Nov. 7, 2006
COACH Charlie Weis: On a little different note, I wanted to start with something different than just starting with Air Force itself. Bill Lewis, my assistant head coach on defense and our secondary coach, in 1998 his son Greg who had gone to the Air Force Academy got killed in a helicopter crash.
So about a month or two ago, his son Jeff, who lives down in Georgia, emailed me and asked me if there’s any way that a combination of Notre Dame and Air Force could do anything to kind of honor his brother but really for the sake of his parents.
So we first went through Notre Dame to make sure it was okay with everyone from Notre Dame, and then we got a hold of Air Force, and after going back and forth, Air Force jumped on board, and we’ve decided that for this game we’re going to wear decals on the back of our helmets to honor Greg, who was a 1992 Air Force graduate.
He was a walk-on player in ’88 and was killed in a training mission in the fall of ’98 flying helicopters for the 66th Rescue Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Like I said, his unit was called the Jolly 38 unit, and they used to use this little insignia like of the Jolly Green Giant, which was like a foot with six toes, so the decal is a replica of the unit’s patch that features a pair of green feet called the Jolly Green Feet.
So both teams will be wearing those decals in honor of Greg.
Now on to Air Force themselves, they’ve outscored their opponents every quarter this year. Fisher DeBerry has been the head coach there for 23 years, and we know he’s the winningest coach in the school’s history. He’s got over 600 winning percentages; he’s 169 and 105. He’s also beaten Notre Dame three times as the head coach, and has a home record of 90 and 41.
His offensive coordinator, Chuck Peterson ?? it’s interesting that both their coordinators have been the AFC assistant coach of the year. Chuck was the Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003 and Richard Bell was Assistant Coach of the Year in ’98. This is his 17th season at Air Force as an assistant coach, and he graduated from Air Force so he has a lot of passion for the place.
Their offense is pretty strong. They average four and a half yards per rushing attempt, they’re third in the country in rushing at 266.9 yards. They’re great on 3rd down, they’ve converted 58 percent, which happens to be the best team in the country on 3rd down. And they’re only one of nine teams in the country that average over 50 percent on 3rd down conversions.
In addition they’re not afraid to go for it on 4th down. They’ve tried it 12 times, converted eight, for 67 percent.
When they get in the red zone ?? I always believe in the red zone, as most of you guys know, is about touchdowns, not about field goals. Well, they’re scoring touchdowns 72 percent of the time they’re in there, 21 out of 29 shots.
They also hold the ball fourth most of anyone in the country, just under 33 minutes a game, so that’s six minutes time of possession that they have over everyone else, and one of the things you’re going to note as I talk about their personnel, almost all their skill guys are juniors or seniors. Very few freshmen and sophomores playing the skill position.
Their offense starts with Carney, their quarterback. He’s their team co?captain, started 26 times in his career, in all eight this year. He’s rushed the ball for 521 yards, just under four yards a carry and six touchdowns. He’s the second leading rusher on their team. He’s also completed 38 passes for over 500 yards and five touchdowns. He makes their offense go. He’s the guy who makes their offense go.
They played Ollis, as well. The interesting part, their backup quarterback is one of their kickoff returners. I found that quite intriguing.
They have two positions, I’d call them slots on both sides, but they call one side the slotback and the other side the wingback. Slotback they really have co?starters because they have both Suder and Handley both handle that position, so they both show up.
The guy on the opposite side of him, the wingback, Chad Hall, obviously is one of their featured guys. I mean, he’s the leading rusher on their team. He averages 5.6 a carry for five touchdowns, just under 600 yards rushing, 75 yards or just under 75 yards a game. Last week he was 16 of 93 for a 5.8 average which is just about normal for him, then a touchdown long of 19.
His backup Chad Smith shows up some, but they’re trying not to get Hall off the field. They’d like him on the field as much as possible.
The fullback position is not a position where I consider really they have co?starters because they have both Kendrick and Williams that both carry the ball a bunch. Kendrick is averaging 4.8 per carry. Williams is the third leading rusher on the team; he’s averaging 4.4. He’s rushed for 332 yards and four touchdowns, and last week, especially later in the game, people showed up at that position, as well.
At wide receiver it’s a combination of Thompson and Root and Armstrong. At tight end both Dekker and Evans show up. Dekker is the back up. One thing that’s interesting because Dekker, who’s the tight end, they use a tight end ?? about half the time they actually use a tight end. Unlike Navy, for all the local guys here who never used a tight end, they will use a tight end.
