Aug. 29, 2006
JOHN HEISLER: Kick?off this week is at 8:12, South Bend time. We are on eastern time all year round, which is different than what it has been during past football seasons, so keep that in mind. Our regular Tuesday sessions here will always begin at noon. They’ll be on Tuesdays before games.
It’s available live on the satellite. There will be transcripts up on UND.com. You can watch it live on UND.com. There will be five minutes of highlights at the end of the teleconference. You may use up three minutes of the video from this press conference within any individual piece that you use on air or on your website.
We will also be here for Sunday wrap ups after each game at either 12:30 or 1:30. When we play in the daytime, it would be a 12:30. When we play at night, as we do this week, it will be at 1:30. This will be 1:30 eastern time this coming Sunday.
That will not be available on the satellite. We will do transcriptions. It will be archived within an hour or so on UND.com. Again, can you call into that. Both these are available via teleconference.
Brian has sent out information relative to regular weekly availability for our three captains: Brady Quinn, Tom Zbikowski, on Wednesdays here in this room, and Travis Thomas on Thursday here in this room. Those will be available via teleconference as well.
Keep in mind Brian will keep you up to date on a regular basis relative to practices and anything else going on. Make sure you’re on his email list.
Please do not ask our student-athletes to do any promos for your website, television station, newspaper, radio station. It’s not permissible. It’s a violation. We’ll have a big problem if that occurs.
Also, those of you in the room here, please use the microphones as we’re asking questions so that we can capture the questions for our transcription and for people watching live.
With that, Coach Weis is here. He’ll make some opening comments, and then we’ll take some questions.
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. This will take me a little while to get going here.
First of all, as we prepare for our opener against Georgia Tech, obviously we wish people well in South Florida with Ernesto heading that way, somewhere between the Keys and Miami. That’s the bad side. The good side is it looks like it will have very little affect on both our travel plans Friday and the game on Saturday, getting to Georgia Tech.
You know, their return of 15 starters from last year’s team that went to their ninth straight Bowl appearance. As a matter of fact, there’s only six teams in the country that have played in nine straight Bowl games. They happen to be one of them. One thing they do, as we prepare for an opener, they’ve won six of their last seven opening games, including going into Auburn last year that was highly ranked, going in and beating them pretty good.
As a matter of fact, they’ve beaten at least one nationally ranked team each of the last 11 years, six ranked opponents in the last four years.
Chan Gailey is their head coach. Known him for a while. Coached in college for 16 years. I think he had a couple years in the XFL, or the USFL, one of those two leagues. Then, of course, he coached the NFL for 14 years, including his stint as the head coach with the Cowboys. He’s turned over the offense to Coach Nix, Patrick Nix, who was a heck of a player himself at Auburn.
Any time you have a new play caller ?? you know, Coach Nix has been there for five years. He’s been the offensive coordinator for three years. Any time you have a new play caller, it obviously creates some uncertainty. Forced me to go do some research back to Henderson State, ’99 or 2000 when he was the head coach. We actually came up with tape. Arkadelphia, Arkansas, by the way. Actually were able to come up with some tape when he was the play caller.
One thing about their offense, you know, coming back from last year, the two things that really struck a chord with me, is the fact that they only gave up 10 sacks the entire year last year. In the third quarter, they doubled the output of all of their opponents. They were great coming out of the box in the second half. They outscored their opponents 79 to 37.
Obviously, Reggie Ball keys their offense. You know, there’s a dual threat, you run pass. He’s been starting for three years, 36 starts in his career. He was a third leading rusher than top of it last year. He was only sacked eight times. One thing we have to be ready for if anything would happen to Reggie, both their second and third quarterbacks are both left?handed. Something you have to be prepared for in case Bennett or Gardner ends up getting in the game.
