Aug. 15, 2001
COACH DAVIE: You know, as always, it’s an exciting time. Just had a chance to walk through the locker room on my way up here. We actually set the locker room up like it’s a game today. You have all the players’ jerseys hanging in the lockers just like it’s a game. You know, it’s exciting. Can’t help but think my son Clay, they started contact today on their eighth grade team, and my daughter Audra, she’s a cheerleader at Penn High School. It’s just not here, it’s all over the country.
I think a certain part of it is, at least as a coach, you look ahead to what’s down the road. You know, you try to envision what’s going to come your way. You try to envision all those different twists and turns, both positive and negative. The reality is none of us know. Nobody knows for sure.
I don’t care how long you’ve been in this profession, how much you have invested, what kind of foundation you think you have, at this time of the year you wipe the slate clean and you start from scratch because nothing matters until they start putting scores on that score board out there.
But I will say that I’m extremely excited. You know, this time of year, even though it is exciting, it’s not quite as exciting as it used to be even five to ten years ago. I think some things have changed. First of all, I have tremendous respect for these players and these coaches because wasn’t long ago that the players would leave in May, you wouldn’t see them again till August. You’d be like a bunch of nervous or expectant mothers waiting to see what those kids look like when they came through that door. You hadn’t seen them in three or four months. That’s certainly changed because these players are here all summer. We see them all summer.
Same thing with coaches. It’s changed a little bit. As you know, that official signing date is in February, but this whole recruiting process has moved forward so quickly that the coaches don’t get away much. So you kind of know a little bit more about each other. There aren’t quite so many surprises as there were maybe five or season years ago. But I do have tremendous respect for coaches and players. I never take that for granted because it is a year-round job.
I’m excited. I’m anxious for this football team, to see how we handle the challenges ahead. I think we’re a talented team. I think we have leadership on this football team. I certainly understand the challenges, but I’m anxious to see.
I think if I had to look at some of the things that are really important with this team, I think it’s keeping an unselfish attitude. With every stage you go through, I think we are a more talented team than we’ve been. I don’t stand up here and say we’re so talented that we’re going to walk out there and not play well and win. You all realize that. But with more talent comes different things. I think the chemistry and the unselfishness is just critical.
First of all, when there’s more players, there’s more competition at position. That can be the best thing that ever happened to you, if it’s handled right. We have three tailbacks. Not many teams in the country have three tailbacks like we have. Can be the best thing, if it’s handled right.
Three quarterbacks. We have some young, talented players that all want to play, all have a great attitude right now. That great attitude has to continue.
We have three fullbacks. A little bit different than the quarterbacks. You know, we have three fullbacks there that have all been here a long time, all paid their dues, been through the ups and downs. All three of those guys want to play.
You throw Arnaz Battle into the mix at wide receiver. Everyone is anxious to see him get his hands on the ball, I’m anxious. You have Javin Hunter, David Givens. They want to play, too. They played with a true freshman quarterback last year and they want to see us throw the ball more to help this team. Same thing on defense with the strong safeties. Three safties. Nose guard.
The point I’m making is, that can be the best thing that happened to this football team. Competition is tremendous. We think we have some depth. That’s tremendous. But it’s important that that unselfish attitude continues. We had that last year. Those tailbacks are a year older. Those quarterbacks are now a year older. Clock is ticking a little bit more. Those fullbacks are a year older. I think you get my point.
Also with being unselfish, I do think — this is not a AAA farm number for NFL football. Let’s face it. If I’m one of those young guys that are a senior, I have a chance to potentially be drafted, sure, that’s in the back of my mind. I think it’s important to realize for those guys this is the last chance to go through it here at Notre Dame.
I’ve been in coaching a long time. I know when you win, you get a lot more players drafted. So I think being unselfish is critical with this team.
I think the second thing with this team is maturity. On paper, we should be mature. We have 28 or 29 seniors, eight of which are fifth-year seniors. When you talk about maturity, I’m talking about once you start going down that path and things happen that are unexpected. How do you rebound from that, particularly maybe when you are a senior or you’re a fifth-year senior, when this is your last shot. How do you handle the things that are going to come your way? Because it’s different than last year.