But their back up tight end Evans last week moved over and played some defensive line due to a number of injuries they had in their defensive line.
Their offensive line starts with their left tackle, Kraay. He’s 6’8″, 295, and he started 30 games in his career. Nicholas Charles is a true freshman that plays next to him. He’s 6’4″, 280. Their center, Perlow, is 6’4″, 305; and Grantham, who is their team captain at right guard, and Guenther is at right tackle.
Talking about their defense, now flipping over, I’ve talked about Richard Bell. He’s been at the Air Force for 12 years, eight as a defensive coordinator. They’re very good against the run. They average giving up less than four yards per carry rushing, and the other area where they’re good, they have a little bit bend?but?don’t?break mentality, but the teams are just scoring touchdowns just over 50 percent of the time when they get in the red zone.
The defensive line has gone through a little state of flux. There’s a whole bunch of guys that have played, for example, Gonzales is listed as a starting tackle, but last week I didn’t see him in the game even though he’s listed as starting tackling.
Perez, he’s at the left end, he’s their captain, you’ll see him out there, 55. But I think you’ll see a combination of Monson and Marvin and Kemp and Gonzales. For example, Kevin Quinn, I saw him get hurt in the Colorado State game, looked like he had an ankle injury, and then he hadn’t played in the next three games. He may or may not be back, I’m not really sure.
At linebacker they go back and forth between a 4?3 type of configuration and a 3?4 configuration, and the 3?4 configuration is almost really played like with nickel people.
The two guys that are mainstays at inside linebackers are Fowler and Kelly. Fowler leads the team in tackles by a mile. He’s led the team in tackles six out of their eight games. He’s got over 74 tackles. He’s a very, very good?sized productive player. He’s a good football player.
Keller, he’s fifth on the team in tackles playing right next to him.
Now, in addition to those guys you’ll also see Randall and Baxley will be in there as backups, but those other two guys are the starters.
Now, we have all these fancy names for positions, but really the outside linebacker/strong safety type positions are really manned by Madrid and Rabold. Now, Madrid, okay, he’s their fourth leading tackler. He also leads the team in sacks with four sacks and he has two interceptions, where Rabold, he’s third on the team in tackles and he also has two interceptions.
You’ll see Kirchoff in there some. He has two fumble recoveries on special teams, and the one guy if you watched the game last week, you can’t not mention Zanotti because that’s the guy who recovered the fumble and went 99 yards last week against Army in that second drive of the game that kind of changed all the momentum of the game right there in the first quarter.
In the secondary, Rybak and Sutton handle the corner. Sutton is a team co?captain. Giannini is the second leading tackler on their team at the free safety position, and what they’ll do is they’ll bring in Meissen when they want to go to the 3?4 package. They’ll bring in Meissen so they can go ahead and drop the combination of Madrid?Rabold down so that they can get those two guys involved in the mix because they want them involved in the mix.
The only other guy I’ve really seen play considerable time, I’ve seen Thomas show up in the secondary, he’s a true freshman.
Last but not least, on the special teams, Tom Miller, he’s there, he’s been there with Fisher the whole time, 23 years at the Air Force. You’ve got to really look out for this unit. You’ve really got to look out.
For example, they’ve tried four onside kicks this year, recovered two of them.
Since 1990, as a matter of fact, Air Force is second in blocked kicks in the country only to Virginia Tech, and everyone talks about Coach Beamer at Virginia Tech; well, Air Force is second. They’ve blocked a kick this year, it was an extra kick versus BYU, but you have to worry about being mentally prepared because forget about physically prepared, you’ve got to be mentally prepared against their special teams.
Sasser handles the kicking, he’s their punter, place kicker, he’s the kickoff guy. Carp, who is the holder, has also punted a couple times, so he would be the other guy that would show up in there. Jones is the long snapper, and at punt return really Sutton, I already mentioned him as one of the co?captains and kick returner, it’s a combination of Suder, Ollis, I mentioned him before as the backup quarterback, and Armstrong.
Q. Jappy used to coach at Air Force. How much do you lean on him to go back, or is that too far back really to be useful?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, he tells us because we’re going against their offense, he used to go against their offense every day, so that’s given us some insight on game planning, and plus he’s fairly close with Fisher.