At running back, three really guys I have to mention. A lot of people know about Tashard Choice. The transfer from Oklahoma, sitting behind Adrian here at Oklahoma. Last year he rushed for 513 years and a 4.4 average with six rushing touchdowns. They’re not afraid to play with Rashaun Grant. Especially expect to see him on third down. He’s heck of a kickoff returner as well. Rashaun was slowed by injuries last year. He only played in five games after having a pretty stellar freshman year.
Jamaal Evans, who came in from Irvin, Texas, fortunately for them, they got him in the spring. And from all indications, those 67 touchdowns he scored in three years when he was in high school are not a myth. They’re pretty loaded at that position.
Mike Cox returns as their fullback. One thing, even though he didn’t have a carry last year, you certainly can’t forget about him, especially in the passing game, because he he’s shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
At tight end, it’s interesting, because the starter from last year was Mike Matthews. He’s now the backup. He got hurt and wasn’t full strength later on in the year. Their backup at the start last year, George Cooper, who took over as a starter, is now the starter. So now both Cooper and Matthews. You have two veteran guys back at tight end. Both big bodies: 6’4″, 260; 6’4″, 270. They’re both big guys.
At wide receiver, everyone knows about Calvin Johnson. It’s no mystery. 6’5″, 235, junior All?American candidate. You know caught just under 900 years last year, averaged over 16 yards at catch.
The thing that really bothers me on top of everything else, besides his athleticism and the fact that every game he’s played in he’s caught a pass, is that in addition, in the last two years, he’s accounted for over 40% of their passing game, and he’s drawn 16 pass interference or defensive holding calls. So that’s like 16 more long throws that he’s brought to their offense in addition to ones that are obvious.
James Johnson, he’ll play opposite him. He’s been nursing some injuries both in the spring and training camp. But he’s ready to go. Dunlap was who we expect to see, who is also a heck of a kick returner. But, you know, we expect to see Greg Smith and McGuire in the game as well.
The key to their offense, in addition to the quarterback and that No. 21 guy is obviously this offensive line. They really have five starters back. Everyone talks about the four returning starters in Gardner, Tuminello. You know, Gardner and Rhodes as the left tackle and left guard. Tuminello in the middle and McManus as the right guard.
Really Wrotto is a starter, too. I mean, the guy started 32 games at defensive tackle for him. By the way, he was wearing 97 when he was playing defensive tackle. He is now wearing #68 as an offensive tackle.
Gets me over to offense. You know, Coach Tenuta is one of the best in the business. There’s no question about it. He’s taken that team. I mean, they’ve been ?? over the last two years, they’ve been ranked in the top 25 nationally in just about everything: Total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense.
When they play good teams, they usually shut them down. Case in point: Auburn and Miami, last year had a combined 80 rushing yards between the two of them. You know, they had 21 interceptions last year. They were ranked 13th in the nation against the run last year. They held opponents to 29% conversions on third down, and they had 36 sacks.
We’re obviously not only concerned with the players that I’m going to talk about here momentarily, but we’re definitely concerned with that defensive coordinator, who is a heck of a coach.
Defensive line, Coach Gailey has come out and said their defensive line is probably the strongest area of their football team with guys that have played a lot. They’ve moved the guys around a lot here this spring and in camp, inside and outside. They have played tackles outside, they’ve played ins inside. It’s tough to get a complete fix. We do know that they return Adamm Oliver and Joe Anoai.
Joe is the most experienced guy they have with 23 career starts as a defensive tackle. Probably the key guy, besides Darrel Robertson, man on the other end who was the third defensive end last year, probably the key guy for them has Darryl Richard coming back. He’s coming off of a wretched year due to a knee. It’s allowed them the flexibility of moving Wrotto back over to the offensive side of the ball.
They returned two starters at linebacker. Wheeler has now moved inside to the middle linebacker. He was an outside linebacker last year. Their key guy, their main guy, KaMichael Hall is a two?year starter. He’s played all three positions in addition to being their fourth leading tackler last year.
Apparently Gary Guyton won the other outside linebacker position for them. He was their fourth linebacker last year. He did start against Auburn, so it’s not like he never started before.
