Oct. 30, 2001
BOB DAVIE: First time I’ve had a chance to see the BCS series standings, and I’m not sure how they formulate this strength of schedule, but if we don’t win — the toughest schedule in the country hands down, then something is wrong with that computer. I mean, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything like it.
The good news it we’ve gotten, No. 1 in the BCS Rankings out of the way. The bad news, we have three of them left in the top 4 teams and play four of them, three of them on the road. And then you factor in playing at A&M, a team that never losses as home. Notre Dame going to Boston College on a Saturday night, that’s pretty difficult schedule.
And I think looking at this week, just thinking driving over here, I was thinking back to ’99 when we went down there, I think we had won four or five straight when we went to Knoxville. And I don’t know if there’s been a game since I’ve been at Notre Dame that made a bigger impression on me.
I think back to the ’94 Fiesta Bowl at the end of the ’94 season against Colorado. I thought Colorado’s football team that night was just an unbelievably athletic team with Kordell Stewart, Rashon Salaam (ph), Westbrook, the tight end. It was an unbelievable team.
And thinking back to Tennessee, going down there in ’99, I thought the atmosphere was unique. I also thought that football team they put on the field was an amazing team. And I remember at the end of that game they put some young defensive linemen out there on the field, and I remember there was a time-out and just looking out there at those guys and said, you’ve got to be kidding me, those guys freshmen or sophomores and now these guys are juniors and seniors.
So I think looking at Tennessee coming in here, it will be the most talented team athletically we play this season, and that’s — that’s an accurate statement. They are really an impressive football team, just athletically.
And for us, I think it is obviously a big challenge to play them. I’m glad we have a chance to play them at home. I think in a lot of ways when you are a 3-4 football team, it’s probably a good thing that you have a chance to play these kind of teams down the stretch, because let’s face it, that’s what it is going to take for this team to feel good about itself at the end of this season. That’s what it is going to take for the coaching staff to feel good about itself at the end of the season.
We all see what a challenge it is, but also, I think it’s probably well needed at this time. I think back to ’99, I think we are a more talented team than we were then, at the end of that season. I think we had one player drafted off that team. Plus, we had a lot of injuries at that time and we were definitely depleted in that football game. But just the comparison of the two teams on the field, I think, shocked a lot of people, including our team and our staff, to be quite honest.
This year, I hope that that’s not quite the same contrast. I think we are a healthier team. We have got some injuries, but by and large, you know, we are pretty healthy at this point in the season. I think Tony Fisher and Julius will both play. I think Carlyle is going on okay. Donald Dykes will be out. Andy Wisne will be out. We might get Ron Israel back for this playing time this week. Of course, John Teasdale is out. We are a lot healthier than we were in ’99.
For us, I think the challenge, just going back yesterday, what I did with our team, I took a tape and I put on the tape from the Boston College game — there was so many good things that happened, really. I don’t mean to minimize those things that happened at all. I do think we are an improved team. Once again, I think back to coming out of A&M, from where we were then until now, we are 3-1 and it was a devastating loss up at Boston College. But in the big picture of things, we have improved and I do feel better about this team and I do feel better about the foundation that we have offensively and defensively, scheme-wise and we are moving forward with that. But I made a tape of just the self-inflicted things that happened in that game against Boston College that we have to eliminate. And that’s coaching. It’s coaching.
If you think back, not to belabor this, but for us to win, they have to be eliminated. Because we are not going to — I think it’s farfetched to think we’re a team that’s just going to explode and get giant plays, particularly against the teams we play down this stretch. So we are going to have to be a very, very efficient team. That’s just the reality of it.
But we drop the toss sweep, just flat drop the ball on 1st, on 1st and 10 at the 21 when it’s 21-17 game we are going in to go ahead. We just dropped the ball. We dropped a handoff one time on 1st and 10. Just flat dropped’ the ball. Carlyle came down the line one time and went to pitch and the ball slipped out of his hand. We had a ball bounce off us on a square in on 3rd and 15 that bounced off us and they intercept it. Probably would have been a first down.
We had a 3rd and 2 late in the game before we went for it on 4th down, 3rd and 2, we are in the handball and we run a power. The guard comes off and stays on the three technique the backside linebacker runs through and hits the tailback for a negative yardage play, where ten plays before that, the same play and the same defense the guard came off and blocked the back side linebacker.
