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Football Notebook: Weis compares McKnight to Ward

Ken Fowler | Wednesday, October 4, 2006

During spring practice, Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis used a pro term to describe the return of Irish receiver Rhema McKnight. Weis said the fifth-year senior’s return was like “picking up a free agent” during a post-practice press conference April 5.

Half a year later, Weis was using NFL-speak once again when describing McKnight – this time comparing Notre Dame’s leading receiver to four-time Pro Bowler Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Well, the more I watch him,” Weis said, “the more he starts to remind me of a couple of the more physical types of quickness receivers, à la maybe like a Hines Ward.”

Weis favorably compared McKnight’s physical attributes and route-running abilities to those of Ward.

“Ward has made a reputation of being the most physical blocker of any receiver in the country,” Weis said. “I wouldn’t say Rhema has quite gotten to that point yet, but he’s capable of doing that.

“But he runs routes the same and he has the same type of quicks – and also the same type of body type.”

Weis said he used Ward as a role model for former Irish receiver David Givens when he coached Givens on the New England Patriots.

“[Rhema is] a lot like Givens. He’s actually a lot smoother route runner than David was,” Weis said. “David has got brute strength that very few receivers have.”

u Weis also said the intense media coverage of Irish receiver Jeff Samardzija and quarterback Brady Quinn will help them after they are drafted into the NFL – unless they end up with Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who limits media access even more than Weis does.

“If they go to New England they’re not going to talk to anyone anyway because they’re not going to be allowed to,” Weis said with a laugh. “It all depends on where they go. They’ll go to some places and they’ll be the media darlings. [But] I can promise you if any of them ends up in New England, they won’t be talking to the press.”

u After calling a successful end-around that freshman wide receiver George West ran for an 11-yard touchdown and a fake field goal that senior receiver Jeff Samardzija took six yards for a score, Weis said he will likely replace that trick play with a new one in the team’s “inventory.”

“Once I’ve run plays, then I replace them with new ones,” Weis said. “Like today in practice, we’ll have a new [play] because I used some of them the other day … They’ll be called sometime this year, you just don’t know when. They might be called this week.”

u Admitting a “prejudice,” Weis picked the New York Yankees to win their Divisional Playoff Series against the Detroit Tigers in four games.

“I’m an avid Yankee fan, so I’d be rooting for them no matter what,” Weis said. “So we’ll see. I’m reluctant to say [the Yankees will win in] three. What do you think? Shall we say four just to play it safe? I’ll say the Yankees in the Series, how’s that?”