I think with maturity, how are you going to go play that schedule week after week after week? Every one of those games is a bowl game. What happens if you have a great win early in the year, maybe beat someone in someplace where nobody really deep down thought you could win? You have to go play the next week. What happens if you lose a game somewhere down the road or lose a game to someone that maybe people thought you were favored against? You know what, it doesn’t matter, you have to go play the next week.
I think just the maturity part of this football team is critical.
Right now we’re an unselfish team. Right now we’re a mature team. Let’s face it, there’s been no bumps in the road. I talked to our team about that. I’ve talked to our coaching staff about that. Both of those situations, I feel good about.
I’m really proud of this team. I don’t shy away from high expectations with this team. No one has higher expectations than I do. You know, you talk about being the favorite or being the underdog. I’ll be honest, I don’t think we’ll be the underdog all year, based on the kind of players we have, hopefully the kind of coaching staff we have, just matching our players against teams’ players, and hopefully matching our coaches against teams’ coaches.
But also realize because of where we play, that may factor into it. Because of that, we may on paper be the underdog. I don’t know that that really matters. It still comes down to players playing against players. I think we’re going to have definitely an excellent opportunity each and every week to go win. That’s why my expectations are high going into this season.
The reason we’re unselfish, I can stand here and say that, I think these players have proven it. Not to go into all the academic things again. As I said, the slate is wiped clean. Don’t put any points on that board for GPA, no points for winning the academic achievement award. But as a coach, you feel good about that because to me that means players have bought into what you’re trying to do, that means they are unselfish.
Our football team comes back intact. Every football player that was with us in the spring is back. They’re all academically eligible. Any time you put 100 guys or 120 guys together, there are going to be some off-the-field issues. We’ve had none that would keep any players from participating this fall. I think that shows that it’s a mature team.
But more than anything, and this is kind of an intangible thing, there’s no way to really prove this to you, and that’s not my point, but it’s something I’m really proud of, I really feel good about, I have tremendous trust in this team, tremendous trust in this coaching staff. I don’t see anyone in this program right now that has a hidden agenda, has their own agenda. I don’t see anyone selfish that’s trying to jump up and grab all the attention.
I feel good where we are. We have some good people, got some good players. I’m jacked up. I mean, I’m anxious to go play.
So with that said, probably the easiest way is just to go ahead and take some questions. Who wants to go first?
Q: A number of people were either held out or limited for various reasons. Can you give an update of where they stand? Are there any limitations?
COACH DAVIE: The only limitations we have going into practice are Glenn Earl pulled his quadriceps a little bit last week working out at home. There was one other. Terrance Howard tweaked his hamstring just a little bit at home working out. Other than that, we’re going to be careful with some guys, but everyone else has been cleared to go full speed.
Not an academic issue, the only student affairs issue we had in the spring was Julius Jones. Julius is cleared to participate.
One thing I think, as well, that I’m excited about, I think there’s a lot of teams opening up early. We’ve done that. We’re going to do that in the future here. But I really like the fact that our players got to go home for about 10 or 12 days at the end of the summer. I know all of you appreciate what it’s like just to get away for a while. These players have been here all year. They stay in residence halls on this campus just like every other student. All the other students basically go home in May. These players stayed throughout the summer in residence halls, some of them don’t have air-conditioning. For them to get home for 10 or 12 days before we start I think was really refreshing and really helpful with our football team.
I think that helped us.
Q: Have you reviewed your (practicing in the heat) or anything that happened that caused you to relook at what you did?
COACH DAVIE: I think everyone in the country did that. Those are tragedies. As I mentioned, with starting play, putting those full pads on, going out playing, there’s not a minute goes by in the day that I don’t think about that.
But we didn’t change anything. Our awareness is heightened even more because of those tragedies. We don’t normally do this formally, but we met at the start of our coaches meetings back in the office, we had Dr. Moriarity come over and took a couple hours in the morning and just talked about it, talked about issues, talking about warning signs, talk to Mickey Moriarity about potentially guys that may be a little more susceptible to that, guys that sweat excessively.
Other than our awareness being heightened, we’re not going to change our procedures, but we’re certainly going to pay even more attention to it. You can’t help it after what’s happened over this summer.