We were 1st and goal on the 1-yard line and the tailback jumped up in motion. It was wild. I mean, their students were down that end but there’s a bottom line to that. We missed a field goal. On defense one time on a 3rd and 2, we had a linebacker that had the A Gap, he not own lined up in the B Gap but then he widened and the ball went straight downhill in that A Gap. The problem was identified immediately. He knew it happened. We knew it happened, but it’s too late.
You know, so there’s things that happened that shouldn’t happen. And there’s a lot of positive things that happened, but when you are playing the calibre of teams we are playing, and it’s such that you are not going to get just dynamic plays, you have to be totally efficient, and that’s what the challenge has been, and that’s what the challenge becomes even greater to try to do over these last four games of the season.
You know, in a lot of ways, I’m encouraged because we are getting better. It’s not easy, but that’s what it is and we have to continue, continue working and I think our team understands that. I think showing them exactly what happens, which is what we’ve done, has allowed us to come back from 0-3 and I think continuing to take that approach will allow us to have a successful season.
So we get a chance to play Tennessee. They are really a talented team. They take advantage of their talent. They have a tailback that I think you are going to really be impressed with. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s explosive. I think he’s No. 1 in the FCC in rushing and No. 3 in the country, probably about 140 yards a game. They are enormous on the offensive line, just flat enormous. Tight end is an athlete, No. 1. Receivers are typical Tennessee-style receivers. It’s like every year, they seem to just reload with those kind of guys. One of them, number 15 is probably about 6’4. He has become their go-to receiver.
And that’s quite a statement when you figure a lot of those receivers are back from ’99. There’s a couple of those guys still playing, including that Leonard Scott that took the deep one on us that almost ran out of the stadium on 3rd and 8 in the 3rd quarter. On defense, two gigantic defensive tackles. Both of them are over 300 pounds, 6’6, 6’7 type tackles, that are bigger than we are used to playing against. Defensive ends are talented. Linebackers are very athletic, and the one corner could be as talented as we’ve played against. So they are going to be an extremely talented team. But I also think we are talented team, and if we can continue to improve, eliminate those mistakes — let’s face it, we have to play mistake-free and we have to play our best to win, but we are totally capable of doing that. And I like — I like the attitude of this team and the way they continue to plug away, and to be quite honest, I’m kind of proud of them and I’m kind of proud of this coaching staff, and I really think we can end this thing on a positive note and we have some good opportunities to do that.
Q. I’m just curious, if you can clarify some things. You said before the game is a well-needed challenge, what do you mean by that?
BOB DAVIE: I think, you know, we were talking today, you know, we were in there as coaches and I think it was Bill that said, “You know, it’s miserable to lose. It is flat miserable.” And the next game just doesn’t come soon enough, you know, because you feel good about practice and you can feel good about playing, but in this profession, and in this sport, any sport, you have to come back and win. And I think, you know, for us, here at Notre Dame, to have a chance to play these kind of teams, you have an opportunity to jump up and maybe in some ways be a spoiler, you know, and that’s what we plan on doing.
So we’ve got some really good football teams coming in here. We go on the road to play some good teams and I think it can take the sting out of a — up to this point, a very frustrating season.
Q. You mentioned Jones and Fisher, you expect they will to be able to play. Are they going to be able to practice, are they going to be limited this week? Do you know their status as far as practice?
BOB DAVIE: I saw Julius a little bit ago and he’s going to be able to practice today. He’s going to have to fight through it, the Achilles. Tony practiced yesterday and he will practice today. Neither one of those is 100%, but I think they say how important that practice time is. And that’s been a frustrating thing. You know, you look back, Tony Fisher, Julius Jones, neither one practiced in the spring, and then we come back in fall camp and all three of the tailbacks were really injured to the point they practiced one or two days and that’s been an ongoing situation, and it’s frustrating, more for them. It has been a frustrating deal because they have worked extremely hard and one of them is in his senior year. It’s hard for him to be out there and not be able to practice.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Tennessee receivers are typical Tennessee-style receivers. What makes a Tennessee-style receiver?
