Weis moves forward

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While many look to circle the wagons, head coach Charlie Weis turned the page to eighth-ranked Pitt, in a game that might not have BCS ramifications, but now has a much more macabre feel for the embattled coach.

As usual, Weis took questions from the assembled media, and this week fielded questions from ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi and George Smith, a sure sign that the WWL hasn’t deemed Notre Dame irrelevant yet.

Here are a few observations from today’s press conference.

* Weis did his best to keep the focus on Pitt, which I think was a very wise idea. Even while he was baited every which way from some very persuasive reporters the focus was on Pitt.

You already know what my answer is going to be when you ask that
question. But I’m really only worrying about beating Pitt. And I’ll
never change. I think the day that I walk away from here and I get time to sit back
and reflect, I’ll give you a holler and we’ll go over that one. I’m
just worrying about beating Pittsburgh. And I put all my energy in the
week from the time the last game ends to the time the next game starts
and to just beating that opponent. And maybe I’m trained that way, but it’s just a complete tunnel vision
way of looking at it. I don’t spend any time reflecting. I only worry
about doing all I can to beat Pitt.

Even when asked by Tom Rinaldi a question that included the words “learned,” “muster,” “treetops,” and “journey,” Weis was like a broken record, keeping the focus on the this week’s opponent.

(Note to self: Use more flowery adjectives, and maybe I’ll get some interviews like Rinaldi pulls.)

* Speaking of that opponent, Weis was asked if it was important that they’re playing at Pittsburgh, a top ten team right now on their home turf, after last week’s disappointing loss.

I think it’s probably the same tact that you would expect me to take. That coming into a game, you’re can contend on the road, you’re playing
a Top 10 team, I think it’s going to be a raucous crowd. There’s all the reasons for the team to get fired up to get ready to
go. I mean, every reason. There isn’t a reason imaginable for the team
not to get fired up. They’re ready to go. You go beat a Top 10 team on
the road, it doesn’t take much for everyone to be feeling better after
that ends up happening. 
But we’ll know that about 11:30, 12:00 Saturday night.

For all those that have been screaming for Weis’ head this week, I can assure you that at 11:30 or 12:00 Saturday night, we’ll have a better picture of the head coach’s fate by then as well.

* Staying on the topic of Saturday’s game, it’s clear Weis understands how badly his team needs this win, having lost seven straight games to Top 25 teams.

I think I’m worried more about the kids, that’s what I’m worrying more
about than anything else. I think for these kids’ sake it would do them
wonder to do this. I think the most important thing I have to worry
about in the grand scheme of things, we talk about the program and I
think that that’s a critical factor. But most importantly, you know,
you’ve got a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old kids that after a loss go to
class and everyone says: Hey, what happened? What happened? And I think right now the most important thing, when things like that
happen, is for me to be there for them. And a situation like that, all
we can do is fight together to be in position to go ahead and get this
rectified this week.

No doubt a win this weekend would probably silence a few critics and stabilize the situation around the program for the time being.

* Weis was asked about a USA Today piece that discussed the rapidly rising rate of college coaches’ salaries. Weis predictably hadn’t seen the piece, but took the chance to talk about his much discussed contract.

By the way, John, mine is grossly misreported in case you’re wondering.
And one step further while we’re on that subject, if you would like to
have my tax returns I’d be more than willing to have them just as long
as you were willing to pay the difference between what’s been reported
and what I actually make… You better have a seven-figure check ready, that’s all I have to say.

I’ve always found it incredibly annoying that people always cite this gigantic contract that Charlie Weis is paid, yet nobody has the faintest clue on the particulars. Depending on the source, Weis is either making $4 million a season, has a $15 million buyout, but really, nobody has the slightest clue. For the record, the reporter wasn’t willing to make the trade.

Restocking the roster: Running Backs

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 17: Josh Adams #33 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a 26-yard gain against the USC Trojans in the first half of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on October 17, 2015 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Notre Dame’s running back depth chart was tested to its max less than 10 minutes into the season opener. The projected two-deep, Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant, were both lost for the year—Bryant out of school as an academic and disciplinary casualty by the start of fall camp and Folston because of a knee injury suffered on his third carry of the season.

Welcome back to Notre Dame, Autry Denson.

The school’s all-time leading rusher in his first season as a running back coach had to be feeling a little woozy. He had a converted wide receiver taking featured-back carries and a true freshman a little over a year removed from his own major knee injury serving as his primary backup.

That the Irish had their most prolific running season under Brian Kelly says quite a bit about the job that Denson did. It’s also a credit to the offensive line blocking, the adjusted scheme that also protected two new starting quarterbacks, and the talent that remained at the position.

Spring presents new challenges. Tarean Folston should be a little over seven months removed from ACL surgery, making him doubtful to do anything more than wear a red jersey. With C.J. Prosise‘s departure, Adams goes from record-setting rookie to spring starter, with Williams likely carrying a large load as well.

Tony Jones Jr. and Deon McIntosh arrive this summer, reinforcements on the way. But before we get there, let’s take a look at the pre-spring roster at running back.

