For the unenlightened, that is not a value judgment on the Notre Dame fifth-year football coach’s mood or mannerisms.
Twitter is a social network, and micro-blogging service that enables Weis to reach out to his fan base — and yes, recruits — unfiltered, uninterrupted, unimpeded, and at 140 characters at a time.
Among those who preceded Weis in the world of Twittering include President Barack Obama, rival coach Pete Carroll of USC, and someone called Becky Buckwild — a VH1 reality TV show veteran who has more “followers” than all, but one of the handful of Twittering major college head football coaches.
What this means in the context of Notre Dame’s ongoing spring practice session is that this is another sign Weis has gone beyond stepping out of his comfort zone, and is finding a new more expansive one, one that gives him the best chance to cannonball his way back into the deep end of the college football relevance pool, and this time, for the right reasons.
Because Weis’ fingerprints are so pervasive in the whole culture and mechanics of the Notre Dame football operation, the spring report cards start with him.
Body of Work: The intermittent Bill Belichick references still make a large part of the Irish fan base cringe, but there’s nothing wrong with extracting the best of Weis’ New England Patriots past, and integrating it with his own vision for the program.
And that vision is much clearer and more inviting from the outside looking in, now that the old Belichick blueprint isn’t being followed verbatim.
The most significant thing Weis has accomplished this spring is that he has stopped getting in his own way. He’s back to getting his hair cut at Armando’s Barber Shop, mingling with the community, and appearing to be having a ball doing so. He ended his long-festering feud with ESPN, continued to try to rebuild burned bridges with former Irish players, and delegated to and trusted his assistants more than he had done in the past.
Where Weis’ much-publicized 2008 offseason makeover seemed stilted and forced, the latest steps in his evolution seem to come without rehearsal or resistance. They’ve not only made for a better image, they’ve made for a better coach.
That, however, does not guarantee a BCS run in the fall, but it does give Weis the best chance to do so.
If it were only about the X’s and O’s, 2007 would have been more of a reloading season than a lost one, and 2008 would have never forced a referendum by new athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
There is still much more work to be done by Weis over the summer, but most of what’s left is in the purely football end of things, Weis’ strength.
Body of Work: The only caveat in the avalanche of positive reviews over the supposed revived offensive line, defensive line, and running game is that we have heard it all before and not always with corresponding results come fall.
At least this time, there are new faces trumpeting the improvement.
Weis’ three new assistants and the highest-profile graduate assistant in the country, retired 14-year NFL standout Bryant Young, have all looked like upgrades in the spring and have sparked optimism at ND’s most troubled position groups from the 2008 season, but the bright lights aren’t shining yet.
What we can see five months removed from the season opener is that while the Irish front seven on defense is teeming with inexperience, for the first time in about a decade this is a unit that is fast, athletic and deep enough to outrun some of its youthful mistakes.
Sophomores-to-be Kapron Lewis-Moore and Hafis Williams are two players who have benefited from new defensive line coach Randy Hart’s presence, and have made enough waves in practice that the media have actually learned how to pronounce their names correctly.
Other pleasant developments include junior Harrison Smith’s seamless transition back to safety after playing linebacker in 2008, the maturation of emotional leader Brian Smith into a more consistent and complete linebacker, and the fact that scouts who have evaluated the team can’t believe it’s the same defense from 2008.
And that’s without wunderkind Manti Te‘o, who arrives in June.
Offensively, sophomore Dayne Crist gives Weis the best No. 2 quarterback option since Brady Quinn briefly filled that role at the beginning of his freshman season (2003). Wide receiver John Goodman, and tight end Joseph Fauria are rising stars, who have had strong enough springs to force their way up crowded depth charts at their respective positions. And the James Aldridge experiment at fullback appears that it won’t blow up after all.
In Weis’ own evaluation, the running game has actually been stronger than the passing game this spring. That suggests mega improvement at both the running back position and the offensive line.
Brian Kelly hasn’t been comfortable naming a starting quarterback after the unexpected exit of Everett Golson, but Keith Arnold writes that Kelly has made a final decision and Tommy Rees will be the Irish starting quarterback, at least heading into fall camp.
Recap of biggest day of year for recruiting
Building a bond
Jan. 22: Zeke Motta and Tyler Stockton spill the dirt as future roommates.
Jan. 22: Jake Golic talks to John Walters about being another Golic attending Notre Dame.
Beefing up the offensive line
Jan. 22: Notre Dame commit Chris Watt talks to John Walters about preparing for Irish football.
Next record breaker?
Jan. 22: Shaquelle Evans heads to Notre Dame and aims to break the freshman wide receiver record.