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Football: Offense, defense effective in intersquad scrimmage

Sam Werner | Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Even though the season opener against Nevada is still five months away, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis tried to make Saturday’s scrimmage as close to a game situation as possible.

Weis said he allowed the offensive line to cut-block against the defense for the first time all spring. Previously, risk of injury had prevented him from doing so.

“We had some causalities,” Weis said. “But we really didn’t have any casualties due to cut blocking.”

Weis said that Saturday’s scrimmage gave him a better idea of where his team stood heading into the Blue-Gold spring game on April 18 and the end of spring practices.

“I was a lot more pleased than I was the previous Saturday,” Weis said. “Mainly because I thought it was very competitive.”

The defense took the advantage early in the session, Weis said, thanks to a couple of offensive holding penalties. After the first few plays, though, the offense began to run the ball effectively, culminating in a touchdown run by sophomore running back Robert Hughes. After that, the session was essentially even, until a long Jimmy Clausen touchdown pass to Duval Kamara ended the practice.

Running backs coach Tony Alford has been getting on Hughes recently about his weight, which is currently listed at 237. Weis said that it isn’t necessarily that Hughes is overweight, but that he needs to find an identity as a running back.

“He has two choices,” Weis said. “Either lose weight or play big. He wants to be Armando as far as how he runs the ball, but if he wants to be Jerome Bettis, he doesn’t have to lose any weight.”

Offensive line coach Frank Verducci said the ability to cut-block Saturday gave him a better idea of where his unit, in particular, stood.

“It’s just consistency. If they go out there and they flash the ability to do something one time, you have to ask yourself if it’s skill or luck, and the more that they do it over and over, you’ve got to say it’s an acquired skill.”

The first-year offensive line coach was hesitant, however, to put too much stock in Saturday’s results, as several key players, such as receivers Golden Tate and Michael Floyd, were not playing.

“Just being at practice today and seeing what we have with [Golden Tate] and [Michael Floyd] on the field,” Verducci said. “We didn’t have them on Saturday. Boy, they’re both difference-makers. So it was a more realistic look, but we certainly didn’t have all our weapons.”

Tate, an outfielder on the Irish baseball team, has missed several practices this spring, and Weis said the biggest aspect the receiver will have to improve by fall is his stamina.

“There were a couple of times today where we might have had the [first-team] going for 10 plays,” Weis said. “It might have been after five or six plays he was looking for a relief pitcher.”