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FOOTBALL: Harris family safe after Katrina hits hometown

Heather VanHoegarden | Thursday, September 1, 2005

Two days before his first game with the Irish, former walk-on defensive back and starting kick returner Brandon Harris has had other things on his mind this week. The New Orleans native has family where Hurricane Katrina hit, a storm reportedly has claimed thousands of lives. But everyone is okay, Harris said Wednesday night, saying his family evacuated before the storm.

“I’m not sure what the status of our home is right now,” Harris said. “But my parents, sister and grandmother are in Shreveport and they’ll know pretty soon about our house.”

Harris said although he doesn’t know about his house, he is most concerned with his family being all right.

“It’s on the west bank,” he said of his house. “I’m not sure what that area’s like now, but I heard there were some problems with the levee system breaking. I don’t know if the levee broke by our house or what the water level is around there, but I’m hoping my house is OK. But most importantly my family is OK. My sister was telling me [it] may be a couple of weeks before they can go back.”

Harris said he will continue to try to keep his mind on preparing for Pittsburgh the next few days.

“It’s pretty tough,” he said. “I just have to stay focused – keep my mind on what I’m doing.”

Dress list finalized for Saturday

Irish head coach Charlie Weis said Wednesday that he had finalized the list of players going to Pittsburgh, filling out the 15 spots he said were open for players to earn. However, since Notre Dame is independent, the Irish can dress as many players as the coaching staff deems necessary. Weis said it would be about 70 for Saturday’s game.

“We’ve filled up the bus,” Weis said. “Those guys knew that the only way they were going to get on the bus is if the tempo was picked up. We had enough guys to go to the game without them, but we’ve filled the bus.”

At least five of the 15 spots are filled by freshmen, Weis said. He also said he is taking four players from the scout team after initially wanting to take two.

“I leave some travel spots for the scout team players of the week,” Weis said. “The chances they play in a game are very, very small. But I think if a guy goes and busts his butt all week, he deserves to travel just as much as those guys playing every down.”

Designing in advance

Weis said he figures out what plays he is going to run before the game, although he doesn’t script too much because it makes it harder to adjust to the defense.

“I don’t script 25 because I don’t think you can stick to 25 plays,” Weis said. “I think that if you script to 25 it doesn’t give you a chance to react to what they’re doing and all of a sudden it’s halftime and you haven’t made any adjustments.

“I try to keep it to about 15. And there’s times when it’s not working I don’t get through those 15 either.”

Under the lights one more time

Tonight the Irish will practice from 7 to 9 p.m. under the lights of Notre Dame Stadium. It will be their last practice before the season opener.

“[Tonight’s] going to be tone it down and key it up before the game,” Weis said. “I’m not out there to kill them tomorrow. I want there to be no excuses to how fresh we are.”