I mean, figuring out what they do isn’t nearly as hard as stopping them. I mean, they’re really good at what they do. That’s the biggest problem. They do use two personnel groups instead of one, which is a little different than Navy, but they’re very good at what they do, and it all starts with that quarterback.
Q. Vernaglia, is he close to ready to go this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think he’s ready to go yet. He’s still on crutches. He’s not out for the year, but he’s still supporting himself with those crutches.
Q. Last year you only had faced the one option team. The fact that you get another crack at them after Navy, does that help?
COACH Charlie Weis: It helps with half of their package. The only problem is they have another whole half of the package. One half of the package has a lot of similarities to what Navy did, but they have a whole other package that Navy didn’t have.
Does it help you carry over from that first half, absolutely, but now you have the whole second half. You’ve got to get better at that first half, which they run very efficiently, then you have the whole second half of their package to get ready for.
Q. And Fowler, you talked about him, their linebacker. What is it that maybe makes him so good? Is it something that in their scheme that just directs a lot of guys to the tackle?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, one thing, they go back and forth between their 4?3, this even look, and their odd look. He has the size and speed and athleticism to handle both of those positions. Sometimes when you go back and forth between even and odd, you get inside linebackers that get overpowered. He’s certainly not one of them.
Q. Is he a guy you can see project to the next level?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the next level for him is going to be to fly some jets somewhere. I think any time a guy is committed to one of the academies ?? you have a few exceptions as we know, but I think for the most part when they go in there, I think that the NFL is five years away. It’s more about trying to defend our country.
Q. For those of us who have been around here for a while longer than you have, it seems like Derek Landri has been here for six or seven years.
COACH Charlie Weis: It feels like that with me, too.
Q. He was obviously very productive last week again. Where do you see him projecting on the next level? He’s not very big, he has great quickness. Is that one of those situations where he needs the right kind of defense in order for him to be effective?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, he wouldn’t go to a team to play the 3?4, for example, but there’s plenty of teams that are one?gap teams that are penetrate and get up the field, and he’d fit on any of those, and he will. Somebody will take him. His value will be good for any of those teams that play those penetrating defenses because he’s strong and quick off the ball.
I don’t know where he’ll go. I’m out of the business other than the fact that I know a lot of people like him. That’s all I know.
Q. Brady Quinn made an interesting comment about Carlson. He said with him on the field it’s like having another wide receiver. Do you look at it that way? Obviously he is able to stretch the field for you.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that’s probably the critical factor. There’s a lot of tight ends that play that don’t threaten a third level of a defense. A lot of them are good and short in intermediate range, but very few of them really can threaten down the field. I think that’s where he’s been very dependable is on the short to intermediate, but where he’s made the biggest difference is the vertical threat that he has down the field because all those teams that want to play cover two, now you’re counting on a linebacker to be able to run with the big boy down the field. Usually that’s advantage us.
Q. A situation arose in a Big Ten game last week where one team tried to take advantage of the new rule. Are you aware of that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m aware of that.
Q. What are your thoughts on that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I found it humorous to tell you the truth. I knew sooner or later there would be somebody who would take advantage of the loophole. They’ll close the loophole is what they’ll do. I don’t know exactly how they’ll do it, but they’ll close it.
Q. Do you feel what was done there was unethical in any way?
COACH Charlie Weis: I have no opinion on it. I didn’t do it and it didn’t happen to us, so I really have no opinion of it.
Q. Would you do it? I mean, let’s say you’re faced with that situation at the end of a game.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we’ve done things before. In the NFL we did things before when we faked timeouts left when we didn’t have any timeouts left, and then a week later they had a rule you couldn’t do it anymore.
I can’t sit there and say no because I’ve been part of teams that have already done things like that.
Q. You said fake timeouts?
COACH Charlie Weis: Once you run out of timeouts in the NFL you can’t call time out anymore, but your players can still call time out. The officials can’t award you the time out. All of a sudden you’d jump up and go “time out,” and the kicker ends up missing the field goal but you had no timeouts left but he thought you were calling time out. Or somebody would jump offsides. So now there’s a rule you can’t do that anymore.
As long as there’s rules where there’s loopholes, regardless of who they are, you can’t chastise somebody for taking advantage of the rules. I mean, would I do it? I don’t know if I’d do it or not. I probably didn’t think of it. But I’m aware that the situation occurred and I find it kind of humorous.
