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AFM Subscribers Ask...with Charlie Weis

by: Charlie Weis
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In Charlie Weis’ first two seasons as head coach, the Notre Dame roster was deep with leadership from strong junior and senior classes – giving Coach Weis a record combined-win total for the first two seasons for any University of Notre Dame head football coach. The following two seasons found Coach Weis developing a squad of young, inexperienced freshmen and sophomores, resulting in two tough seasons. Now with his fourth season well underway (at time of printing), it appears that Coach Weis’ tutelage of his student-athletes is paying dividends with a 5-2 record and an opportunity for a bowl berth. He answers your questions…

Coach Weis, accountability in my eyes is one of the most important aspects in the game of football. How do you hold your players accountable for their performance on and off the field? Also how do you hold your coaches accountable? Andy Szatkowski, Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Heritage High School, Conyers (GA).

At Notre Dame, we recruit young men who fit three criteria. Most important is character. I’m not saying we never have a problem, but if you recruit high-character kids, your problems will be limited. Secondly, we recruit student athletes who are not hypocritical about academics. Not every student-athlete is an “A” student, but as long as players go to class, use academic support, and are diligent, success in the classroom will follow. The last criterion obviously is how well they play. We believe these three criteria can and should coexist. As for my coaches, one way of holding them accountable is through incentives I have in their contracts for team GPA. Our coaches get financial bonuses based on the team’s academic performance. This is one example of how you can put accountability on your assistant coaches.

What adjustments have you had to make in dealing with both your coaches and athletes? Chuck Klausing, retired high school and college coach.

I’ve coached in high school, college, and the NFL. Fundamentals of football will always stay the same. The difference at each level is the role you play in the lives of the young men. In high school, you’re a guidance counselor, second father, civic leader, community leader, and church presence. You’re not “buddy-buddy” with the players; you’re more of a dad. In college, the fatherly element continues, but now you’re helping develop 18 year-old kids into 22 year-old young men by the time they leave. In the pros, you normally are on a first-name basis with the players. The players must know you are always mentally prepared, as they will see right through you if you’re not.

What are the primary differences coaching at the collegiate level as opposed to the professional level? John Butler, retired high school and college coach, Indianapolis.

As a head coach in college you wear many hats. In the NFL, it’s all football all the time. In college, you have to use your time management skills wisely to cover all bases. The biggest example lies in the number of hours you spend with players in the NFL versus college. In the NFL, you spend between 60 to 80 hours per week with the players. In college, you only get 20 hours as mandated by the NCAA. You must determine how best to use those 20 hours, as this time includes meetings, weight lifting, and practice.

Coach Weis, how did you change the attitude of the players and what did you do differently this year than last? Christian Vitale, Special Teams Coordinator, Waterford Mott High School (MI).

I’ve been at Notre Dame for three full seasons. The first two years were junior/senior dominated rosters. In year three, the roster was a freshman/sophomore dominated one. Eighteen and 19 year-olds are much different than 21 to 22 year-olds. The biggest difference I made was being around the players outside of football much more often. This gives the young guys the opportunity to know you in a much different manner than your on-field presence.

I have three related questions for Coach Weis: How do you attack the various zone pressures you face? What are your favorite protections? Do you check protections? Scott Beattie, Defensive Coordinator, Cal Lutheran University.

Zone blitzes are in vogue at this time. Defenses, like offenses, are copycats. When something shows to work, you’ll see it until you can show you can beat it. With every zone blitz comes potential voided throwing lanes and gaps for running lanes. In the running game, it’s best to run zone schemes where you block areas rather than men. In the passing game, it’s best to involve blocking schemes which pick up two off a side to avoid having to throw hots or sight adjusts on a regular basis. Many choose just to throw three step drop passes.

Coach Weis, how do you implement the defensive breakdown of an opponent into your weekly offensive practice plan? Ken Wilmesherr, Offensive Line Coach, Grossmont College (CA).

All breakdowns of an opponent are completed by noon on Sunday, prior to the week’s preparation. Everything you do and game plan, in all situations, is based off of objective criteria from these breakdowns.


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