God, people all across the country will be drooling over that,” Weis said. “You just can’t do it that way. It’s part of my job to protect [players] so we don’t create a situation like that.”

Weis let this rule slide Saturday when he fingered rising sophomore George West as his current No. 2 receiver behind rising junior David Grimes. West is competing with rising senior Darrin Bragg, rising junior D.J. Hord, and rising sophomores Robby Parris, Barry Gallup, and Richard Jackson for that No. 2 slot.

Overall, West said he does not see the competition this spring as counter-productive.

“We have completely great chemistry and we’re all young guys and we know we’re all out there to compete,” West said Monday. “We’re all friends about it and we encourage each other. Somebody makes a good play, you know, it’s a good thing for the receivers.

“We feel as a receiving corps we have something to go out there and prove because everybody doubts us this year. We’re taking that to heart right now.”

Fullback Luke Schmidt added that competition is beneficial to the team overall, but that he hopes team members will not take it personally if they are not picked as starters. Schmidt is battling for time on the field with returning starter Asaph Schwapp.

“Hopefully, everyone on the team will be able to take that positively and try and make themselves better and hopefully battle for it again next year,” Schmidt said Monday. “Hopefully, they won’t take it in a negative way, go hide themselves in a hole, just not care about the team anymore and care only about themselves. Hopefully, that’ll be a positive effect on the team.”

And then there’s the quarterbacks.

Weis said he currently employs a system where each of the four candidates for starting quarterback – rising junior Evan Sharpley, rising sophomores Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer, and incoming freshman Jimmy Clausen – each spend time in the No. 1 position in practice.

“I think you cannot make a subjective analysis when you’re doing something that is this critical because we’ve all been in the comfort zone of having Brady Quinn here since the day I walked in here. Well, Brady’s not here anymore,” Weis said Monday. “I think going under my three premises of coaching, premise No. 2 is always tell the players the truth regardless of the consequences.

“Well, that’s the one we’re talking about right now. I think it’s important to analyze the quarterbacks and just tell them, ‘That’s the way it is.’ That’s what I will do.”

When practice and training camp is over and the depth charts are set for Notre Dame’s season opener against Georgia Tech Sept. 1, Weis said he does not foresee any problems with team chemistry.

“No matter what you do, there’s going to be people who say, ‘Well, it should be so and so, should be so and so, should be so and so,'” Weis said. “I just got to worry about what’s in the best interest of the team.”