Q: You mentioned before not opening early. I guess the flipside of not opening early is you don’t have the schedule broken into pieces like you did last year. I don’t think you have a bye week until after the ninth game of the season. Can you talk about the challenge that that’s going to present, particularly with the opponents you play?
COACH DAVIE: I think that goes back to that maturity statement I made. You know, you better be a mature football team to be able to go nine straight weeks. I think also you better be a mature football team to open up on the road against a team that’s played two games before you’ve played. Also in your second game, you’ve played a team that opened up on September 1st that had an open date.
So I think it goes back to the maturity part of this football team. Let’s face it. I think we have to approach this summer camp a little bit different than we have in the past. We have to be much more efficient. There’s no way we can simulate playing a game to the degree that teams have played games before us do. Obviously, we can’t do that.
But I do think we have to try to do that by scrimmaging just a little bit more. When we do scrimmage, I think it has to be more game-like conditions with coaches in the press box, officials here, crowd noise piped in. I think it’s the maturity of making the best of that situation.
But I do think we have to approach this whole summer camp with more of a sense of urgency because we are behind a little bit when you look at teams having played games before we do.
Q: The heat issue for a moment. (Inaudible) have you told your players to just come to the trainers?
COACH DAVIE: Sure, we always do that. We monitor them at practice. I think the biggest issue, you know, whether you really like it or not, I think you do have to acclimate players to play in hot conditions. I don’t think this is necessarily old school. I think this is reality. To feel good, sometimes you do have to feel bad.
I think what’s unfair is to send them into a game or the first game, second game, third game, fourth game, where they’re not acclimated to that heat. There is a balancing act there of getting out in the heat of the day and practicing because you are going to play in the heat. But you have to be smart. You have to be smart.
After coaching nine years at Texas A&M, being at Tulane two years, being at Arizona, I’ve spent a lot of my career in places that are hot. I think what people fail to realize sometimes, it is hot here, as well. I mean, it is very humid here, it’s very hot in the upper Midwest. We’re cautious of that.
But I think also what we’ve tried to do is we’re not really a conditioning camp. A couple years ago I changed my approach to it. We don’t condition. If you can make it through two-a-day practice, practicing at a quick tempo, we don’t condition at the end of practice. We work them hard, we try to make it so it’s not a major adjustment if we play a game out here on a hot, sunny day, but we really try to be smart about it.
Q: The issue with Northwestern (inaudible)?
COACH DAVIE: You can talk to Jim and Jim Russ. Certainly we do have a policy, but it’s such an ever-changing thing, supplements and over-the-counter supplements, advertising on Internet, just different means of kids to get them. It changes so fast.
What we do is you have to trust players. We can educate them as much as possible. Obviously, the only things we provide to them have been cleared by Dr. Moriarity and cleared by the NCAA. But at some point a player, if he puts something in his body, he’s responsible to come tell us. That’s the message. There’s a trust there of just educating them the best you can.
I think these players are very conscious of that. But obviously, in major college football, in a lot of aspects of life, it’s competitive out there. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to wear that new dress in your wedding or you’re trying to wear that new suit at or graduation or what, there’s a bunch of people want to do a bunch of things with their body in a short amount of time. It’s extremely competitive, quick-fix type of thing, they’re susceptible to advertisements.
A lot of it has to do with just education and trusting players to come to us if they put something in their body that they have concerns about.
Q: Does it shock you that the NCAA came out with this, 30% of college players have or are using supplements?
COACH DAVIE: I didn’t see that. That would surprise me very much. I think these players, at least I know our players are intelligent guys. They come to a place like Notre Dame I think because they realize this football can be taken away from them very quickly, that there’s always life after football. I don’t care if you’re a 15-year veteran of the NFL, there’s a bunch of life left when you’re 35 years old. There’s a bunch of life after football.
I don’t think these players take their bodies for granted and take their health for granted. That surprises me very, very much. I hope that that’s not true.
Q: What are the two or three areas you think you need to improve on for this fall?
COACH DAVIE: Well, I think for us, we kind of have the same plan always, that is first of all to protect the football and do not turn the ball over. We had some great stats last year. Wipe that slate clean. For us it’s protecting the football.
