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It was one handoff, one simple handoff, the first play on the first day of Notre Dame's spring football practice late last month.Many of the weekend's articles mentioned the emphasis on teaching, teaching, and more teaching, with Charlie no doubt reprising his role as a high school pedagogue. Per Jason Kelly's roundup in the SB Trib (with an assist from a short blub in the Chicago Trib):
But Charlie Weis, the first-year coach charged with the considerable task of waking up the echoes of one of college football's most storied programs, already was in full roar. His offense, a proven Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots, had failed to execute a basic running play, even with no defense on the field.
"That was crap," Weis barked. "Do it again."
So, under the watchful eye of Weis, the former Patriots offensive coordinator whose unit gouged the Eagles for 24 points in New England's Super Bowl victory in February, the startled Irish ran the play again.
And when that play failed to satisfy the no-nonsense Weis, Notre Dame ran it a third time.
"I don't care how long it takes," Weis said angrily. "I have two hours and we can keep doing this."
"He doesn't just teach you your position and what you're supposed to do. He teaches you philosophies," offensive lineman Dan Stevenson said. "When you can understand the philosophy of the offense, and the philosophy of each play, it can help you better understand why you need to do certain things."Sounds like some of that might be sticking, too.
After a meeting Friday to teach the quarterbacks principles of hot reads and sight adjustments, even the most experienced player in the room learned something.
"Coach (Ron) Powlus turned to me and said, 'That was the simplest I think I've ever heard -- through college, NFL, everything -- going through hots and sight-adjusts and having someone explain it," Quinn said. "That's a great example of coach Weis as a teacher. He makes things so simple that can be complicated at times."
Running back Darius Walker flashed his incandescent smile at that idea.
Corey Dillon operated as the featured back in this system last season, the same role Walker now occupies. He always assumed an offense that won Super Bowls would be beyond him, but he has wrapped his head around it in a hurry.
"In a sense," Walker said, "I guess it just all depends on the coach getting his players to understand it and learn it."
Despite some inevitable inconsistency in the translation -- installation days can be a struggle -- the Irish describe significant progress in their understanding over the last two weeks.
It might be their toughest class of the spring semester, based on the size of the textbook alone, but they enjoy studying for it the most.
"Right now we're just trying to be like one big sponge. I think all of us are out there with eyes open and ears open," wide receiver Jeff Samardzija said. "Just out there ready for anything, trying to pick up as much as you can. Obviously there's a lot of stuff flying around."
"I think it's one of those things where you have to understand what to do in certain situations," Quinn said. "He's trying to get us on the same page he's on."
With quarterbacks coach David Cutcliffe out from spring practice while he recovers from his March triple-bypass heart surgery, Weis has filled in, preparing Quinn to run his offense.
"It probably has been the best experience I could have had," Quinn said. "He knows the ins and outs and everything, and he knows the best way to teach it."
"The fact that I can loosen up a little bit with them tells me that I feel they're starting to get it a little bit," Weis said. "Everyone has their own personality and once they start to understand yours and kind of do things the way you want them to do them, then you know you're moving in the direction that you'd like it to go."