Senior SS Kyle McCarthy is tied for third in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a team-high five interceptions. Only once in the past 20 seasons has a Notre Dame player recorded more than five picks in a season (7 by Shane Walton in 2002).

Captains Press Conference Transcript - Nevada Game Preview (Sept. 2)

Sept. 2, 2009

THE MODERATOR: We’ve got Eric Olsen and Jimmy Clausen.

Q. Jimmy, I think a lot of us are waiting when sophomore receivers or Shaq (Evans), one of those guys, emerge. And all along it’s been Robby Parris. Could you just talk about what he’s done in camp to assert his place?

Jimmy Clausen: Robby’s done a great job ever since I’ve been here. He’s been a hard worker, team player, a guy that wants to get on the field and help the team win.

Springtime, he was the only receiver out there, guys being hurt and going to play baseball. He’s just done a great job leading up to this game on Saturday, and he’s a playmaker, catches the ball real well and obviously runs with the ball well too.

Q. What were your thoughts last January when Coach Verducci – brand new to the program – proposed the idea of moving you to center?

Eric Olsen: To be honest, I really didn’t have much of a choice but to put all my trust and faith in Coach Verducci, know that he’s going to do the right thing to put us in the best position to win.

On a personal level, going into senior year, after starting the whole season at left guard, it was a little nervousness that came with that. Starting a new position, trying a new thing on having the responsibility of snapping the ball.

But at the same time, as far as helping the team, yeah, it’s going to help the team, but it’s also going to help myself be a more versatile player. Injuries happen all the time in football. And to play more than one position is something that’s very valuable on the offensive line.

Q. Verducci talked about you might not be the prototypical NFL guard size, but center.

Eric Olsen: I hope so, knock on wood. Right now I’m trying to look at this season. This is my senior year. I’ve enjoyed my career so far and I’m really trying to have the best year I can right now.

Q. Jimmy, Coach Weis was talking about expectations of yourself and spoke very highly of his expectations of you. Do you have similar expectations of yourself?

Jimmy Clausen: I do. I’ve talked to Coach Weis a lot. His expectations are high but I think mine are higher than his are. And we might battle back and forth against that, but my expectations for myself are really high, especially for this whole team. We have real high expectations and we just gotta go out there and prove it on Saturday.

Q. Can’t expect to have a game like —

Jimmy Clausen: That’s how I want to play every single game. Obviously it’s probably not going to happen, but you have to strive to have the best game you can each and every week.

Q. Speaking of playing at that level and expectations, if you do play at that level, then what? Every kid that’s a quarterback growing up —

Jimmy Clausen: You know, you envision that being younger and stuff like that. But to be honest, I’m not worried about that at all. What I’m worried about is Nevada this Saturday and going out today and practicing hard and getting better, getting better than yesterday and the next day and just taking one day at a time and one game at a time.

Q. Jimmy, obviously Nevada struggled against the pass last year. When you watch the tape, what do you concentrate on? Do you concentrate on the things are good? Do you look at the bad, do you ignore it? What do you do?

Jimmy Clausen: You kind of have to look at everything, starting with the defensive line. They have two really good defensive ends (Kevin) Basped and (Dontay) Moch, they’re explosive coming off the ball and rushing the passer.

Then you look at the linebackers and the safeties and corners and just different techniques they like to use on different downs and just have to look at the match ups, how does Michael Floyd go and, say, match up with this corner or Kyle (Rudolph) against this linebacker at safety. A lot of things you have to look at.

Q. Have you noticed a more committed effort by Michael Floyd and Golden Tate to study opponents game film this year?

Jimmy Clausen: I have. This Monday we all came in together and watched some film for about half an hour, 45 minutes, just going over little stuff that they like to do and that we’re going to try to attack. Just so they get familiar with the things that I’m looking at and I get familiar with the things they’re looking at. So we’re probably going to do that every Monday, come in and just watch some tape together.

Q. How good will this team be at rushing the football this year?

Eric Olsen: We made it a point all preseason long that we’re not going to talk about it, we’re going to show you. That’s a major emphasis that we’ve really been keeping together as a team from the leadership guys all the way down. We can’t talk about it anymore. It’s time to show it so you’ll have to see on Saturday.

Q. Eric, I know you’re not on one of the tackles here, but I was curious could you talk a little bit more about Basped and Moch and the key to slow down some quick defensive ends. They’re obviously going to try to disrupt your passing game timing.

Eric Olsen: Obviously from watching the film you can see how disruptive those guys are coming off the edge. So that’s definitely been a focus. Those guys are great players, 99 and 55. We see them time and time again coming up on the film and making plays. So we know we’re going to have to focus on slowing those guys down so that offense can be successful.