In their secondary, you know, they’ve done a nice job of overcoming the injury to Joe Gaston, who is a heck of a player, who lost due to a knee injury last spring that’s going to keep him out this year. One of the ways they were able to do that, is when they took Jamaal Lewis, they took him from corner and moved him back to safety. That was a nice way of handling that loss. He’ll be back there along with Djay Jones.
As far as the corners go, obviously everyone knows about Kenny Scott being a frontline shut down corner for the last couple of years.
I anticipate either Clark or Word?Daniels will be the other starter, with the other one playing at Nickel. So I expect to see a lot of both of those guys.
Another uncertainty with this team is, you know, they have a new coordinator on special teams, Charles Kelly. This is his first year there. They brought him over from Nickel State. We’ve had to go look at some Nickel State tape in addition to sit there and see what they do on special teams.
Durant Brooks is now ?? he sat out last year after transferring from Georgia Military Academy as their punter. He’s been impressive from what I understand. Travis Bell, their place kicker, he’s got a strong leg. They also have a kick?off specialist in Yahiaoui, okay, who’s wearing No. 9 now. He wore No. 31 last year, but as a true freshman he had 12 touchbacks.
Their snapper is Bret White. He’s new. I already mentioned Grant and Dunlap and Clark as returners. In addition, one guy I didn’t mention was Correy Earls, No. 15. He’s an incoming freshman. I think he has a chance of getting in the mix, both as a returner and as a receiver.
JOHN HEISLER: We’ll start with questions from people here in person.
Q. Coach, the other day we talked to you about the freshmen going on the road and how you deal with that for the first time. We talked to Brady Quinn about this the other day. It’s going to be an overwhelming amount of attention on him as far as the Heisman Trophy. Every game he’s going to be rated first, second, moving up and down. How do you deal with that? Do you ?? I know you talked to hip about the hype. Watching the shows the night before the game, do you talk to your players about that? Do you care if they watch it and hear all the hype?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, the night before the game they don’t have any time to watch any shows. The night before the game, by the time we get there and get checked into the room and go and have dinner and then have meetings, I mean, it’s pretty close to time to go to bed. I don’t think there’s a lot of time on Friday night.
So that leaves Saturday morning. I also tie up Saturday morning then, too. There’s a lot of those shows they’re just missing because there’s something going on at that time.
Q. How do you want Brady to deal with hearing that conversation all the time? It’s almost unavoidable.
COACH WEIS: Well, he knows when we go, we really treat these trips as a business trip. It’s not a pressure situation when we’re in the hotel, but there’s a lot of camaraderie. I like the players to be around the players. I don’t think they’re really worrying too much about any outside influences.
I think he does as well as the rest of these guys and managed the road trips very well last year and handled themselves very professionally. I’d like to think it will be more of the same this year.
Q. Is Turkovich healthy and ready to go?
COACH WEIS: That’s going to be a day?to?day deal this week. I’m not bringing him unless there’s no risk to the kid. You know, is he going to be practicing today? Yes, he’s going to be practicing today. But I’m not bringing him, you know, unless there’s no risk. No risk to Mike.
Q. Are your players ready for the proper coin flip call this year?
COACH WEIS: I think the players are ready to play against somebody else. I’m sure Georgia Tech feels the same way. It gets old going against each other. You know, I don’t think the coin flip is going to be the issue right now. Whether we start on offense or defense, we’ll get that straightened out. See if we can’t do a better job at that.
Q. Your philosophy hasn’t changed on that, though.
COACH WEIS: No. If we win the toss, you don’t have to question what we’re doing. We’re not deferring.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, I wasn’t the one who did the research, thank God. You know, I was the one that was the recipient of it showing up. But they came up with both of them. Makes it a little easier.