BOB DAVIE: Well, first of all, they seem to all have had a lot of track athletes at the skill position and it seems to be that way again this year. Number 4 is a guy that can fly. Obviously, 26, Leonard Scott, the freshman, number 15, is a heck of a player. He’s got, I believe, over 30 passes. The big track-type athletes, it’s that combination of height and also speed. It reminds you of the receivers at Michigan State and also Michigan has had over the years.
Q. You said that you felt like you had a team with enough talent to win every Saturday. Talking about Tennessee’s talent the way and you have what you’ve seen and what you know coming up, do you still feel that way?
BOB DAVIE: I do. I do. I think we have been a football team that’s talented enough to win. And I still feel that way. Also, with that said, I think it’s most people would understand that playing who we play and where we play, you have to be really efficient, and at times, I think probably error-free to win.
I think we are an overall talented team, just like most people that will watch us play, you know, I know if we have someone that’s so dynamic that they are going to jump up and run away from someone or jump up and make a phenomenal-type play on a consistent basis. But certainly, overall, we are a talented football team.
Q. You’re 3-4 right now. Tennessee comes in highly-ranked. How much is this game going to set the tone for the rest of your season?
BOB DAVIE: Well, I think every game here sets the tone for the rest of the season. You know, really, it’s kind of an old cliche and I hate to say it, it is one game at a time.
This game is probably even bigger because next week we have an open date, and I think to head into that open date having a positive out of this game would be a huge dynamic for this team. So, sure. I mean, to be able to beat a team like Tennessee would be a huge boost for us. Probably more than it would, as just another game would be, you know, with their ranking, the kind of respect we have for them.
Q. I know a coach would hate to say it, but you almost put it to the level of the way that you play may be as much as — you want to win, but almost the way you play is going to be very important?
BOB DAVIE: Well, we are kind of past that stage. It’s about winning. We played in some ways pretty good at Boston College. We played in some ways pretty good against Michigan State but we did not win.
I don’t think we are at that point just yet, a moral victory kind of thing. I don’t think that’s going to fly. We want to play well, but most of all, we want to win.
Q. Can you touch on the physical status of Carlyle Holiday, is it more of a day-to-day thing or is he going to be ready to go full speed on Saturday?
BOB DAVIE: Unless he has a setback this week, I think he will be full speed in the game. He has a recurring problem with the knee, it’s a bruised knee. There’s no structural damage there. He has a bit of an ankle and he has a bit of a shoulder.
But I think he’s going to be 100% by Saturday, as long as nothing else happens this week.
Q. When you look at the speed and the athletic ability of the Tennessee defense, does that change things up in terms of your offensive approach in terms of trying to run the option against them with that speed and size?
BOB DAVIE: Well, I’m glad that we have options. It would be really difficult to go in there and just try to pound them. So, I think we have some dimensions of our offense that give us a chance to be successful against a team that’s physical. Certainly a quarterback is going to have to make some plays and when we have an opportunity to make a play, we are going to have to jump up and make it. They are extremely, extremely strong against the run. Now, some teams have thrown the ball a little bit on them, out of necessity more than wanting to.
I don’t think we change. I think that’s one thing that we have done a good job of over the last month, is really establishing what we are. I think we are comfortable with that and we are just going to keep moving forward.
Q. One last thing, I’m not sure if experimenting is the right word but at least trying some different things in the offensive line with Jordan Black and Monday’s practice and today’s practice, are we going to see where you are going in that area? Can you expound on what’s happening on the offensive line?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, we actually — we didn’t have pads on yesterday. But Jordan Black, it was pretty comfortable for him. From a knowledge standpoint, he was on top of it.
You know, I think he’ll probably end up being the guard this week. You know, they line up in there with 300-pound defensive tackles, it’s a difficult matchup. You know, JW Jordan has done some good things for us in there. Milligan is probably out in this game — Ryan Gillis has come in and play.
Buy when they are 305 or 310 pounds, I think Jordan Black might give us the best opportunity for 65 or 70 snaps in a game. I think it gives us a chance to get Curtain out there, Vollers out there and Jordan Black at guard. Dave was pretty encouraged by what happened yesterday in practice. We’ll know more as the week goes on, but right now, it looks like we are heading in that direction.
Q. You mentioned the term “spoiler” in describing your own team there a few minutes ago. How frustrating is that, to use the term spoiler with the Notre Dame team?