Second thing, we have to be able to run the ball which I think this year specifically we have to throw it a little more efficiently to be able to run it. We can’t line up and throw the ball eight or nine times a game. I don’t think that’s realistic to say we’re going to win games doing that. To run it, we have to be more efficient throwing it, keep people from ganging up on us. We have to improve defensively. Got better last year, but we’re not even close to where we have to be.
I think specifically if you had to say, we have to find a linebacker. We have to replace Anthony Denman. I think we have to replace a nose guard, Lance Legree, that was a good football player. I think always, whether you’re at Notre Dame or wherever you are, you better have corners. This game across the country scheme-wise has changed. It’s even changed more over the last year with the things people are doing, spreading people out, using the quarterback as a runner, where you have to play man-to-man coverage.
I think specifically on defense, if you had to say it’s coverage ability in the secondary, finding a wheel linebacker and a nose guard.
Final thing for us, special teams. That’s huge for us.
Q: Do you feel better in your secondary this year?
COACH DAVIE: We have more depth, particularly at safety. I think we have some really good safeties. We need a corner to step up. You know what, you don’t know until you know at that position. You can go out there on this practice field, spend a lot of time on that practice field, but you get in the stadium and find out about those corners.
We do have numbers back there, we do have some talent back there. I’m excited about David Lockwood. Played the position at West Virginia at a high level. I like his style of coaching. He brought some new ideas to us, brought some new confidence to us. The players relate well to him. I’m kind of excited about it. I think we’ve got a good group of guys.
Q: I know you love a challenge. Have you ever been faced with anything like your schedule in September?
COACH DAVIE: It’s tough. Not only in September. You can keep going, honestly. But, I don’t mean this just to sound — make myself sound good or make us sound good. The reason you come to Notre Dame, I remember making that decision in ’94, how tough it was to leave A&M. The bottom line, reason I came, is because I want to play in these kinds of games. When I go to recruit, the thing we sell is, “Come to Notre Dame, play in a bowl game every week, play against the best competition in the country, play on national television, high stakes, high risk, high reward kinds of games.”
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t talk about playing that kind of schedule, Notre Dame being a special place, then all of a sudden go schedule a bunch of multi-directional schools. You’ve got to walk the walk.
That’s why I came here. That’s why these players came here.
Now, it is a pretty good challenge. I mean, it’s a chunk. There’s no question about that. But also I think with the way things have gone, I think people respect that. I think the BCS computer rankings and things, there’s some credit given out to beating good teams. They still don’t give you any points for losing to good teams, which I think, without getting into the whole way they evaluate schedules, I think it’s extremely difficult to evaluate someone’s schedule on (inaudible) of an opponent. You can take a lower division or a lower conference school that has a win/loss record, maybe 8-3. USC, last year 5-5, we went and played them. You would much rather play the team with a 9-2 record than 5-5. It’s not only wins and losses, it’s who they play.
There is some credit given to beating good teams. The problem is there’s no credit given to losing, whether you lose to a great team or whatever. It’s playing that schedule week after week and being able to be strong enough and mature enough to get through it and stay healthy enough.
Q: You have two quarterbacks who haven’t played. Look to have a lot more speed and quickness than the one that is your starter. How do you address the whole quarterback situation?
COACH DAVIE: If I had to say, one of them probably has more speed and quickness. I think Carlyle Holiday would be quicker, probably faster than Matt. I’m not sure Jared Clark would be faster or quicker than Matt.
But I don’t see how we can go to Lincoln, Nebraska, West Lafayette, I can’t imagine going into that situation with a quarterback that hasn’t played in a game. Either Carlyle Holiday or Jared Clark, they’re going to have to do some tremendous things in training camp to unseat Matt in those first couple games.
There’s certainly a lot of competition there. There’s a lot of competition at that position. But I think the thing that people sometimes forget is, Matt LoVecchio is now a year older. I think the upside to Matt LoVecchio is tremendously high as well. He was a true freshman. He’s going to have a strong arm. He’s going to be bigger and stronger. I think sometimes, I made this joke before about whether you’re the head coach or whether you’re the quarterback. Notre Dame fans love to discuss that issue of who is going to replace you and how quick. Matt is caught up in that same deal I am a little bit. We’re kind of brother-in-laws in a sense. I guess misery loves company (laughter).
