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FOOTBALL: Irish coaches looking to spread talent around

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, August 25, 2005

Charlie Weis made a name for himself in New England. As the offensive coordinator of the Patriots, he won three Super Bowls in four years by running an unpredictable offense based on attacking weak spots in opponents’ defense.

Now, as he enters his first year as coach at Notre Dame, he is trying to win the same reputation – and games – by using his players’ talents in the most efficient way possible. And so far, the installation of his offense is moving steadily.

“I think that with a week and a half to go, … we have the foundation set that we can go ahead and game plan each week,” Weis said.

With ten starters returning on offense, Weis has plenty of talent to go around. One challenge that comes with this luxury is to find the right position for each player. Rashon Powers-Neal, for example, has moved from fullback to running back in hopes of finding a better fit in the offense. The running back spot is already crowded with Darius Walker, Travis Thomas and Justin Hoskins in the mix. The addition of Powers-Neal leaves Weis with what could be too much talent.

“I think that we have enough offense [already installed] … in that we understand who our personnel is,” Weis said. “There is still a little jockeying between a second or third guy … how are we going to rotate people?”

Notre Dame offensive coordinator and running backs coach Michael Haywood believes having a large number of quality players, especially running backs, is always an asset.

“I think Darius [Walker] has the ability to be one of the finest running backs in the country,” Haywood said. “But at the same time I think that we have other quality backs that can come in and do an outstanding job. So we’re going to play as many guys that are capable of playing.”

Besides trying to get all their talent on the field, the staff also has to decide how to teach players what to do in situations that might not come up for several games.

“We still have some things we have to fit in,” Weis said. “So the first time stuff happens, it isn’t ‘well what do we do now, coach?'”

Haywood believes the team is adapting quickly to what the coaches want to do in particular moments of the game.

“I think the guys are starting to understand what we’re asking for in certain situations,” Haywood said. “They’re extremely coachable young men and extremely intelligent, so they learn on the run.”