 

DEPARTURES
C.J. Prosise (156 carries 1,032 yards, 11 TDs)
Greg Bryant (lost preseason 2015)

 

2015-16 ADDITIONS
Josh Adams (117 carries, 835 yards, 6 TDs)
Dexter Williams (21 carries, 81 yards, 3 TDs)
Tony Jones Jr.
Deon McIntosh 

 

PRE-SPRING DEPTH CHART
Tarean Folston,* Sr.
Josh Adams, Soph.
Dexter Williams, Soph.
Justin Brent,* Junior

*Additional year of eligibility remaining.

 

ANALYSIS: This might be a position battle deferred to fall camp, especially if Folston is still in recovery mode. At this point, it doesn’t make sense to rush back from an ACL tear for 15 practices, so while the rising senior may be chomping at the bit to return, it’s better to save it until August.

Folston will likely be the team’s most versatile back, but keeping Adams off the field will be a hard chore. His breakaway speed was on display multiple times in 2015, with his record-setting run against Wake Forest the team’s longest play from scrimmage. Adams also likely added some mass and physicality to his game in the offseason weigh-training program, giving the Irish someone capable of hitting the big play and also moving the sticks in short yardage situations.

The staff believes that Dexter Williams is a talented back, so with three solid contributors on the roster before Jones or McIntosh hit campus, it’ll be fun to see how snaps get sorted. (From that perspective, you can only wonder how they’d have dealt with the champagne problem of having Prosise around…) Justin Brent remains an option as well, though the attrition from the receiving corps makes you think he’ll be back at receiver.

The wildcard in all of this is Folston. He’s a unique talent with natural ability you just can’t teach. If he’s fully recovered and ready to engage in a position battle, there won’t likely be a drop off even with the early departure of Prosise.

 

Notre Dame gets 10 invites to NFL Scouting Combine

2013 NFL Combine
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Notre Dame will send ten former players to the NFL Scouting Combine. The annual event in Indianapolis serves as the unofficial apex of draft season, a meat-market where the best professional prospects are poked, prodded, questioned and tested in a variety of on- and off-field drills.

Heading to the festivities from Notre Dame are:

Chris Brown, WR
Sheldon Day, DT
Will Fuller, WR
Nick Martin, C
Romeo Okwara, DE
C.J. Prosise, RB
KeiVarae Russell, CB
Elijah Shumate, S
Jaylon Smith, OLB
Ronnie Stanley, OT

For a prospect like Smith, it’ll be teams first opportunity to talk to the elite prospect and check his progress medically as he returns from a Fiesta Bowl knee injury. Russell will also be a non-participant in physical drills, waiting until Notre Dame’s Pro Day to go through testing.

Invites to Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara and Elijah Shumate are crucial in finding their way into the draft, as the three former Irish starters participated in the Shrine Bowl, where scouts had an early look at them. Likewise, Nick Martin and Sheldon Day continue their ascent, both coming off strong Senior Bowl weeks.

For Irish fans, it’ll be fun to watch early-enrollees Fuller and Prosise test. Both are expected to be some of the fastest players at their position. Brown may also have the ability to surprise teams, with his track background and leaping ability capable of earning him an extended look. Offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley will look to impress as well, hoping to check out as one of the draft’s most impressive athletes at offensive tackle.

Ohio State led all schools with 14 invites. National Champion Alabama had nine former players invited.

 

WR Corey Robinson named Notre Dame student body president

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On Wednesday, wide receiver Corey Robinson added another impressive title to his resume as a student-athlete at Notre Dame: Student Body President.

The junior, paired with classmate Becca Blais as his vice presidential running mate, won a majority of the votes cast by his fellow students, a runaway winner with 59.4% of the votes, nearly triple the next highest vote getter.

Robinson posted the following on Twitter, thankful for the opportunity to serve his fellow students:

Robinson’s time at Notre Dame has been filled with accomplishments both on and off the field. He was named an Academic All-American as a sophomore. He’s a six-time Dean’s List member in the prestigious Program of Liberal Studies and is also pursuing a sustainability minor. He’s won the team’s Rockne Student-Athlete Award as well.

That’s quite a bit on the plate of Notre Dame’s lone senior wide receiver. But as you might expect, Robinson is well prepared for the next challenge ahead.

“I’ve planned ahead, gotten all of my hard work out of the way this semester, and I’m finishing up my senior thesis,” Robinson told The Observer. “I’m doing all the hard stuff now so in the fall and the spring, I just have to take two classes pretty much.”

Robinson’s other contributions as a student-athlete at Notre Dame include One Shirt one Body, an opportunity for college athletes to donate their athletic apparel to local communities. Robinson has presented the plan to the ACC as well as the NCAA, earning immediate support from both organizations.

 

Mailbag: Now Open (scheduling input requested)

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - JUNE 01:  Actors Mike Myers (L) and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World" onstage during the 17th annual MTV Movie Awards held at the Gibson Amphitheatre on June 1, 2008 in Universal City, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Okay folks, we’ve had enough semi-positive encouragement to keep the video mailbag going for another week. With that said, I’ll need some reader participation to keep this thing rolling on.

As always, submit your questions below or on Twitter @KeithArnold. You can also ask your questions live via Facebook. You’ll need to LIKE THIS PAGE first, and then at the appropriate time, head on over to watch and participate.

To that point, let’s pick a time that works for everyone. Right now, here are the options that work at Inside the Irish HQ.  Weigh in and the best time wins. (How’s that for a democracy?)

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