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Football Anaylsis: Weis returns team to preseason

Ken Fowler | Monday, September 17, 2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Notre Dame is starting over.

Irish coach Charlie Weis said after Saturday’s loss that Notre Dame has re-entered preseason “training camp” mode.

“We’re starting training camp [Sunday],” Weis said. “Obviously after three games in, the team is heading in the wrong direction, and [the] only way I know to fix it is to come out swinging,” Weis said.

What that literally means is that the Irish will be spending less time watching tape and preparing for defenses and more time in pads and practicing plays.

“I can’t worry about Michigan, I can’t worry about Michigan State,” Weis said. I have to worry about Notre Dame. I have to worry about me, about my coaching staff, about my players – and justifiably so after you lose a game like that.”

When Weis began his post-game news conference, he said he would take his “beating” and answer as many questions as reporters had. About 10 minutes into the conference, Notre Dame’s media relations director said there would be “one more question,” but Weis said he would continue answering questions – and did, for another 10 minutes.

It was the definite change in Weis’s routine in the move from Week 3 to training camp.

Weis cancelled his usual Sunday news conference and moved his mid-week news conference, at which he answers questions about the upcoming opponent, to Thursday from Tuesday. He will talk about the team’s practices and whatever progress it makes Tuesday and Wednesday night.

But there will be some significant differences from the two-a-day training camp that began Aug. 6 and lasted until the week before Notre Dame and Georgia Tech kicked off the season.

The biggest week-to-week change for the players was Sunday’s padded practice, which replaced the film study and classroom work it usually does the day after a game.

NCAA rules limit teams to 17 hours of out-of-game football time each week. So, Weis said, the Irish will go into Saturday’s Michigan State game after practicing for four hours on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Monday is the team’s day off.

Through three games, Notre Dame has accumulated only 359 yards passing and negative-14 yards on the ground. The Irish have fumbled 12 times and lost five, have committed 24 penalties and have surrendered 23 sacks.

Against Michigan, Notre Dame took its largest step back. Still without an offensive touchdown on the year, the Irish failed to threaten for a touchdown and had only one play in Michigan territory in the first half.

When asked if the return to “training camp” meant all positions would be open for competition, Weis skirted the issue. He said the starting point for the team would be installation of the offense.

For Weis, the reversion to training camp mode is a stark admission that his strategies were not working and his game planning was deficient, at least in trying to minimize Notre Dame’s weaknesses.

“We’ve come up short every time,” Weis said. “What we’re going to do is we’re going to start from the beginning.”

Contact Ken Fowler at [email protected]