Q. Usually in a college game the average number of possessions for a team is about 12 per game. Each of the last two years against Navy you had only nine. Obviously with the Air Force playing a very similar style of ground, clock killing game, how much more concentration ?? not that there isn’t in other games, do you feel has to be done on offense to maximize every possible ??
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s a good question. We’re averaging just over 71 plays a game, and they’re averaging ?? only giving up 58 plays a game. So just doing the math, that’s 13 less plays a game, 13?plus less plays a game that you end up having. So what it forces you to do, it forces you to know that ?? you know, Parcells used to call that shorten the game. They play the shorten the game to make it to be more ?? to have more precision and know that every possession becomes more critical, because before you know it, it’s halftime.
There it was in the Navy game; we had three possessions. It was two minutes ?? less than three minutes to go in the first half and we only had three possessions. I think that it becomes very critical that right from the first possession you make something positive happen.
Q. Again, maybe if you scored on the first five possessions. Is there a tightening maybe sometimes that could be possible where you know you have to make every possession count and if they hold on the first or second series ??
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, it really doesn’t affect what you do. You’re still trying to score every time you get the ball. That’s the goal. It’s unrealistic, but that’s the goal anyway. Every time you get the ball, you’re trying to score, but so are they. I think that only becomes ?? you only start to press if the game starts to get away from you. That’s when teams start to press.
Q. Including last week against North Carolina when the only turnover was on the punt, in nine games this year you have not had a turnover in six of them. Sometimes there’s a law of averages, sometimes it can all happen at once like it did against Michigan. Do you look at it that way?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think first of all, I think Darius is a very dependable ball carrier as the running back. It all starts with the halfback because he’s the one who has the ball in his hands the most carrying.
Then I think the quarterback doesn’t make very many risky throws. When the quarterback does not make that many risky throws, people will complain about taking a sack or throwing the ball out of bounds; well, that’s what good quarterbacks do rather than throwing the ball up for grabs. You could have less sacks, ten less sacks, but you might have five more interceptions. That’s where the give?and?take is.
There is such a thing as a good sack. That doesn’t sound very practical to a lot of people, but it does exist. I think the quarterback’s decision making and the number one guy with the ball in his hands besides the quarterback, meaning Darius, being very good, I think it bodes well for having fewer turnovers, not more.
Q. On the flipside of the turnovers, you haven’t turned over a lot of teams this year. What do you account for that and how do you improve on that?
COACH Charlie Weis: In certain games there’s certain things that you can count on. Like, for example, against Air Force you can count on that most of the plays in that game are going to be runs. I mean, there’s going to be passes in there. When you run against a team that really understands what they do and they’re committed to what they do, usually get being the ball out of their hands doesn’t happen very often.
What has to happen is you’ve got to take advantage of the few times that those opportunities do present themselves; you have to capitalize, and I think that will play itself out this week. A few opportunities will present themselves, whether it’s a ball laying on the ground from a ball carrier, whether it’s a knockdown pitch, whether it’s a potential interception. I think what you have to do is make the most of those opportunities that present themselves.
Q. Overall for the season do you feel like you haven’t had many opportunities or do you feel like you guys have not created opportunities?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that those two questions kind of go together. I think it’s a combination of the two. I think there’s some situations that present themselves, but there’s been games where ?? I mean, like on that throwback the other day, he makes a great play on the ball, comes and one hands it, toe touches the sideline and goes out of bounds, and to be honest with you, that late in the game I would have gone ahead ?? I was trying to challenge it but they told me it was a non?challengeable play because when he’s holding the ball here and his foot touches in bounds, granted, when he hits the ground the ball comes out, but there’s one example where you’re real close ?? he makes a great play on it and just runs out of room.
Q. You mentioned on Sunday about tackling, that was kind of an area of concern, something you want to talk about this week. How do you change the schedule, if at all, to account for that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Let me just say we’ll be emphasizing tackling in practice today. I think that you can read into that very clearly what I mean by that. We’ll be emphasizing it.
Q. The Thorpe Award semifinalists came out today and Zibby was on the list. I wonder if you could assess his season.
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that he’s on the rise. I think that he really suffered a setback physically on that punt return, and I think that he had a slow recovery ?? not slow recovery where he couldn’t have played, but slow, now you get back into the action. And I think you’re going to see in this coming week to the next few weeks, I think you’re going to see ?? I feel fairly sure that you’ll see Zibby on the rise the whole rest of the way.