But, you know, he’s played games. We’re going to get something out of the Fiesta Bowl debacle. We’re going to get something out of it. I think Matt LoVecchio, being under the gun in that situation, it helps us, helps this team. There’s going to be some heat on him in those places we go early in the year.
But also the best guy is going to play. But I think the best guy in certain situations, there’s a factor there. The one that played last year, he’s going to have a bit of an advantage early in the year. We won seven straight games.
Q: (Inaudible) if you open at home?
COACH DAVIE: I think subconsciously it probably would be a little bit different. But I think adding it all up, I would still be — it would still be Matt LoVecchio just because I’ve seen him in the huddle, we’ve won seven games. I just know so much about him in the heat of battle. It goes back to the reason we made the decision a year ago in the Michigan State game. He’s got some unique qualities. He’s an unflappable guy.
Psychologically, you know, that would play a factor a little bit with me. I think the gap is still big enough that that wouldn’t make a difference.
COACH DAVIE: That’s a good point, particularly John Teasdale didn’t participate in the spring because of a shoulder surgery. We moved John Teasdale as a starting tackle, moved him into guard. He’s embraced the change. He loves the idea of it.
He’s got to win a position. He’s got to win a position. I think he’s another one of those players, he being a fifth-year player, he’s got to step up. I mean, it’s not going to be given to him. How he reacts to different situations I think is critical with the chemistry and unselfishness. But because he has played in games, played at a pretty high level, you’d like to see him be one of those guards.
Right now Sean Mahan I think is pretty well established as one guard, good football player if he can play healthy. Sean Milligan has done some good things. He’s got some ability. But Teasdale has some experience. You’re kind of pulling for him because he’s played before.
COACH DAVIE: You know, I really don’t. A year ago, to be honest, I thought that Julius may just emerge because you saw those things as a freshman, flashes, big play ability every time he touched it. I think Julius is much stronger now, much more prepared than he was a year ago to go face this challenge ahead of him.
But I also see Tony Fisher and Terrance Howard being unique in their own way. Tony Fisher has some unbelievable testing results this summer. Big guy, very athletic. He’s healthy. He played two years with a shoulder that he finally had fixed at the end of the season.
Terrance Howard has been through a lot. I like his story. The combination of all three of those guys is an asset to this team. They’re all licking their chops to play special teams. That’s the thing that excites me. All three of those guys have said, “Coach, whatever it takes at special teams.”
I think there’s a good — I think they came into that situation with their eyes wide open. I don’t see someone becoming the marquis guy. Once again, that’s what’s kind of exciting about today. Who knows for sure?
Q: (Inaudible) not playing spring, who goes in No. 1?
COACH DAVIE: To me it’s a non-issue. I guess it must be a little bit of an issue because we talked about it as staff. Tony Fisher will go the first, just to line up there. Like who comes out the first snap, it will be Tony Fisher just because Tony Fisher missed the spring because we basically made him miss the spring with the shoulder injury. I don’t think he should be necessarily penalized for that.
But he and Terrance are going to split time, and Julius will be third heading into spring football because Julius missed spring football not because we asked him to, but because he had to. That’s a different scenario. But I’m not going to make all that bigger than it needs to be.
Like I say, when you start now, you clean the slate basically. But there are some things that kind of play into it from last year a little bit.
COACH DAVIE: Anxious to see. We have a lot of potential guys. We watched with the freshman, put that special teams, made a highlights for the special teams, doing some teaching things from. I wish No. 18 was here, little Joey. He was something, quick as a cat. But we have some exciting guys.
Julius ought to be dynamic in returns, both punt and cough. Certainly Terrance Howard, remember back a couple years ago against Tennessee, David Givens, Arnaz, Lorenzo Crawford. I think we’ve got a lot of guys. With Vontez, I think he can do it. I don’t want to get too many things on his plate early in the season. He’s an exciting young player.
COACH DAVIE: Say that again.
COACH DAVIE: No question. No question. Having him at tailback allows you to get those guys on the field in special team situations.
Q: You mentioned earlier that competition can be good if it’s handled right. As a coach, how do you try to make sure it’s handled right?
COACH DAVIE: Well, it’s what we talk about all the time. You know, to get off the subject, when you talk about confidence, everyone will ask, “What about because of the Oregon State game, is your confidence rocked?” It’s not that one game or that one thing. It’s what you’ve done since that game.
