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Football: Weis aware of receivers’ talent

Bobby Griffin | Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Notre Dame’s highly scrutinized secondary heading into 2006 has turned a few heads so far this season – shutting down Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson in the second half of a 14-10 win Sept. 2 and holding Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli to 189 yards passing Sept. 10.

Saturday’s matchup with Michigan will serve as another test. Given the dynamic receiving combination of Steve Breaston and Mario Manningham – a major Notre Dame focus will be shutting down these receivers while limiting a Wolverines rushing attack that has been strong in two games this season (249 yards per game, 4.9 yards per attempt).

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has opted for a more run-dominated offense this year, using quarterback Chad Henne as a secondary option. The Wolverines have controlled the time of possession battle – averaging over 35 minutes per game.

But Notre Dame head coach understands how dangerous both receivers can be after experiencing them first hand in last September’s 17-10 Irish win in Ann Arbor.

“We got indoctrinated by [Manningham],” Weis said about the Michigan sophomore in his press conference Tuesday.

Manningham (6-foot, 182 pounds) and Breaston (6-foot-1, 180 pounds) are both smaller receivers than Johnson, who Notre Dame limited to two catches for 16 yards in the second half. Johnson (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) was a much more physical threat than Michigan’s pair.

And as a result, Breaston and Manningham will pose different challenges. Breaston presents multiple threats as a receiver, kick returner and punt returner. He leads the team with six catches and 91 yards in two games this season. The senior also has two carries for 39 yards.

Manningham has one of two Michigan receiving touchdowns this year, and has five catches for 71 yards. He had three catches and 44 yards in the Wolverines’ opener against Vanderbilt.

Weis said Tuesday his defensive backs are constantly handling the pressure of proving themselves on a game-by-game basis.

“The players have taken on the responsibility of being consistently better … because that one issue was playing one game, now it’s can you do it another game,” Weis said. “Now we’re going into game three, can you do it another game because everyone is, ‘Well, it’s just two games,’ and that’s not the way they’re thinking about things.”


– Weis spoke Tuesday about the number of recruits that will be in town Saturday for the Michigan game. Being a Notre Dame graduate, Weis has a unique perspective on what to show high school prospects when they visit.

He makes a point of giving recruits his own personal tour of campus – highlighting his own preferred parts of the University.

“My favorite part of the campus happens to be the Grotto and the lake to tell you the truth,” Weis said. “For me on my golf cart, this is one spot where I get off the golf cart because for me … it’s something that always has great significance.”

– It’s no secret that Weis and New England quarterback Tom Brady have a tight bond – one that traces back to their three Super Bowls together with the Patriots.

But when Weis was asked Tuesday if the two will be discussing this week’s game – Brady is a Michigan alumnus who lost a bet to Weis and was forced to wear an Irish hat during an interview last season – the Notre Dame coach offered an unexpected answer.

“We e-mail on a regular basis but we won’t talk,” Weis said. “Last year people got mad because he had to wear a Notre Dame hat, so I won’t call him this year. I don’t want to get myself in trouble like I did last year.

“I’ll just e-mail him. I think he’s more about getting ready for the Jets than he is worrying about Notre Dame and Michigan playing.”