Q. Jim was talking about Derek Landri. I know early in his career someone told me they thought he really would have a chance to be an All?American offensive lineman, maybe a guard. Do you see that potential in him?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s got a defensive mentality. It’s kind of interesting, though, have one of those nasty guys flipped over to the other side, but I think he likes tackling people. I think he’d rather hit somebody than ?? I think he gets plenty of opportunity to do that on defense.
Q. Can you assess your cornerback play against the option at Navy and just project that into Air Force?
COACH Charlie Weis: There isn’t much play. I mean, most of the passes on those teams where they have the one completion over there on our left side and their right, 14 yards, 18 yards, whatever, 20 yards, whatever it was, these teams throw for about 60 yards a game. The things you’ve got to be careful with against these teams are play action shots. I mean, really, that’s what you’ve really got to be careful, play action shots because all of a sudden you’re stopping the option, you’re stopping the option, you’re stopping the option. Next thing you know you’re stopping the option and there they go right by you.
I think the corners could put more one?on?one battles out there because not very many balls go out to the wide receivers.
Q. Last thing, obviously this is a situation where you’re probably planning nickel, and Darrin Walls hasn’t seen a lot of action for a while. How do you keep his confidence up? Lambert is a guy on the rise. How do you keep Walls involved and confident?
COACH Charlie Weis: See, it’s not always going to be the same way. Every week is a different set of encyclopÃƒÂ¦dias. It might be next week, it might be the week after that, and in a game like this, I think that most of the time there’s very few snaps that you’ll be in a nickel situation in that game, and I think really that comes from ?? Walls and McNeil both, they’re not running show team, they’re up practicing right along with the first guys every single day. So they’re getting coached by Bill all practice long, and they’re ready to go mentally if they have to go in the game.
The trade?off when you have practice with a guy who’s not starting, the trade?off is to give him experience by running plays off of cards, or you give them experience by listening to the coaching that goes on to the guys that play, and we’ve chosen the latter, not the former.
Q. You talked about Bill’s son initiating this. What was Bill’s reaction when you told him about it?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, Bill didn’t know at first. We didn’t let him in on it until after we had the deal worked out, and then his son came up for a game. The way he and I talked about it is I’d rather let him tell. So after one of the games, I forget what it was, he came up for a game, but that Saturday night after the game, he told him what was going on, and I’m sure it was fairly emotional.
I wanted to make sure everything was set beforehand. Bill and I have talked about this multiple times since then. Think about it, there’s nothing worse than losing one of your kids. I know that I haven’t lost one of my kids, but I know one of my kids has a whole bunch of problems, and there’s nothing worse than that. I think the only thing worse than that is to lose them altogether, and I think any parent in the world would feel that way.
Q. Has he shared with you his thoughts since his son talked about it?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I talked to Bill the Sunday after this happened. We were playing the Dolphins, so I was there from the day this happened. It was ironic that the Sunday after his son was killed in the accident we were in Miami playing.
Q. He still coached in that game?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yes.
Q. Altitude, is that an overrated factor?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’ll be something that will not be discussed, so don’t waste your time talking to our players about that this week.
Q. It will not be?
COACH Charlie Weis: It is taboo. It’ll be the first thing I talk about today, and it’ll be the last time that the word will be addressed.
Q. Final from me, does Brady ever come off the field frustrated about the number of hits that he has to take?
COACH Charlie Weis: No. He’s never worried about getting hit. What he’s worrying about is anything that he felt that he could have done better. I mean, the kid is a perfectionist. That’s all he’s worrying about. I should have done this or I could have done that. Getting hit is the last thing he’s ever said anything about. I would be shocked.
Q. Is altitude taboo just because there’s nothing you can do about it so there’s no use talking about it?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, what we have found years ago going out to Denver is that at first we made a big deal out of it. We used to go out there two days early. We’d go out there, make a big deal out of it and then we’d get our butt kicked.
So then we started treating it like every other game; we’d go out there the day before. It’s scientifically proven that altitude doesn’t go into effect until the first 48 hours. So we started treating it like every other game and then we started winning. I’m just going off of experience, and that’s how we’re treating it.