I think because of the way things have gone, all of us are more confident now than we’ve ever been, regardless if the score was 52-9 in the Fiesta Bowl, because of what’s transpired since then. When you look at the academics, off-season, all the continuity of things.
The same thing I think would be true about how you handle situations. I can stand up there and talk about being unselfish, but it’s those players interacting with each other. That’s something I’ve talked about through the spring, through the summer. We have a leadership committee. I talk to you about the same things I talk to them about. At some point, the ball is in their hands. On the field, it’s their deal. I can only control so much.
How the chemistry, unselfishness, dynamics of this team unfold, it’s their team. You establish a leadership committee, you make them aware of your potential concerns, you establish captains, so you communicate about those issues. They’ve proven to me that they’re unselfish. They’ve proven that.
As this thing goes forward, you never know until you’re in the heat of battle what’s going to happen. You talk about coaches. You talk about people. You talk about players. Nobody knows until they’re in that position to see how they’re going to react.
But I feel pretty good about it because of the way I’ve seen things go. But you communicate about those things. You know it’s coming.
Q: In the spring press conference, you mentioned LoVecchio for the first game. Today you seem to be indicating now for the first two games. Has there been some change in evaluation?
COACH DAVIE: Not really. You know, maybe sometimes you say things, you come back in, hear how you said it, didn’t come out exactly like you meant to say it, which is my fault. I probably shouldn’t even say two games, three games, four games.
I just know where we play in September, when you look at September. Three of those four games are on the road, particularly starting in Lincoln, then West Lafayette. It’s hard for me to see one of those other two guys beating him out in training camp. I’m just being honest. That’s how I feel.
Maybe Matt LoVecchio sprains his ankle, Jared Clark comes in against Nebraska, leads us for three fourth quarter touchdowns. May not be the first two games. I kind of see it being the first couple or the month of September, just in the dynamics of it.
It’s hard to say. There’s no exact blueprint. I think Matt LoVecchio deserves to be the starting quarterback because he gives us the best chance to win early. There’s going to have to be some things happen to change my thinking on that.
Q: You talked about special teams. What about (inaudible)? What has he been like in summer camp?
COACH DAVIE: That’s a good question. We were inconsistent there. We did some excellent things in the kicking game. Honestly our place kicker was not as consistent as we need him to be. Now he’s a sophomore. He really was a freshman. That was his first time playing last year. Nick has worked hard this summer. He’s worked hard this summer. In fact, when with when we recruited Nick, I heard some stories about him from high school. One of the big issues was Nick wanted a key to the stadium so he could get in and kick in the stadium. He used to get into Lockport stadium and kick. Lived across the street. Go out there when it was snowing, kick. Tough to get a key to this stadium (laughter). We’re pretty proud of this grass, the whole deal.
From what I understand, I don’t watch him because there are NCAA rules, I don’t get involved in any of that, but from what I understand, scuttlebutt on the street is Nick found a way to get in this stadium this summer. You might look out there and there might be some patches out there. As long as his psyche is okay, he got in the stadium, I think that’s a pretty good thing for us.
Q: (Inaudible) special teams turned it around for you. Do you anticipate that’s going to happen in the same situation?
COACH DAVIE: No question. Every game we’re going to play in, I’d venture to say, is going to be close. We’re going to play in a bunch of close games. Special teams has to be our edge. After the ’99 season, when you reevaluate everything, when you talk about nutrition, late practice times, one of the things that I came to the reality of was special teams has to be our deal completely. When you look at that schedule over the next several years, that’s what it has to be.
I think our football team has really bought into that. I think we can even be better in the special teams than we were a year ago. The challenge is going to be greater because other people are trying to be better. People are going to prepare for you even more than they were a year ago.
We have a lot of good athletes, we have the mindset that it’s important. As coaches, we spent a lot of time in the kicking game.
Q: You lost two great tightends. What type of tightends will fit in this year? Are you concerned about that position?
