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Weis says team will “pound it” on offense this year

Jay Fitzpatrick | Wednesday, August 27, 2008

At Irish head coach Charlie Weis’ press conference on Monday, he clearly set the team’s offensive identity.

“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve wanted to be able to pound the football. And we haven’t yet. So we’re going to find out. Because we’re going to pound it,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood said on Tuesday that the first step in developing a “pound it” offense is instructional.

“The most important thing in which we’re doing is that we’re teaching guys football, we’re teaching guys situational football,” Haywood said. “We’re teaching them that on first-and-ten when we call this play, we’re expecting four yards on this play to make it second-and-six. On the next call, we’re making a call to get us in third-and- short or to pick up the first down.”

In order to implement this smash mouth style of football, the offense will need to see improvement from two key positions: running back and offensive line. Last season, Notre Dame gained 903 net yards on the ground and allowed an NCAA-worst 58 sacks. But Notre Dame’s offensive coaches said they are confident that won’t be the case this season.

“I think what Coach [Weis] is really saying is that we have an offensive line who is a lot bigger and stronger, we have multiple backs that are running a lot better than they’ve run in the past years,” Haywood said. “So it creates an opportunity now for us to run the ball a little bit more effective in which we’ve run over the past several years.”

The offensive line’s added bulk this season comes mostly from the summer weight regiment that strength and conditioning coach Rueben Mendoza created specifically for them.

Right tackle Sam Young said the plan consisted of many drills tailored to linemen, such as flipping tires, King of the Ring, and even some Sumo wrestling.

“Across the board, everyone’s gained weight, everyone’s gotten stronger,” Young said.

But Young said the weights weren’t the only tool they used for adding some pounds.

“Bruno’s [Restaurant] put the weight on,” he said. “I guess you could say it was our carbo shake.”

In addition to the offensive line’s increased strength, the unit also benefits from its experience, right guard Eric Olsen said.

“As we’ve gotten older a year as a group, things have gotten easier with that experience, so I don’t know if the schemes are that much simpler. But when you gain experience, it really slows the game down for you,” he said.

Young also said the offensive line has assumed the responsibility inherent in Weis’ “pound it” offense.

“That puts a lot of responsibility on us. We establish the line of scrimmage, and as an offensive lineman that’s what you love to do. Instead of being passive-aggressive and pass block, you have to be aggressive and knock the other guy in the mouth,” Young said.

But the offensive line is only half of the “pound it” philosophy; the running backs will also need to pull their own weight. In his Monday news conference, Weis said he is pleased with all the running backs on the depth chart.

“The only way to find out [if we can pound it] is getting the big boys up front to get off the ball and hand it off to those backs. I like all of them. I like all of those backs. You’ve got to keep fresh legs out there at [half]back and keep pounding it,” he said.

Going into the opener against San Diego State, sophomore Armando Allen is the No. 1 running back listed.

“[The running backs] are very, very confident in the offensive linemen. I think that’s one of the strengths of the team that’s really improved this year,” Allen said. “The offensive line’s improvement gives us confidence as well.”

Young also noted the importance of running the ball for developing an offense.

“When you run the ball you can control the clock much better,” Young said. “And to go along with that, you run the ball, you suck the safeties in. Then you can throw over the top, play action, it all plays off each other.”