Q. And, Jimmy, I was just wondering if the game last year at the Hawaii Bowl, if that kind of opened up a whole new realm? I’m sure you weren’t surprised about it, but I think nationally it looked as though that was a whole new level for you. Do you feel just picking up from there, is that where you’re at now?

Jimmy Clausen: Yeah, I think so. That’s where this team is at, coming off the Hawaii Bowl and going into the offseason workouts, that’s where we strive to be at. And even get better from that game. We played really well offensively defensively and special teams and that’s what we want to do every single weekend on Saturdays.

Q. And one more, Jimmy. I threw this at the defensive guys, I’ll throw it at you as well. Coach obviously takes a lot of heat from the national media. Is there anything you guys take from that personally? Is there any sort of, I’m not sure if pressure is the right word — that you guys take to try to help him alleviate some of that?

Jimmy Clausen: Just being at the University of Notre Dame you’re going to have pressure. We always talk about the head coach and quarterback of Notre Dame get too much praise when things go right and get too much blame when things go wrong. But that’s just the nature that we’re in. And to be honest, it’s not Coach Weis that’s playing on Saturdays, it’s us.

So if anyone is going to take blame for it, it’s going to be us, not Coach Weis.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you. We’ve got Kyle McCarthy and Scott Smith here in the media room.

Q. Talk about the challenge of the pistol offense.

Kyle McCarthy: We’ve been talking about it all week. It’s kind of an unconventional offense. Kind of a mixture of a balanced offense with an option attack.

And like we’ve been talking about all week, we just really need to zero in on our reads and our keys and stay in position and not try to do too much, and we’ll be all right.

Q. Are there any teams that you think about maybe or portions of things you can lean on to use against this?

Kyle McCarthy: Yeah, it’s a little bit different because it’s not like anything we’ve ever seen before. But there’s obviously some option mixed in. So you have a little bit of Michigan and Navy in there. But they’re more than capable of passing the ball with success. So we’ve got to be ready for anything.

Q. Can you talk about the quarterback Colin Kaepernick and what challenges he brings?

Scott Smith: Well, he definitely has a great skill set, just being able to throw the ball, definitely a threat as a runner, being able to throw on the run, get out on the move.

So big, tall guy, who is probably one of the better quarterbacks that we’re going to face all year. So definitely has a great skill set.

Q. Can you talk about the job Evan Sharpley has done as the scout-team quarterback last week and this week?

Kyle McCarthy: Evan has done a great job this week, extremely talented playing baseball and football. And he’s worked his butt off for us this week. Being a fifth year senior, Evan could have easily thrown in the towel. But from what I heard, he willingly went to Coach Weis to be the scout team guy this week. So he’s just been a team player this week and helped our defense out and given us good looks.

Q. How is this week different for you, what happens this week?

Scott Smith: I think the biggest thing, this being a game week — on the practice field, different atmosphere, different feeling with all the players, just knowing that the weeks leading up to it, the game always seems so far away, especially when you start training camp.

But where we sit now it being Wednesday and the game’s on Saturday, everybody is getting that itch; we’re close to getting this thing kicked off.

Kyle McCarthy: The defense is just excited to hit someone else. So we’re pretty excited about that.

Q. Both of you, last year your opening game was a bit shaky?

Kyle McCarthy: I can’t predict the future, I don’t know how much different it’s going to be. But I do know our team is ready to play this week.

And we’ve really prepared well this offseason as well as this fall camp. And confidence for us is very high right now. Obviously Nevada is more than capable of coming in here and winning. They’re very good on offense and pretty good on defense. We have to play within ourselves and can’t try to do too much. And hopefully we come out on top.

Scott Smith: Biggest thing we’re looking forward to is go out on the field Saturday and show everybody what we’ve been doing up until this point and just prove, with our performance on the field, that we can back up how good we think we’re going to be.

Q. (Question about nerves)

Kyle McCarthy: Not now. Ever since I’ve been playing, I’ll be honest, I get a little nervous before the first game obviously because of the unknown factor. Nevada, we’re all talking about their pistol offense. Who knows what they’ll really come out and line up in.

You don’t know. You can’t prepare for some things. They’ll have a few wrinkles we haven’t prepared for. But we just gotta obviously trust in ourselves and our coaches that we’ll know what to do when the time comes.

But as far as getting nervous, after the first play that will all go away. We’ve been playing football for so long that after the first play you just get in that mentality, or first hit, it will set you straight and you’ll be ready to go.

Scott Smith: Biggest thing this is my last chance putting the gold helmet on for that first game in the stadium. So just the excitement personally, for me. I’m sure, a lot of guys, it’s their last year, just to know it’s their last chance to make a first great impression.