BOB DAVIE: Well, I don’t know. I mean, we are a 3-4 team. Kind of what it is, I guess. There’s a lot of different forms of motivation. I have not even talked to the our team about that at one time to be quite honest. , But I think in answering the question that I believe John Jackson had, any time you play a team that’s ranked as highly as Tennessee, let’s face it, we’ll be the underdogs in this game and you kind of term what it is, but I’m sure there is some motivation because of that. You make what you want to make of that term, but in reality, that’s probably a degree truth of what it is right now.
Q. One of the things you had said back in August, that you would not rule out using Arnaz in a situation where he’s at quarterback, to do some different things. Given Carlyle’s situation this week, does that again come into play?
BOB DAVIE: I don’t think so. Arnaz has just missed so much time, he missed over a month, I guess, of our football season. We are just trying to get him at receiver right now. He got a couple passes up at Boston College. I think Carlyle is firmly entrenched at quarterback.
Hopefully, we’ll get an opportunity to look a little more at Jared Clark this week. Last night he was healthier than he has been. His thumb seemed to be okay. I think we are okay at quarterback. I don’t think that is a viable situation right now or something that we need to do.
Q. What were your impressions of Casey Clark as a budding high school senior?
BOB DAVIE: We liked him. He was in earlier over the winter with his family, and I really liked his dad. And I like Casey, he’s a heck of a kid. He was in our camp and there’s no question he was going to be a heck of a quarterback, so we liked him. We liked him from the beginning and we knew a lot about him and we are very much impressed by him.
Q. Did he just not fit the system of being able to run the option?
BOB DAVIE: As I said, he was someone that we really liked. We liked the way he threw the football. We liked the way he competed in the camp. We liked everything about him.
Q. You mentioned Arnaz with the injuries and you said last week he might still feel tentative when he first got out there. What did you see, especially looking back on the tape in terms of his play, and, you know, how far back do you think he is in terms of percentage or however you want to quantify it?
BOB DAVIE: I asked him yesterday how it went and how it felt and he said he didn’t have one problem, that he felt 100%. I thought he played okay. Actually on the 4th down, the last play of the game, he was wide open over in front of the stakes and we just couldn’t get the ball to him. But he played okay for the first time back. It’s encouraging that is leg didn’t bother him, that he’s 100%. We would like to get him involved more in special teams, which is something I think we’ll do. He actually got injured on a special team play covering a punt, so we can kind of get him back in. The open date will give us some time to maybe get him back involved with special teams, as well, be more of a factor. I think some of our productivity was definitely taken away when he went down.
Q. You mentioned during the Michigan State week in years past you felt like there was a talent gap between Notre Dame and Michigan State, but it was even this year. How does that talent gap apply — in ’99, there was a sizeable gap, how much did it close and how much is left?
BOB DAVIE: There’s difficult and obviously, I’m in a no-win situation by even addressing that question. I think when you look at it, it you look at — you know, you always have to look at difference-makers. We’re a pretty talented team. I think that decision will come up to other people will be made by other people on, you know, where is the impact player, where is the difference-maker. That’s right now what we are struggling or striving for, guys to step up and make some big-time plays. We are pretty talented team. Over an 11-game season, that’s something that scouts judge and media judge, fans judge, coaches judge, who steps up, who is that next level.
You know, someone else is in a better position, maybe to make that assessment than I am. I think we are a talented team overall. Are we a dynamic team? I don’t know if it’s fair for me to address that.
Q. Shifting gears a little bit outside the context of this week and Tennessee, technically, what makes Jeff Faine so superior compared to other college centers around the country?
BOB DAVIE: I have not compared him to everyone across the country. I would say he’s been our most consistent lineman, if I had to say, at this stage right now. He’s very physical. He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s explosive and he’s smart. He’s a guy that really has a bright future. He’s an athletic offensive lineman, would probably be best way to categorize. He’s someone you could see playing noseguard on defense or defensive tackle. He’s that kind of player.
Q. I know it’s tough to quantify but it seems like he has a pain tolerance that’s off the chart, like he would play with a broken leg if the situation presented itself, have you seen that in the way he practices or goes about his business?
