Aug. 30, 2004
A few of the Notre Dame football players sat down with the media on Monday to discuss the season opener versus BYU. The Irish will travel to Provo, Utah to battle the Cougars this coming Saturday (Sept. 4). Justin Tuck On beginning to play following his knee surgery … I feel good and I’m ready to go. I think the mental part of it was the biggest thing. I never had any doubt about where my knee was physically. I just thought that going into spring practice having the confidence to make the cuts and make the breaks that you need to make was important after coming off a surgery like that. I think they brought me along well during camp and I’m ready to go. On being involved in every play come game day … I haven’t been involved in every play during practice but that was more of a pre-cautionary measure. Come Saturday I’m looking to play the whole game. On his emotions going into the season opener … We’re ready to get back at it because coming off a 5-7 season the first thing you want to do is get that bad taste out of your mouth. There’s a lot of anxiety going around here now. On how offenses changed their plans last year in order to stop him … I saw a little more double-teams, a little more runs away and rollout passes away from me. That comes with the territory and as a defensive player you have to adjust to that. Now with the coming up of Victor (Abiamiri) and Kyle (Budinsack) is back this year, hopefully if they run away from me they’ll have just as much to deal with on the other side. That’s going to even things out a lot. On what to do when he does get double-teamed … You have to keep fighting out there. For my benefit I think you obviously have to double a lot of nose guards inside so if you double an end on the same play there are going to be some guys free. If I have to get double-teamed and that opens things up for someone else I have no problem with that. On facing BYU’s passing offense … They throw a lot of trick plays in there to keep you off balance. It’s going to be a real challenge out there. Plus they know what we want to do because we saw them last year and we know what they want to do too. It’s going to come down to whoever executes the best and we are looking forward to the challenge. On his impressions of playing them last year … They’re slick and sneaky. You can’t get down on your keys because if you are not focused on one play they can score a touchdown. That’s a challenge for us right now as having a young secondary and being the young team that we are but we do have experience with the linebackers and defensive line. I think the big thing for us is to be focused. If you don’t do that it’ll be a long game. On the defense’s role with playing at BYU in a hostile environment … The biggest thing for us is being up for the challenge. We know that it’s going to be a hot crowd because it’s the first game but that’s anywhere that you play. So as a defense and as an offense we just have to start fast and that is something that Coach (Willingham) has been preaching because that is something that we didn’t do last year. We just need to come out and be calm. We play in front of 80-thousand every Saturday so it shouldn’t be anything new. Dan Stevenson On how he and the team feels going into the season-opener … I think the team is definitely excited to just finally get back out there and play some football. We’ve been doing camp for the past three weeks to a month and we’ve been really looking forward at the opportunity to come out this year and show people what Notre Dame football is all about. Obviously we’re all disappointed about last year and I think the team is really eager to just get out there and play again. On facing the BYU defense and about having everyone on the offensive line back this year … They do run a little bit of a different defense than most people but we’ve seen them in the past. The coaches do a great job of showing us good looks and to get us well prepared for that defense. Obviously having an offensive back that has played together helps us with that because we are comfortable with each other and we know what each other will do on each play. On if he’s seen any time at tackle so far during camp … Basically I’ve been playing pretty much just guard. I think that’s where I’m pretty much set for right now. I’m happy to be there. I like playing guard, it’s a fun position. On how to turn things around from last year’s 5-7 season … Coming off a disappointing season like last year I think the key is the offense. It’s not about what we do now, it’s about the hard work and effort that we’ve put in since January. That includes winter conditioning, spring football and summer workouts. All of that really aides in building what the core of this team really is. On the offensive line being criticized last season and the improvement coming into this year … As far as the criticism last year, that just comes with the territory. I’ve played offensive line my whole life and even in high school I’ve experienced that whenever anything goes wrong it’s the offensive line’s fault and when things go right it’s somebody else’s good job. That just comes with playing offensive line and you learn to deal with that at a young age. We are returning four of five starters and it’s a solid core that we’ve brought back and we are all comfortable with each other. Having a year under our belt makes each player more experienced and better. Ryan Grant On the frustrations of having to sit out much of camp with an injury … It’s pretty frustrating any time you’re watching your guys go out there especially when you were doing well. At the same time that’s the nature of the game and things happen. Luckily it happened at a point in time like this where it gave me time to heal so I’d be ready to practice during game week. Things are going well now and I’m happy that I’m back and I’m glad to know that my teammates are happy that I’m back. I’m just ready to get after it and I’m excited for our team to get back on the field and do what we need to do. On getting injured during a time when he was practicing well … I’ve played football for a long time and injuries are a part of the game. I feel that I was playing well and there were a lot of good things that I was learning and the offense was playing well and everybody was stepping things up. Anytime that you are not able to play with your guys and compete, because I’m a competitor, it’s rough for me to sit