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Calling the shots

Dan Murphy | Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Irish coach Charlie Weis announced in his regular Tuesday press conference that he would be taking over the play-calling responsibilities for at least this week against Navy in Baltimore.

Weis said he made the decision because offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, Notre Dame’s regular play-caller, will not be at practice this week. Haywood will spend the week at home in Houston dealing with the death of his cousin Clarissa Francis. According to Weis, the death was somewhat unexpected after a long battle with disease.

“Whenever there is something with family, everything stops,” Haywood said. “You learn how to deal with adversity.”

Weis did not give any indication that the decision to take over the calls was based on the shutout loss to Boston College last Saturday. He also said that Haywood seemed fine heading into Saturday night’s game despite the news.

“He came in and told me Friday morning. He was okay, we talked about it and we said we would revisit it on Sunday,” Weis said.

“Having gone through a death during a football season myself at one time, you show up for the game but you are kind of in a fog. You’re there but you’re kind of not there at the same time.”

Haywood started calling plays at the beginning of this season because Weis said he wanted to be able to focus more on what was happening on the field at all times.

Weis also said that the position at this point was only for Navy and he would not discuss any future plans until after the game.

“We decided not even to go there. Let’s just try to get through this week and get through Navy,” he said.

Haywood is scheduled to leave for Houston tonight and the funeral is scheduled for Thursday.

In the meantime, Weis has started to take control in offensive practices and meetings.

“I’ve been involved with the game plan, with Michael in there of course, as of Monday morning,” Weis said.

Weis isn’t exactly unfamiliar with the role. Prior to this season Weis called all of Notre Dame’s plays and before that he also called play as the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots.

“The one thing that I’ll do is the guys will know very early in the week what we’re going to call in the game,” Weis said.

He said that the key against the Midshipmen was to have the offense play within their means. Navy has the 30th best run defense in the country and has been able to eliminate the deep ball effectively so far this season.

However, they have been willing to give up passing yardage underneath.

“As a play-caller you have to take what the defense gives you,” Weis said.

Haywood said that he encountered the same challenge against Boston College and in the second half against Pittsburgh.

“The philosophy has now changed where all defenses are saying, ‘you’re not going to beat us with the deep ball,'” Haywood said.

Haywood said he plans on meeting the team in Baltimore and coaching in Saturday’s game. He said that the absences of play calls would allow him to focus to calculate what is happening on the field and allow him to make better situational suggestions to Weis.