Q. Talking about the time of possession, does this put more pressure, talking to the defense about the need, not just we’ve got to stop them, but we need the ball back as fast as possible?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think it’s a team pressure, not just a defensive pressure. It’s also the pressure of the offense scoring early in the game because if you don’t score early in the game, all of a sudden it’s halftime and either you’re losing or it’s a tie game.
I think it’s important to score early on the offensive point, and defense, as many times as they get off the field, the quicker the better obviously, but get off the field without giving up points. That’s really what it’s all about.
Q. Does it at all cause you to try to speed your offense up?
COACH Charlie Weis: We always have that in the arsenal. I think the most important thing is scoring when you have the ball. That sounds like just a coaching phrase, but that’s really ?? when you’re playing ?? when you might have less than ten possessions, I think every possession becomes so critical.
Q. Is safety play the key? It seems like whenever Notre Dame plays one of these teams, the safety always seems to have a high number of tackles.
COACH Charlie Weis: The way they play this ?? well, first of all, their singlebacks, the two of them, you’d better stop them, first of all, because if not, they’ll just hand it off to them all day and let them gash you for a while. I think any time you’re running an option team, the outside linebacker/safety positions are the ones that get stressed the most. That’s where the stress ends up coming.
Q. When you’re playing a team that has such a high margin of time of possession, is it hard for the offense to get in a rhythm because they don’t spend as much time on the field?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it all depends how you practice. If you practice knowing that you could be down ?? you could be sitting there for ten minutes of real time, 15 minutes of real time before you go out there, I think it just forces you to treat each drive like it’s the first drive of the game. If you treat each drive with the same sense of urgency, then you usually don’t have as many problems.
Sometimes what happens is teams get flat because they go for a good drive early and then they’re sitting there for 10 or 15 minutes, now all of a sudden it’s 3 and out, so hopefully we don’t fall into that trap.
Q. Is there an advantage to the flipside of that though because the offense isn’t as fresher, haven’t been beat up as much?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t know, I’d be on the field for 100 plays a game if I had my druthers on offense. If we’re out there for 100 plays, it means the defense isn’t out there very often. That means that usually something good is happening.
Q. Going against the Navy option, you said you know what they’re going to do, the difficulty is stopping it. Now with this extra wrinkle that Air Force has, can you see what it is right away, that extra package, or is it somewhat of a guessing game?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, there’s a tight end on the field versus not having a tight end on the field. That’s what you have coaches for; here comes the tight end. Well, that’s the other package. That’s the key. They have a package without one and they have a package with one.
Q. Lastly, you guys had a lot of success against Navy in the second half. Is there a way to kind of translate what you did in that into this game do you think?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m hoping so. I’m hoping that ?? this is the second time around for us, which I think is a bigger advantage than when we played Navy, just as the fact that you know what the speed of the game is, which I felt was a big problem in the first half against Navy. Sure, we tweaked a few adjustments at halftime, but I thought the speed of the game caught us up. Trying to defend the option without practicing it on a weekly basis I think sometimes puts you in a negative situation. But I’m hoping that that experience will have some carryover this week.
Q. Talk a little bit about what makes Shaun Carney special.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, any time you’re put into this position where you get hit a lot, okay, you don’t see him taking big hits. Besides running the offense, him understanding how to run it, him showing good leadership, I mean, the guy is a captain of the team, so he’s one of their co?captains of the team, so obviously he’s at an Air Force Academy that his peers have chosen him as a co?captain so he obviously has leadership skills.
The guy is elusive, he makes their offense go as a runner. I mean, he can run the football. He’s not a guy who has to get rid of the football because he hurts you himself just carrying the ball. He makes good decisions and he finds a way where he doesn’t usually get crushed.
A lot of times these guys are taking on big hits. He seems to find a way to not take a whole bunch of big hits.
Q. You obviously saw they played a great game at Tennessee but then they had a very uncharacteristic loss against San Diego State. Can you learn something from watching the San Diego State tape?
COACH Charlie Weis: We watched what they did. It’s just that you don’t bank on that, what you’re going to see. You bank on their best effort. That’s what you bank on. You never can bank on an off performance. You have to bank on you’re going to get their best, and that’s what we’re expecting.
Q. Lastly, you talked about you know what they’re going to do, it’s just a matter of stopping them. When they get to look at your game against Navy to see what your defense does, do they expect this is exactly the same defense that Notre Dame is going to play?