COACH DAVIE: You know, we don’t throw to a tightend a lot anyhow. I’m concerned because we don’t have anyone that has played. I really like John Owens. He’s a fourth-year player, good football player, better blocker than he is a receiver, but a big, strong, physical blocker. I love Gary Godsey, whole story. He’s now 268 pounds. A great kid. I think he can really be a good football players for us. Maybe he’s not Jabari Holloway running and catching the ball. Billy Palmer is a good tightend who is a physical player. Matt Root has come in. Looks like if he can stay healthy and keep his weight up, he can help our football team. Great ball skills.
We’re not where we were a year ago. I don’t feel really badly about it because I think we have guys that haven’t played very much, probably are going to be pretty good players.
COACH DAVIE: That’s tough. Probably politically I shouldn’t even say who has because I know how that goes. I think Ryan Grant has caught our attention, a big tailback that can run, although he has a bit of a hamstring. I think Matt Root, the tightend as I mentioned, he’s 6’6″, 240, really has great ball skills.
Mark LeVoir, you can’t help but like him, over 300 pounds, excellent feet. Both the center and guard, Darin Mitchell and Zack Giles are a little undersized. They’re 265. They’re going to be — both of them have good feet.
On defense, all three linebackers, Justin Tuck, Brandon Hoyte, and Mays. A couple corners. Quentin Burrell has probably exceeded our expectations a bit early. Jeff Thompson as a deep snapper. I’m not disappointed in any of them. I mean that. Those guys kind of have jumped up a little bit.
But I think it’s a good, solid class. I’m anxious to get the pads on them, see how they do.
Q: You talked about the continuity of the coaching staff.
COACH DAVIE: I’ve been excited with our new coaches. We lost some good coaches, but David Lockwood, I really like his personality. Played the position, as I mentioned, at West Virginia. He has a lot of juice, a lot of excitement. I like how he coaches.
Same thing with Joker Phillips. Played the position at Kentucky at a high level. Great personality. Bill Sheridan reminds me a lot of Jerry Rosburg. Coached at Army for five or six years. Involved in special teams, coaching safeties. Seamless transition with those guys. They’re good people. They jumped into it. To be honest, it hasn’t really been an issue. It’s been something that I was concerned about, you but it’s worked out well.
Q: (Inaudible)? Will you make a decision at number two?
COACH DAVIE: It’s going to be made when they make it. You know, we’re not going to just deem someone number two. Someone has to step up. They have to separate from the pack a little bit.
I think we’re going to have to at some point say, “You’re one, you’re two and you’re three.” That’s just how it has to be because there’s only so many reps to go around. We’re going to start out in training camp where all three of them get exactly the same number of reps. Even though Matt LoVecchio is the starting quarterback, all three will get the equal number of reps, number one, to save their bodies. There’s a bunch of throws for everyone in camp. We’ll get to a point where Matt takes a little more and the other two are equal. Then, as I mentioned, we have to scrimmage a couple times. We have to do that. I think it’s going to emerge and take care of itself. But there’s no time frame on that.
COACH DAVIE: We have a lot of kids from Chicago. Darrell Campbell probably will be a starting defensive line for us, has a chance to be a great player. Glenn Earl basically is starting safety for us. Our linebacker, Goolsby, can be a starting linebacker for us. So, yeah, we have several guys. I’m leaving a couple out right there.
When you’re looking for players, I think that’s one thing we have a pretty good handle on right now here. I’m looking for guys, regardless of what the lists say, that can come here and be here four years later, thrive in this academic environment, handle all the things that come their way. That’s what we’re looking for.
Really doesn’t matter if they come from Chicago, New Jersey or where. Obviously it’s a little easier when they’re closer from home because there’s less obstacles to overcome. There’s something we’ve done with our summer camps is try to get people in from these core area states, a lot of kids, so we can really evaluate them.
It helps when you go in and they know where Notre Dame is, they know what the weather is, they know how to get over here. Make it a lot easier on yourself.
COACH DAVIE: You’re asking who out of the whole team who people don’t know about?
COACH DAVIE: That’s hard. I mean, I’ve been pleased with Andy Wisne. He had a situation since he came to Notre Dame, not to get into all the specifics, but he had surgery done after spring practice. Andy Wisne is really healthy for the first time since he’s been here. Anxious to watch him play.
