Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Daily drumbeat | by Jay

The South Bend Tribune, of course, is the grey lady of ND sports coverage, and each summer for the few weeks leading up to the first game is her time to shine. Every day for the last week or so they've had two or three good features dedicated to Irish pigskin, mixing equal parts news, commentary, and a little historical flavor to round everything out. Today, for example, we got three solid reads from the Trib:

First up, a quick interview with Lou Holtz on Charlie's prospects this year.

On the advice he would give Weis: "I told Charlie I'm going to be the same way that Ara Parseghian was with me and that's, 'If you call me, I'll give you what my opinion is. I will not give you advice. I will tell you what I would have done, what I thought, how I handled a situation, etc.' Advice means you expect them to take it. I'll never tell him that. That's the way Ara was with me."

On recruiting: "The most important thing in recruiting is what kind of visit an athlete has on that campus. When you turn them over to your athletes and when you're athletes are happy and believe in their future, it's like a family."
Next up, a neat feature story on maestro walk-on Brandon Harris, who's getting some work at cornerback and the return teams this summer. You might remember an earlier profile of Harris in the SBT back in the winter, but seeing him climbing a couple of depth charts now gives new resonance to his achievements.

Then a senior at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Harris already had conceded his football dream had been snuffed out. He wasn't going to let his music dream die with it. So why waste his time with a school that didn't want him?

Today he is a music theory major and a senior walk-on football player at Notre Dame, and one with enough octane to his game that first-year coach Charlie Weis not only knows his name, he has placed him prominently on the depth chart.

"When I came here, I wouldn't say I was concerned about the overall speed," Weis said. "I just didn't know what we had. But now that they're out there and you see them all running, all of a sudden you've got some guys who have some giddyup. And he's one of them. He has top-line speed."

And that speed has the 6-foot, 197-pound Harris in the mix at punt returner and kickoff returner and as an intriguing project at cornerback.

"I feel very proud that my coaches and teammates have confidence in me," Harris said. "I had never been a big contributor to the team before this, but I always believed I could be. It's a great feeling knowing the work I had been doing and my attitude of sticking with it is paying off for me."

Lastly, a little survey of Weis' offensive proclivities, featuring commentary from Weis, Belichick, Tom Pagna, Theismann, and Peter Vaas, among others.

Belichick: "My first impressions of him were that he was smart, he was a multi-task person. He could process a lot of things at the same time. When I left the next year to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, I made a point to keep an eye on him and maintain contact with him. I thought he had a chance to be special."

"He has a grasp of the concept that, if you change a tight end's blocking rule or technique, he knows how it affects the guard on the other side of the ball. There are always ramifications to making changes, and he understands what those are."

Pagna: "I know first impressions can sometime be misleading,but I had the extreme sense that here was a guy who knew what he was talking about, knew it very well and was very assured about it, which is a great feeling."

Theismann: "He believes in diversity and he believes in execution. But he's not just going to throw things out there, because they look good."

"I think the wide receivers are going to get a chance to be wide receivers and the running backs a chance to be running backs...My biggest complaint as a fan of the Notre Dame football program was that they weren't very creative offensively over the past several years."

"I just thought we were a very predictable, stagnant offense. When Notre Dame won under Ty (Willingham), they won games with special teams and defense. They did not win by playing offensive football. So, to me, I think Charlie will change that. I think that's the biggest thing Charlie does. I think Charlie will put the 'O' back in offense."
Be sure to keep an eye on the Trib's sports page for your daily dose of Irish elixir.

Addendum: other snippets from today's SBT...

• Travis Leitko characterized his absence as due to "academic reasons", and didn't rule out a return to the Irish in '06.

• Text messaging is a big part of recruiting in the 21st century.

• Somebody asked Minter about use of the term "Apache" in light of the NCAA's crackdown on Native American names. He suggested changing it to something Irish-related, if need be. Sounds like a contest idea to us.

• Junior Jabbie switched over to running back, and on one play accidentally plowed over offensive coordinator Mike Haywood.

• Charlie invited all ND faculty out for a practice watch-slash-picnic as part of something called "Faculty Appreciation Day". I'm still waiting for my invitation from Charlie to "Partially Anonymous Internet Sports Bloggers Appreciation Day".