It’s just that control seems oh so intoxicating to the fourth-year Notre Dame head football coach -- from the way the media asks their questions to which schools an exiled player can’t transfer to. And giving control up, in his area of expertise no less, has to sting.
He has already admitted as much, in fact.
In the most pivotal spring the Notre Dame football program has seen in the post-Lou Holtz Era (1997-present), Weis’ handing the offensive reigns over to heretofore-muted offensive coordinator Mike Haywood is just part of the makeover Weis hopes is a natural evolutionary step forward and not just some cruel, painful ritual that won’t work in his world.
There are many other moves being made as well, even cosmetic ones that relate to image -- Weis’ image.
On March 26, the first day of ND’s spring practice session, the kinder/gentler/supposedly-more-approachable Weis will be unveiled to the college football world, but don’t expect him to be an open book. And don’t expect a complete flip -- a g-rated, let’s-take-a-vote-on-this approach, either.
Years one and two of the Weis regime showed the limits of just how much autocratic rule was enough. Year three showed what happens when it goes to excess. Not that the team wasn’t young last season, not that it shouldn’t have been a transition year. But the 3-9 bottom line, and all the statistical ugliness that came with it, was compounded by a coach who ignored his own growing pains.
He’s not ignoring them now. And he knows he can’t afford to. The 2008 season will define him.
It will either set the stage for a run at the national title in 2009 or it will consume him.
Here then are the five hot issues of the spring, beyond Weis’ transformation, that will lay the groundwork for how the ’08 season might unfold:
The Sophomore Minx: Quarterback Jimmy Clausen spent his freshman year wowing observers with poise, toughness and stretches of mechanical and statistical beauty. He still ended up outside the top 100 nationally in passing efficiency, just as predecessor Brady Quinn did as a freshman, and Clausen had the distinction of quarterbacking the nation’s worst offense among the 119 schools in the Bowl Subdivision.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
What Clausen must show this spring and next fall is less fragility physically. He was finally able to hunker down in the weight room this winter, something he couldn’t do last offseason. He must also show he is the team’s leader of choice and not by default.
Senior-to-be Evan Sharpley’s baseball career is taking off this spring (.400 batting average), and football won’t be his primary focus this time. Third option Dayne Crist, like Clausen another breathtaking prospect from California, has the maturity to get into the mix in the fall as a true freshman, but Weis knows Crist may benefit from being a bystander in 2008.
That leaves Clausen largely to push himself. Clausen has to be as durable as Quinn was and Clausen has to be as clearly tied to Weis’ destiny as any player has been coupled to an Irish coach since perhaps Tim Brown in Holtz’s early years.
Getting defensive: Notre Dame’s front seven will be extremely young and extremely athletic all at the same time. Look for plenty of freshmen in the two-deeps come fall, but what about this spring?
It’ll be time to uncover some surprises -- or find out just how heavily the Irish will be depending on those freshmen in the fall. Junior-to-be Kallen Wade and rising sophomore Emeka Nwankwo are two of the more intriguing defensive-line projects. Junior Toryan Smith is overdue to make a statement at inside linebacker.
The good news is a strong, deep and fast secondary comes of age, though departing safety Tom Zbikowski will be missed. That secondary is finally evolved enough to let defensive coordinator Corwin Brown take a few more chances up front with pressure.
Maybe the most significant addition this offseason wasn’t in the recruiting class, but in the coaching staff. Assistant head coach/defense Jon Tenuta, most recently the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, is the kind of assistant that can impact a program immediately and significantly -- just as Brown did last year.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Former Penn State President Graham Spanier is asking a county judge to throw out criminal charges accusing him of helping to cover up abuse allegations against former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
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HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
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