BOB DAVIE: I don’t want to jinx him, but he is a pretty durable guy and durability certainly play as a role in it, I would agree. He works extremely hard on his body. He’s big into the weights and big into conditioning and I think that’s paid off for him.
Q. Is there anyone that you would compare him to that you’ve coached at A&M or throughout your career?
BOB DAVIE: That’s difficult. We had some linemen that I think back to some of the Colbert kind of guys and he reminds me a lot of just the kind of guy that loves football and loves — kind of born to be an offensive lineman. Just truly enjoys it every day. Extremely competitive.
Q. You labelled some of the things on your tape, you attributed some of the unforced errors to the coaching. Last year, pretty much the same staff, you set a record for low for mistakes. What’s different about the dynamics of the coaching, if there is anything, or attention span, the concentration from the players? Is there anything that you’ve been able to pinpoint on your staff that’s different?
BOB DAVIE: That’s the difficult thing. You know, I think three of the years since I’ve been head coach, we were — my first year, we were third in the history of Notre Dame football, fewest number of turnovers. I think my second year, we were second in the lowest number of turnovers in this program and last year we were first in the history of the program. So three of those years, we have been a team that really doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
We are not a team that just totally caves in. We are not a highly-penalized team or a team that I would say is just sloppy. We have had some things happen, though, that it’s very frustrating. I think the point of yesterday’s meeting and the point of it all is everyone is accountable. But in the end, the coaches get paid to coach. In the end, the coaches are accountable, the bottom line. And that’s what it is and I’m not afraid to sit here and say that. But certainly, I addressed that with our team. My question is always when something doesn’t happen in the game, is it something we covered in practice, is it something you were prepared to do. And then at some point, it’s players playing against players.
So, without going through everything, you know, that’s kind of how I address it, and we try to be as thorough as we can as a staff and try to prepare our team. But when someone makes a mistake, all of us makes a mistake. I’ve never been one to say “he” makes a mistake, it’s “us,” all of us. The bottom line, we have to coach better, and probably in some instances, have to play better.
And I think it is all magnified. It is all magnified, obviously, by who you play and where that game is played and how close is that game. I think it is unrealistic to take any college football team or any college football game and look at that tape.
I watched a little bit of the Tennessee game last night when I got home and you see Eddie George drop a ball, just flat drop a ball. You see that all the time. But when you are not getting huge plays, or you’re not playing teams that you are just flat better than, I think all those things become magnified.
Certainly, it is frustrating, but last year we did not do that. This year, we are doing it a little bit more.
Q. Going back to, you talk so much on a weekly basis about the talent level, do you ever regret saying this was the most talented team, given the way things turned out?
BOB DAVIE: No, because I knew when I said that exactly what — I’m not so naive that — I think I said when I said it, I kind of said it with, this is the most talented team that we’ve had since I’ve been head coach, and without a doubt, it’s the toughest schedule we’ve played since I’ve been head coach, and since I’ve been at Notre Dame, it’s the toughest schedule. I knew exactly what it was going to be. I was never so naive to go out there and say we are more talented than the teams we are playing. I know exactly what we are.
Overall, I think two years ago, you know, let’s stop and think. You know this is my fifth year in two of those years. We had one player drafted, which is the lowest number in the history of Notre Dame football. In two years, we had one player drafted. So I don’t know by saying that that I’m saying all of a sudden we are the Green Bay Packers. I’m comparing it to what we’ve had. I think we’ve had one first round draft choice Luke Petitgout, a two-year player for us that was kind of a developed guy. So what I said was exactly what I believed and I still believe that that lot of ways.
So, I don’t. I don’t regret that. I knew what I was getting into when I said it.
Q. The injury to Andy Wisne, how did that come about and how often have you in your coaching career seen guys get hurt? I’m sure it happens sometimes?
BOB DAVIE: It does. Really, it was unfortunate because he kind of banged into Darrell Campbell and he lost his memory for a while. He just could not remember anything. It was frightening. He’s not going to play this week. We have taken every precaution with it, and, you know, you’re getting him ready to play before the game, and it’s just one of those freak kind of things.
Q. And your question with Hilliard, at least early in his career, he didn’t play 75 snaps, he played 40-some, how was his stamina?