COACH Charlie Weis: They’ll expect to see some carryover. I don’t know what plays they’re going to run. They have these different personnel groups and there’s 20 different plays they could be running. They know what our philosophy is. This is not just going to be a go?out?there?and?trick?them game. There will be deception on both sides, both offense and defense, but you’re going to have to play a sound, fundamental ?? technically sound, fundamental game with a high level of energy to get production.
Q. Demetrius Jones, is he going to be doing the show team?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s my guy. He’ll be Carney.
Q. What did he do against Navy? When you were getting ready for Navy, was there something that he learned so this time around he’ll even be better at that?
COACH Charlie Weis: The first day out there our practice tempo was kind of slow. We ran the plays pretty well but the tempo was kind of slow because all of a sudden if you don’t do this every day, this is not something you can just look at the card and say, okay, this is what I’m doing. I mean, he did a real nice job for us and I think that he’ll help us again this week in that role.
Q. It’s an election day. Do you feel like a politician some days, some of the things in the public eye that you have to do?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m just trying to be the football coach at Notre Dame and try to keep myself out of trouble. That’s all I try to do. I’ll avoid that question.
That’s good. I’ll plead the Fifth, how’s that?
Q. What has been your biggest challenge this season so far as a coach?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that the one thing going into this season was overcoming the egg we laid against Michigan. I think that was the biggest challenge. I think when you go early in the year, and as you go into the year you have high expectations, and all of a sudden you turn the ball over five times in the game ?? I’ll take credit for the loss now. It’s not like I’m blaming the five turnovers as the only reason we lost the game, but it had a lot to do with it. You heard the numbers for the year versus what we have, nine turnovers for the year but five of them in that game.
I think overcoming that, getting the players to fight as hard as they have, a lot of times these kids don’t get enough credit. They’re still kids. A disheartening loss early in the year can break a team’s spirit sometimes, and it didn’t break their spirit. I think that was the hardest part of the year. But since then I think I’ve grown to really admire the fight that these guys have.
Q. Has there been anything that’s caught you by surprise as a coach?
COACH Charlie Weis: For example? I don’t know where you’re ??
Q. Just anything that coming into a situation where you didn’t expect ?? something you weren’t prepared for?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the one things you have to realize as the head coach at Notre Dame is you’re always going to be held accountable for anything you say. I think it’s really important, sometimes I’m going to have to think a little bit more tactfully. When I’m busting chops with local guys that all see me every day and they know that’s the context in which I’m saying it, I have to understand that’s not how everyone else perceives that.
I think that because you’re the voice of the football program, I think you have to be cognizant of that fact and realize that you have to try as best you possibly can to avoid as many of those situations as possible.
Q. Talking to Ryan Harris, he comes across as a guy who’s obviously very opinionated, very thoughtful, detail oriented no matter what the subject matter. How does all that translate into what he brings to football?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sometimes because he comes across as that mild?mannered guy that’s insightful and thoughtful, and then he goes out and plays football with a passion. It’s hard to imagine as nice and as soft spoken as Ryan is that he’s a very physical football player.
I think it’s an interesting dichotomy.
Q. When you first met him, I’m sure you watched tape on him, but did you have any inkling of sort of the two sides, how different they were, and what you’d get from him?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, because I didn’t ?? remember, when I came here I didn’t watch any tape on any of these guys. I wanted to make my judgments on my own because I didn’t want to misconstrue anyone’s play. I wanted to make my own opinions. He’s been very consistent since the day I met him. He’s hard?working, he’s intelligent, he’s a high character guy. I’ll take guys like him on my team every and any day of the week.
Q. One statistic that stands out for everybody here, Brady Quinn has only four interceptions in about 338 pass attempts. We’re not sure that Carney could do that in practice.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, you run it, we throw it. Brady has done a nice job for the last two years. As a matter of fact, he had seven picks last year but a few of those came in the Bowl game.
We’ve thrown it a number of times, and as I said earlier, when it came to ball possession and not turning the ball over, I think he’s a very good decision?maker. He does get help sometimes because we have a couple big wide receivers who will go after the ball, and anytime a quarterback can trust his wide receivers to protect him when a throw is not just perfect, I think it gives him more confidence to just go ahead and give him a chance to make a play.