back and watch. But I have to understand that I’m not helping this team if I am injured. So I need to take care of my body to make sure that I can get the job done. The training staff and everyone have done a good job with helping my leg get better. It’s fine now I’m good to go. On when he knew that he was 100% … I started testing it last week and really the only thing that I haven’t done is lowered my shoulder. I’ve done all the drills and all of the running and everything like that. I’m going to practice this week. I’m probably about 95% right now. Probably around today or tomorrow it’ll be 100%. On if he’s participated in any contact drills since his injury … No, I haven’t done any contact yet, which is probably better for me. The only reason I’m saying that is because while the guys were getting beat up during fall training camp I was getting rested. All I was doing was running and lifting so I still have my summer weight and summer strength. So a lot of my teammates say that I should be running over guys and running past guys. I feel great. My body is in great shape. On how to turn things around as a team following last season … We need to stay composed at all times. Every great team is going to have ups and downs. The really good teams are the ones that can stay focused and stay composed in different situations. We need to do the little things and I feel like that is executing as an offense and defense and special teams also. You look at a lot of the games last year and a good three or four games were determined by one play. It’s the little things like that that are so important. Brady Quinn On getting all 11 guys on offense to work as one … It’s hard to tell right now without having played a game and obviously you can’t simulate that. But I think we are pretty close to that. On feeling specifically comfortable with one or two of the tight ends … I’m pretty comfortable with all of the guys. They are a good group of guys. They are definitely going to help us and have a huge impact on the offensive scheme this year. On if any of the tight ends have surprised him so far … I’m not necessarily surprised. Some guys have stepped it up. Marcus Freeman has done a great job and really worked hard in the off-season. He’s done a lot for us and (Anthony) Fasano has come back and been working hard this summer. On the role of Rhema McKnight … I don’t really like to throw a label on things but he’s the type of guy who is a big-play receiver. He can go and turn a short little three-step quick out into a touchdown. Anytime the ball is in his hands he has the ability to take it all of the way. On how Carlyle Holiday is looking at receiver … He’s looking good. It was definitely a transition but I think it’s easy for him especially knowing the offense as a quarterback and then being the type of person he is with the work ethic that he has, he’s made an easy transition. He’s another person that once you get the ball in his hands he is explosive and he knows where to take it. On the offensive line … They look good. They’ve shuffled around a little bit but I’d say for the most part there are a lot of familiar faces. They are doing well and I think our offense feels confident in their ability. On opening on the road at BYU … It’ll be a good test for us. We know that BYU is a good team. We know that Provo is pretty loud from what we hear. It’ll be a good challenge for us and I’m looking forward to it. Mike Goolsby On how game week is going … It feels good it feels refreshing. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time and I’m really excited about it. On the readjustment of playing again following his injury … Going into camp I kind of told myself to let the whole injury thing go and to kind of start over. It’s been a much better camp compared to the spring personally. I feel a lot more confident in myself especially after the spring. On what the team is focusing on during game week … I think one of the biggest things overall is that we are taking everything one step at a time. You’ve got to get that first win under your belt and then take it from there. I think the biggest message overall is to not take anything for granted and to take everything one step at a time. On what the first game means for the team and their beliefs about the upcoming season … Everything starts with that first game. Then you can gauge where you are after that. We’re just excited to get there and to play someone beside ourselves. You want to get that first game under your belt and take it from there. On BYU’s offense being tricky … They’ve got some quirks in there. They like to throw the ball around a lot. They’ve got some good personnel but it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before and it’s nothing that we won’t be able to handle. They definitely throw some different things at you. On what the front-seven will have to do to help the young secondary … The first thing that comes to my mind is just pressure. With blitz packages and especially just with the ends like Justin (Tuck) and Vic (Abiamiri) everything just kind of works together but pressure is the first thing that comes to my mind especially because I like to blitz. Derek Curry On trying to get back to the form of two years ago … The one thing we always work on is turnovers and stuff like that in our practices and that is one way to do it. The other thing to do is just to play faster. I feel like at times last year we didn’t play as physical or as fast as we had the previous year. So that is one thing we are going to have to do this year, to get back to our core, which is playing faster. On game week versus two-a-day camp … Anytime you get done with two-a-day camp you are excited about playing a game because all you are doing is banging around with the guys on your team. You’re excited because it’s the first game of the season but the one thing I love about playing at the University of Notre Dame is the fact that every game is a big game and so we are definitely excited about the first game. On what it meant to have the BYU game switched to the opener … Being an older guy I kind of understand it more than some of the younger guys. It just means that we are going to be a lot more fine-tuned going into the second game. Obviously the first game of the season is the biggest one so you are just trying to come out and really find out what your team is going to be about. Right now we are just focused on BYU.