BOB DAVIE: He played pretty good, he really did. He played pretty good. I thought he played pretty good. You know, this week, it’s going to be Cedric, Darrel and Budinscak will kind of be the three-man rotation in there.
We were encouraged by him. I think that’s a good point. He’s in much better condition than he was, obviously, when he first got here.
Q. The last thing, with all of the cameras going on, ESPN creeping around, wanted to get your meetings with coaches, at the practices —
BOB DAVIE: I don’t mean to embarrass anyone or say anything. They are not around anymore. I just didn’t feel like that was a good situation for us, for the players or the coaches and there was nothing against what they did. I have never been involved with that before, and, you know, I had some concerns about that, even getting into that. Just after one day of it, you know, it was my decision that I just didn’t think that was something that we needed to do. And I hope they understand it and I just don’t like doing that. I don’t think it’s fair to players and coaches to really be —
Q. This was something the school had agreed to and you had been involved — I just wanted to get your perspective on it.
JOHN HEISLER: We received a proposal with a lot of other schools heading back before the season ever started, and this was a whole series of programs that were going to be produced by an independent company up in Chicago for air on ESPN. And they talked about a variety of different things, and they were interested in showing what happens during the week as you prepare for a football game. At some point I think back about the middle of September, we looked at it and ostensibly agreed that we would work with them. Again, at that time, not having any idea what week or what game.
Q. Did you have concern about that?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, but I agreed to do it. Once again, I’m not being negative toward anything, towards the product it was or anything. But, you know I saw just a little bit — in fact, I didn’t even realize. Before the pep rally, before the USC game, just sitting in my office about 6:30 or so, I put the TV on, ESPN2 I think it was, and the Miami thing was on. To be quite honest, I didn’t realize that was what we were doing, it’s a whole week inside Notre Dame Football and the meetings and the coaches meetings and the locker room. I apologized to them. I didn’t realize what all we were getting into with that. I didn’t realize that’s what it was, to be quite honest.
You know, so we turned back. We turned back on it. I would rather do that than make our coaches and our players uncomfortable, or in some ways get them into a situation where they were got going to have access to everything, and it’s not fair to them and I was not comfortable giving them access to anything. That’s not in anyone’s best interest.
Q. You mentioned the Packers — inaudible — his approach changed but in terms of where his players where and where the team was, and they said he would get on his players most after what seemed like a great performance and he was very gentle with them, you know when they were struggling. Does your approach change any right now? Do you still have to get on them a little less? You said it seems the mistakes are magnified — do you have to talk to them differently, set the tone differently?
BOB DAVIE: I think you do it by what’s in your heart, you know, and what your gut tells you to do. If you are going to snap, you snap. You call it like it is. I don’t think you plot it out and plan it out. It’s what you feel in your gut.
So many of the things that you do, you know, for me, it’s all gut, without anybody watching. I’m not someone — and that’s why, with this whole thing of this documentary, I’m not real comfortable doing that. And I understand that some people are really comfortable doing that — the perception, I’m not worried about the perception, because I think over the course of time you end up being a pretender when all you worry about is outside people’s perception. I understand the politics of things and the spin on things and all that. But I would much rather do it with my football team and in the confines of that meeting room.
I don’t really care if people think you are tough enough or you are not tough enough or you don’t smile enough or you smile too much. None of that matters. None of that matters. All that matters is what happens in that room.
Because of that, we’ve gone through every gamut of emotion, because that’s what this has been and that’s what it always is. Last year when we were 9-2, we went through every gamut of emotion and where were a bunch of close ones and we barely one. That’s what coaching is, being honest and having great confidence in your instincts in things and letting it rip. When you start to let everybody see what your instincts are, I think you end up being something that you are not.
Q. In past you have used “Remember November” as a phrase for your strategy for the season, is this a season that Notre Dame fans are going to remember November, do you think?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I’m glad you reminded me of that. What is today, October 31?
BOB DAVIE: Yeah, I mean, we had it going in October. If we could have won that BC game, we would have really had the October thing going, but, yeah, there’s no question about that, to be serious about that point. That was my point with John Jackson. We’ve got a lot of great games left in the month of November with this team. Certainly, we can take this thing out of a frustrating thing by — it’s right there for us to go play, and if we are as good as we think we can be, there’s the opportunity to go take advantage of it, and that’s how I’m approaching it. We do have a very attractive schedule left.
