This spring, Weis shaping young Irish D into BCS bowl-worthy unit
Notre Dame coach
Weis stopped the drill, but he didn't discipline the senior. Instead, he got in the freshman's ear hole. "You're never going to make it around here if you let that happen," Weis said later. "Not that I'm looking to instigate, but at the same time, it was a perfect coaching point for him. I was saying, 'You're going to have my blessing in that situation. ... Don't count on [junior linebacker]
Weis knows his greenhorns must learn to defend themselves, because while the Fighting Irish return 10 offensive starters, the defense will rely on a host of youngsters. That's especially true for the front seven, where only two players started more than six games last year. In fact, this defense may finally offer a solution to the nature/nurture conundrum that has dogged Weis and his staff throughout their tenure: Now that a full complement of their own highly touted recruits are old enough to contribute, can they develop them into a unit that can help Notre Dame reach a BCS bowl for the first time since the 2006 season?
The defense, which
Johnson heeded that advice. He played three-technique defensive tackle (a tackle who lines up on the outside of the guard) last season, but redshirt freshman
Hart, who came to South Bend after 21 years at Washington, wouldn't be shocked if Johnson reaches his goal. Hart said Johnson has tapped some of his tremendous physical potential, but he has barely scratched the surface mentally. When Johnson truly understands how to play each position, he'll force offensive coordinators to game plan around him. "He can do," Hart said, "whatever he chooses to."
Hart should help Johnson reach his potential. The former Ohio State offensive lineman coached
Meanwhile, at linebacker, Smith probably will face the same task as Williams.
And compete the Irish will. Knowing he has to give the youngsters a taste of real game action, Weis plans to allow offensive linemen to cut block in Saturday's scrimmage. The defenders looked like All-Americas last weekend, but Weis knew the offensive players were handcuffed. On Saturday, he'll take off those ties, and the youngsters will have to figure out how to stand up and defend themselves.