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Football: Defensive unit impressing Weis in spring practice

Matt Gamber | Monday, March 30, 2009

In accordance with NCAA regulations that prohibit him from discussing fifth-year seniors by name at this point in the spring, Charlie Weis’ lips are sealed about a certain player likely to return next fall – kind of.

“On the offensive side of the ball, there is a left tackle that has been one of the more pleasant people for me to look at so far in camp,” the Irish coach said at his Saturday post-practice press conference.

That left tackle would be Paul Duncan, who is likely to return to quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s blind side, where he started the 2007 season, after missing all of last year with a hip injury.

Duncan was one of many players with whom Weis was impressed after Saturday’s practice, which was open to the public. The defense performed particularly well during a 17-play, near-full-speed scrimmage at the end of practice. Weis mentioned, among others, defensive backs Darrin Walls and Harrison Smith, linebackers Brian Smith and Toryan Smith and defensive linemen Ethan Johnson and Kapron Lewis-Moore, all of whom are at or near the top of the current depth chart.

Rising sophomore defensive lineman Hafis Williams, however, stole the show – at least for a while, Weis said.

“Hafis isn’t a big name around here, but he has been one of the guys in practice for the last week that just keeps on showing up,” Weis said. “Now all of a sudden you have a bigger guy out there – an athletic, big guy out there – that can really help us in base defenses.”

It wasn’t all positive for the Irish on Saturday, though.

“I was dissatisfied today with a walk-through period. You should never be dissatisfied with a walk-through period because a walk-through period is a teaching period,” Weis said. “There were just too many people who weren’t focused in on running the plays.”

That issue stems directly from Notre Dame’s maturity, which Weis said was one of his primary concerns entering camp.

“You know maturity was one of the main things I was worried about,” Weis said. “That means you still have a number of players who haven’t turned the corner yet. Because in a walk-through period, when your whole point of emphasis is focused on mental sharpness and they come out there and have that many mistakes, that means we have a ways to go yet.”

Also on the more negative side were the absences of two of Notre Dame’s wide receivers from the scrimmage. Michael Floyd missed practice with a strained quadriceps, and Duval Kamara was sidelined by a strained hamstring – both minor injuries, Weis said.

“They both went through individual periods, but it was one of those ones where I wasn’t going to go the last half-hour [of] Saturday practice and ruin all of next week,” Weis said.

And would a press conference be complete without a “big picture question,” as Weis so often called them last season?

Asked how long it had taken him to “comprehend all that comes with” his job title, Weis said that task isn’t, and won’t soon be, complete.

“I don’t think you are ever done evolving in that role,” Weis said. “You do wear an awful lot of hats here, and it’s a never-ending process, to be perfectly honest with you. I think one of the things that I have been able to do better as the years go on is to continue to evolve along with the job.”

For more on spring football practice, check out The Casual Observer at observersportsblog.wordpress.com