Q. Are you on all the special teams?

Scott Smith: Special teams wise, just being able to be out there and just contribute to help our team win. We got a lot of talented guys on special teams this year. A lot of guys that can fly around, hit, run, just tons of athleticism all over the field. So we’re looking forward to seeing what types of hopefully game changing plays special teams can make on Saturday.

Q. You know you’ll get that first hit out of the way?

Scott Smith: That’s kind of good to know, just knowing not having to wait for something, to be able to get that first pop out of the way, get the pads loosened up a little bit and get ready to go from there on up.

Q. Kyle, what teams are you on?

Kyle McCarthy: I’m on punt this year as well as defense. But if coach obviously ever needed me on special teams, I’m ready to go to help my buddy and co captain Scott Smith out.

Q. (Off mic)?

Kyle McCarthy: You can’t think of Nevada coming out with something other than the pistol. There’s only so many formations in offense in football you can line up in.

But, like I said, the way the coaches are playing the defense, we’re ready for any adjustment. And our guys have prepared, we’ve been practicing against the conventional offense all camp.

So whatever Nevada comes out and lines up in, after — we’ll be ready for it. And if we’re not, after the first series or whatnot, we’ve got the coaching staff to get it adjusted on the sideline.

We’ve seen every Nevada game from last year and been thinking about them ever since last December in Hawaii. It’s tough not to overanalyze it, because you think about them — we’ve been thinking about them for so long. But, like I said, our guys are just so anxious to play someone else other than ourselves and hit someone else that after the first play it will all go away.

Q. Scott, can you talk about what happened?

Scott Smith: Really, if you try and prepare for a specific offense, there’s always something scheme wise, something that you’re not used to. You can go back to your basic fundamentals to get you through whatever you see. And then just from that point on it comes down to playing football and trying to make plays. So really when you overanalyze something as long as you get back to your fundamentals and what got you to that point, then you’re really going to be fine.

Q. Coach Weis has talked about Armando Allen looking better than he has at any point at Notre Dame. After facing him in practice, do you agree?

Kyle McCarthy: I think this is the best Armando has looked since he’s been here. He’s quick and he’s very strong. And for not being a guy that’s 230 pounds, he can bring it. And I definitely have noticed a difference this year. He’s definitely put his time in in the weight room in this offseason. So it showed so far this fall camp. Hopefully it will show on Saturday.

Q. Scott, have you noticed a difference?

Scott Smith: I think I’ve noticed that not just with Armando but with most of the offensive guys, just the fact that when you go to tackle, if you don’t bring your feet and try and drive through them, there’s a good chance that they’re going to break little arm tackles if you try and throw a shoulder there. I guess in a way having those offensive guys to be able to bounce off heads really force the defensive guys to be more focused on the fundamentals when they’re tackling.

Q. Kyle, this is probably for you more than Scott. I was curious in watching some of the game film from last year, is there anything you guys took from the Boise State game and the way they put a spy on Kaepernick?

Kyle McCarthy: I think one thing Boise State did well was I think they had a really good game plan for the pistol offense. Obviously Boise State throughout the years has had a pretty good defense and success in the WAC. There are definitely things we could take from Boise State, but we’re Notre Dame, a whole different ball club with a whole different coaching staff.

So we have our own game plan and hopefully it works as well as Boise State’s did.

Q. And then just one other, you know there’s been a lot of talk obviously nationally about coach being on the hot seat and all that. Do you guys take that personally sometimes? Do you put any more pressure on yourself to try to help him through it?

Scott Smith: It doesn’t really put pressure on us. And to be honest with you, a lot of the flack coach takes is undeserved.

What we’re trying to do is trying to win football games for entire student body, for the alumni, for the students. And coach obviously has to deal with a whole bunch of things that people are going to say about him. But our focus is just getting this football team ready and preparing to try and win on Saturday.

Q. Coach talked about the depth. Tell us about your roles and how much you come out for rest.

Kyle McCarthy: I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but one thing that it has brought out is competition in practice that I think has been absent in previous years. Especially in the secondary. We can go third string, fourth string guys can be fourth line guys at other schools. Just going against the receivers we have every day in practice, it’s really brought the best in everyone and made us game ready.

Scott Smith: Being a special teams guy, too, that depth really shows up on special teams. Just having some guys, like Kyle said, would be front line players at other schools. Really just taking to heart their special teams role and understanding that playing on special teams isn’t something that’s only for nonstarters or guys who aren’t going to play as much but use that as a way maybe they’re not playing as much on offense or defense to work themselves into the mix by making plays.


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