Q. As far as playing the option, it seemed like Tennessee kind of relied on its better athletes on defense, didn’t seem to do much as far as a different scheme is concerned. Is that kind of your way of doing it, or will you really employ a different scheme or just better techniques?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that it’s a little different game against them, mainly because ?? see, both teams like to bring a fair amount of pressure, whether it’s five?man pressure, six?man pressure, seven?man pressure, because they can find themselves not as vulnerable. But I think against this team, if everyone doesn’t play their assignment, you can have gashes, absolute gashes in their running game.
So I think that the point of ?? the two biggest points of emphasis this week are fundamentals and techniques being one, and tackling better than we’ve been tackling, number two, because if not, you’re going to be in for a long, long day.
Q. Obviously you mentioned tackling is something that will be a point of emphasis this week. Is there another area on your team that you really think needs the most improvement?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that as of last week I would have said we’ve got to get the return game going, okay, on our special teams because I thought that was one of our biggest areas of concern. But last week we got it going a little bit, the punt return game we got it going a little bit, kickoff return game we got it going a little bit. What had been one of our better strengths, both our coverage units kind of lacked a little bit.
I think probably as a team thing, the number one thing without a doubt is our increased level of consistency in all three facets of our team. I think that that is what I continue to strive for, and I have not perfected this by any extent yet, and we’re just going to keep on pushing, whether it’s special teams, offense or defense. We have not been the most consistent team in the country, I can promise you.
Q. Obviously you talked a lot about the role of tradition at Notre Dame since you’ve returned as the coach. How much did it mean to you as a student? Were you really aware of it, or is it something more remote at that time?
COACH Charlie Weis: Which tradition were you referring to?
Q. The tradition itself, the Notre Dame mystique that you’ve talked so much about.
COACH Charlie Weis: Anyone who’s gone to school here, and sometimes this sounds kind of a little weird to somebody who hasn’t, it feels almost like the place has an aura to it. When you walk from one end of the campus to the other end of the campus, especially like on a college game day, it just felt different. I’ve been to lot of places and never felt the same feel. Of course I’m prejudiced because I went to school here, so it’s a little different for me than for everyone else.
But even today, sometimes I’ll go by the library and there I’m looking up at Touchdown Jesus. To me, because it goes all the way back to the ’70s when I went to school here, I think that every student who has matriculated through this University I think feels the same way.
Q. What Notre Dame coaches in the past ?? are there any who you can relate to more than others, Parseghian, or did you take specific lessons from any coach in the past?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I tried to talk to coach Parseghian and Coach Holtz at least every couple of weeks, sometimes just to say hello and see how they’re doing, other times to say how would you handle this or how would you handle this or how did you handle this. I think that when you have two guys that had as much success as those two guys that you have at your disposal, for you not to use them as resources would be ignorant.
Q. I had an election day theme question planned at the end here. If today were judgment day, what would you say to the general public out there to get them to cast their votes for your quarterback in any particular campaign he might be in right now?
COACH Charlie Weis: Let’s see how it plays out the next three weeks. That’s what I would say. I’d say that it’ll play out in the next three weeks, and we’ll extend the voting day until the first week in December. I feel like that’s as honestly as I can say.
I feel there’s several good candidates out there. Obviously Troy has been the front?runner all year long, and justifiably so. But there’s some really good football players out there. Troy and Brady aren’t the only two good ones now. There’s a bunch of good ones. If that Adrian Peterson doesn’t get hurt, that kid was phenomenal. Every time I’ve seen him play he’s phenomenal. But he got hurt. That’s what happened.
They aren’t the only two guys out there. Usually just like the BCS and everything else, usually it gets pretty close to right because when it’s all said and done, it gets pretty close and then just comes down to how people say it. But I think right now it would be premature.
Q. Do you feel like he’s on the come, though?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think he’s a definite candidate, that’s what I think. Of course I’m prejudiced.
For me to speak of anyone else would be impractical because I’m picking him every time. But just like when people ask me about Tommy and Peyton and who am I picking? I’m picking Tommy every time. Well, a lot of people might pick Peyton but I’m picking Tommy. You ask me who am I picking now? I’m picking Brady because that’s who I know and that’s who I trust. I’m prejudiced but admittedly so.
Q. You can’t blame Brady for not wanting to talk about it, but how much have you had to handle internally? Do you joke with him, oh, there’s my Heisman guy?
COACH Charlie Weis: We don’t even broach the subject.