Q. Two years ago Tennessee was your first game in November and it really started the downhill slide, it seemed like. What is different about this team that might prevent that downhill slide?
BOB DAVIE: There’s a great point and I was thinking that driving over. I think we are a little healthier than we were, to be quite honest.
I think in a lot of ways, at that point, we were 5-3 going to Tennessee if that was right and we had beaten USC in that comeback game, Arizona, — it was Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC, Navy, pretty good schedule that year, too, wasn’t it? Oklahoma, Arizona State, USC, Navy. I don’t think were as good of a football team then as we are now, to be quite honest. I think we are a better team. I think we are a little deeper, I ail healthier than we were. How it all ends up, I’m not sure, but I feel better now than I did even at that point going down there. I think we are better.
Q. Coming into the season, a lot was paid about how tough the early season questioned was, is the end of the season even tougher than the beginning now?
BOB DAVIE: That’s tough to say. I think Purdue probably is an improving team because they had a young quarterback that we were going to be a really good defensive team. I don’t worry too much — I think now that’s probably the same with us. So in the end, that’s probably a wash right there. I think we are a better team now than we were then.
But, yeah, it’s a difficult schedule all through. I looked at the Boston College game before the season and realized we were going to Boston College, I knew what that was going to be. Before the season, Pittsburgh and West Virginia were two teams that is both went to Bowl game the last year in the Big East, and both of them were expected to have great seasons.
So I looked at our schedule — really, there was not many on there that you just said, boy, we are going to win that one. So, I knew this was challenging from start to finish. Going to Stanford and playing is a difficult task for anybody to go out to Stanford and play.
Q. Talk about the development as Javin Hunter this year as the target receiver or play-maker for you guys?
BOB DAVIE: I think he stayed healthy. He stayed healthy and he’s maturing. I think he’s having his best season.
Q. What’s the biggest way he’s matured, mentally, physically?
BOB DAVIE: I think he’s a little stronger. I think physically, he’s stronger and I think that probably is the reason why he stayed healthy. I think he’s going to have a bright future. I think the best is yet to come for him. He’s a maturing player. He’s getting better.
Q. What sort of role is Jordan playing for the team now?
BOB DAVIE: He’s the backup center and he also plays in some in there at guard because we are doing some thing with our guard, pooling, particularly in the option game and he’s smart and he’s pretty athletic.
You know we trust him. He goes in there and he knows what to do.
Q. Did you expect him to play that role coming into the season?
BOB DAVIE: I didn’t think I would play guard. I thought he would be the backup center for us.
You know, he did some good things in that backup center and he continues to be very consistent in practice with the situation that we had at guard, we thought he would be a guy to go in there and function for us, do some good things.
Q. At what point in the season do you think he could fill the role of guard for you guys?
BOB DAVIE: We thought about it a little bit, we actually thought about, putting Jeff at guard a little bit because Jeff had so much snap and could knock people back. If we play an even front sometimes the center is not covered so we thought about doing that.
And then JW got hurt, he got hurt in camp I think it was or maybe after the first game or something. I think it was in camp he got injured and hurt his knee and was out for four weeks and so that ended that. We actually toyed with it in training camp.
BOB DAVIE: Just like I told him when we recruited him, I sat down and I said, you’re going to have to outwork everybody — inaudible — he was a good athlete, but he was a little undersized at that time and he was very young. I said, “You’re going to have to work for everything you get. You know, let’s face it, you’re going to have in some ways be an overachiever, not because you don’t have enough athletic ability but because you’re undersized. You’re just going to have to outwork everybody.” He hung with it, stayed with it and he’s earned the right to play.
Q. How much of a role did his father play in the recruiting process?
BOB DAVIE: Didn’t play any with me. I told him — I’m not seen sure that should come up, but I’ll answer it.
I told him that when he walks away from Notre Dame, if he knows me and his dad knows me and the people that know me, there’s nothing political about me. Nothing. So everything he’s done here, he’s earned, and everything he’s gotten here, he deserves, and if anything, I’ve been tougher. He’s comfortable with that and he knows that, and that’s exactly how it is, and I told his dad the same thing. That’s how it is with me.
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