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From the Dalily Herald


(Cough! There's that 'inconsistant again.'





Notre Dame’s players find great success assimilating Weis’ high-powered offense

By Adam Rittenberg

Daily Herald Sports Writer

Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2005


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Charlie Weis thumbed his nose at the standard reasoning behind Notre Dame’s descent into college football’s middle class.


Lack of talent.


Demanding scholastic standards.


An extreme schedule.


To Weis, changing Notre Dame’s course was academic. The Irish offense was both smart and skilled, but it had never blended those qualities on the field.


So in his first year as coach, Weis emphasized a cerebral approach, one based on thorough analysis and anticipation, and forced his players to think differently.


The results came through this season, when the offense produced with machine-like efficiency and consistency.


Notre Dame scored 30 points in 10 of its 11 games and reached the 40-point plateau six times. The Irish amassed 500 yards in seven games and ranked 10th nationally in total offense (489.1 ypg).


As the Irish enter their Fiesta Bowl matchup Jan. 2 against Ohio State, they do so, according to players, as a much smarter offense.


“You can’t have a slip, you can’t not listen, you’ve got to pay attention,” said senior guard Dan Stevenson, a Barrington native. “The thing that’s made this offense so good is not only the ability we have, but the fact that everyone’s on the same page.”


The Irish were anything but in the West Coast offense, which rarely clicked in three seasons.


During that span Notre Dame scored 40 points or more only twice and 30 points or more nine times.


“The word has been inconsistent,” former coach Tyrone Willingham said last November, just days before his firing. “That is where we are.”


Weis’ system was more complex — running back Darius Walker called the playbook “a phone book” — and it required players to absorb every detail. But after 11 games, the offense has become “second nature,” said tight end Anthony Fasano.


Following a practice in April, Weis addressed the media from a podium and joked that he felt like a professor. But he quickly became one to his players.


“My strength is as a teacher,” Weis said. “I really like analyzing people and trying to win a game mentally. Obviously, I am not very good physically, so that is all I have to work with. The mental part of the game is the thing I enjoy the most.”


Junior quarterback Brady Quinn became the teacher’s pet, though he had little say in the matter. Weis spent almost all of his time with Quinn, teaching the quarterback to think like Weis does, anticipating every possible outcome before the snap.


Quinn went on to set every school passing record and rank fourth nationally in passing efficiency (162.9 rating). His understanding of Weis and the offense permeated to others.


“Instead of the offensive line waiting to see what Brady says, it’s getting up there, looking at the defense and just knowing where he’s going to make his call,” Stevenson said. “(Quinn’s) an A-plus student.”


Weis also pushed his get-ahead strategy onto Walker, who ended the regular season with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games.


“As a running back,” Weis said, “(if) you know what the play call is and are looking at the defensive front, you should be able, before the ball is even snapped, to know where the ball should go. That is something that has to be taught. It is not inherent.


“(Walker) has a better understanding of the game now.”


Weis has frequently said that his offense hinges largely on the intellect of those who run it. And Notre Dame, the school criticized for its academic standards in recent years, provided Weis with the perfect pupils.


“Coming in, not even knowing the kids, you knew they were going to be smart,” Weis said. “That showed up.”



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