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Football: Changing Priorities

Chris Hine | Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Coach Charlie Weis said he wanted to get to know his entire team a little better – not just the offense – and this spring, the defense is finding out exactly what that means.

It means they see a lot more of their coach on the field in practice and off the field in the weight room and in meetings.

Weis said part of his reasoning behind giving play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Michael Haywood was to enhance his relationship with his players and become more involved in their individual development. And the defense has noticed a little more Weis in their day-to-day operations since the beginning of spring practice.

“He’s definitely a more visible figure, in the off-season and practice,” rising senior Kyle McCarthy said Monday after practice. “When you’re on defense and you’re not used to seeing coach Weis behind you, you’re kind of tripping a bit, but it’s been good. It’s been putting the pressure on some guys but I think it’s going to work well for us.”

Weis said his increased visibility with the defense at practice has enabled him to interact with the players and coach more on that side of the ball.

“It gives me a chance to coach a lot more players instead of having to just worry about the quarterback or the offense,” Weis said after practice Friday. “I stopped practice more times [Friday] to give a coaching point and I’ll probably give as many of them to the defense as I give to the offense. I’m not talking about scheme of the defense, but there’s things that I notice.”

Weis has left most of the schematic adjustments to defensive coordinator Corwin Brown and assistant head coach/defense Jon Tenuta, who was the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech for the past six seasons.

“He’s going to be the first one to evaluate the talent, put the guys in the right positions of how he sees it and go from there,” Tenuta said Monday. “He’s been around for a long time. There’s nothing I’ve done in my career – having faced him two times and being here – that he doesn’t understand how we do it or why we do it.”

Brown said having Weis help out more during practice could only help the team in the long run.

“When the head coach come in your meeting, that’s good,” Brown said. “When the head coach is watching your individual drills, that’s good. There are no negatives to that, none. It puts the players on alert, it makes sure the coaches are doing what you’re supposed to do, which you should be doing anyway.”

Weis has also become a frequent attendee – and has brought a little humor – to the defensive meetings.

“I sat in the defensive back meeting room [Friday]. It’s funny because Corwin’s coaching and I’m in the back of the room and he’s making fun of his guys because they have a guest visitor in the classroom,” Weis said. “It’s actually been kind of fun to tell you the truth.”

So far, the players have responded in different ways to the increased presence of Weis in their lives, but ultimately, the players know what Weis is trying to accomplish with the change, rising fifth-year senior Maurice Crum said.

“He’s letting the guys know he’s the coach but he wants to be more a part of the team. Some guys tighten up, and at the same time, guys get a better understanding of who Coach Weis is and what he means when he speaks,” Crum said. “He’s still the same coach Weis and he’s still about business and about winning. With him being around more, it just lets you know he’s willing to change and he wants to do whatever it takes to win.”

Now that he’s not involved as heavily in the offense as he was before, Weis said coaching the whole team has become a little easier – and a little more fun.

“You just see more. When you don’t have to zone in on one aspect, you can see more of a bigger picture,” Weis said. “This has been kind of fun, to tell you the truth. It’s not like I don’t say anything to the offense … but I’m also getting an opportunity to say something to the defense.”