There’s so many. There’s so many. Some of those young freshman you didn’t see last year, Jerome Collins, Mike Goolsby, guys like that. There’s a lot of guys out there. I think that’s what’s neat about this team. Last year we had contributions from a lot of different players. Matt Sarb, Chad DeBolt, John Crowther, Adam Tibble. There’s probably a few more of those guys out there somewhere. They’re going to get an opportunity in special teams or some way to help this team.
Q: Talk about the importance of having quality corners. Does that change things up in terms of the style of man-to-man coverage? Where do you expect them to step up?
COACH DAVIE: We’re not changing. We’re locked in. We went out and tried to recruit with man-to-man ability in time. I think Shane Walton had an excellent year last year, better than we probably thought. Vontez, an exciting young player, plenty of ability. Jason Beckstrom had his shoulder surgery done. He’s healthy. Jason started out here for us as a freshman against USC two years ago. Finally healthy. Clifford Jefferson is back for his fourth year. Garron Bible we moved in. Then we have the freshman. We have enough numbers. I think we have enough ability.
Q: With the freshman cornerbacks, the thing that jumped out about them, you have some guys with good size, something you were lacking in the past. How realistic is it going in with one of those guys earning playing time this year?
COACH DAVIE: I think they’ve got some pretty good players in front of them, honestly, better than what they’ve been given credit for a little bit. If there’s a position they can play, corner is a pretty easy position honestly because we play a lot of man-to-man coverage. It’s not hard to get them on the right guy. It’s more of a technique situation, being able to rebound when something bad happens. Some of the intangible things.
But, yeah, if a guy is an outstanding cover guy, he’ll get on the field early. But there’s a lot to be seen if we have that kind of guy here in the freshman class. Duff, a year ago he was a tailback.
Q: Talk about Arnaz Battle a little bit. What are your expectations for him?
COACH DAVIE: There’s probably a scenario he could get under that center. I think there’s been so much invested in him. He has so much invested. Dynamic with his hands on the ball. We’re going to try to get him the football, try to get him the ball. You know, he had really a good spring. He has great hands. He’s a play-maker. He had a good summer. We’re going to try to find ways to get his hands on the ball because he can make people miss when he has it.
I have extremely high expectations for him, as I do Javin and David, as well. We’re good at wide receiver. Need to be able to get the ball to him.
Q: Can you talk about Nebraska, going into Lincoln?
COACH DAVIE: I think everyone in this country understands the challenge of going into Lincoln. All you have to do is look in the back of their press guide, see their one loss record at home in the ’90s. What makes it really tough, all those people with those red shirts on is one thing, but that one wears No. 7 out on the field is what my main concern is. He is a great football player. I love his style of play. I love how they utilize him. I think they have a great scheme to take advantage of him.
They’re a talented team. They lost some players on offense, but Nebraska is one of those places where somebody jumps up that you haven’t heard of and gains a thousand yards first time he’s a starting tailback. They have almost all their defense back. Special teams will be huge. I know Nebraska has made a big emphasis on their special teams through the spring. Always been a good special teams football team.
Last year we had a couple things happen, big plays. To say we’d be able to do that again is probably unrealistic. Any time you play on the road, special teams are huge.
COACH DAVIE: A lot of competition. Courtney Watson, if you had to say right now, would go out there and line up number one. I think Mike Goolsby is in the hunt. I think Brandon Hoyte is a young player that is going to compete. I think he’ll compete this year. He’s mature, quick, fast, smart. He’ll be in the mix at that position. Plus Justin Thomas is a young guy that we’ve had, a linebacker from Oklahoma City that has really matured in the spring. Courtney Watson starts out number one, but there’s some competition there.
COACH DAVIE: We’re going to put a lot of pressure on them in camp, work a lot against our defense, working against Anthony Weaver and Grant Irons. Even more so the Jerome Collins, Rocky Boiman, try to simulate the speed rush that you get out of Nebraska and Purdue.
I think a couple things. One, obviously the Fiesta Bowl snowballed on us. In the spring game, we put those guys at a disadvantage because of the snap count we were using, some of the things we were doing. We threw the ball a little more than we really would do in a game.
I feel pretty good about the talent level we have on the offensive line. But obviously we’ve got to play at a higher level. That’s something we’re going to try to really emphasize in summer camp.
Thank you, guys.
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