Now, you don’t know whether that’s the way it’s going to go. I know that there’s a couple different philosophies, a couple different ways they can go, both offensively and on special teams. I think because you have so much time in the opener to get prepared during training camp, you can try to prepare for everything. There’s always going to be some uncertainty. There’s going to be things that happen that you’re just going to have to adjust to on the fly.
Q. You spoke about Asaph Schwapp and his unselfishness during fall camp. A year ago he had a game against Michigan State that could devastate a lot of freshmen. What is it about his character that enabled him to overcome that and contribute the rest of the year and into this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, you really don’t like labeling, you know, sophomores like a senior as far as mentality goes, okay? But I’ve often talked about certain players, like Zibby and those guys with that toughness that’s pretty obvious to see.
Well, Asaph seems to have that same toughness, both physically, and mentally more importantly. That never seemed to faze him one bit last year. It certainly has led to better things to expect out of this year.
Q. Coach, you talked about keeping the players busy on Saturday mornings. How does the routine change for a night game versus an afternoon game?
COACH WEIS: Well, one of things that happens is I send out seven coaches recruiting on Thursday as soon as practice is over. See, you can go on the road recruiting for six days during the season. One of our days will be this Friday, so I send seven guys out right after practice on Thursday. We don’t meet offensively and defensively on Friday night. We meet as a special teams with the whole team and then I’ll take the quarterbacks.
So the next day when we normally would meet, you know, as offense and defense on Friday night, we won’t do that until Saturday morning. You know, that ties up Saturday morning.
So Saturday morning we’ll meet offensively and defensively and go through all our final preparations. If there’s some downtime it will be in the early to mid afternoon just about when we’re getting ready pre-game before they head over to the game.
Q. If there is downtime, is there a negative to them maybe watching a game on TV, maybe a potential opponent?
COACH WEIS: I watch them myself. You know, I do the same thing. Some people get a nap. There’s different things people do. I try ?? one of the ways I like to keep loose is by flipping on a game myself. If there’s one on there, I’ll probably be turning it on.
Q. Do you ever get any ideas when you’re watching?
COACH WEIS: I’m the worst person to watch a football game with ’cause all’s I do is analyze the game. You wouldn’t want to watch a game with me.
Q. Lastly, could you talk a little bit about Darius Walker going back home and the excitement for him this weekend?
COACH WEIS: It’s funny, because I had Darius and his mom in my office yesterday. We were talking about this same thing, about how many tickets can you get your hands on, the same problem everyone has. But it’s a little different when you’re going home.
That’s one of the things, my meeting with the players here this afternoon, you know, I have multiple guys from the state of Georgia and from the Southeast. It will give me an opportunity to talk to all those guys about ?? one more time in a more general setting about the pros of having so many family and friends being able to make the shorter trip to come see you, but the cons to make sure it doesn’t become a distraction and you stay focused on the game.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s several things about Georgia Tech that you have to be concerned with. It always starts with the quarterback. Any time you have a quarterback that’s a dual threat, it’s a concern. Any time you have a quarterback that can throw and can run, you know, it’s not like just a drop?back quarterback that all you have to do is put pressure in his face the whole time. This guy can hurt you. He can legitimately hurt you.
The other thing is, before you get to the speed of the team, when you have an experienced offensive line ?? which they do ?? that is another concern, because you might not be able to get to the quarterback anyway with an experienced offensive line.
I think with those three running backs that they have, and any time you have a receiver of the caliber of this guy, it makes all the other skill guys better. Everyone ends up paying so much attention to that guy, you know, that there’s a lot of other people that reap the benefit of that.
So there’s a lot of potential pitfalls in that. You have to pick your spots of when you’re going to attack what.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Well, he’s big and fast. It’s one thing if you’re just fast, okay? When you’re big and fast and athletic, it’s the Trifecta now. So it isn’t just the speed that you worry about, it’s the size you worry about. I mean, when you’re playing with a corner against him, your corner is 5’10”, he’s 6’5″, I mean, it’s a problem.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: I’m sure they feel the same thing. I’m sure they feel they’re going to wear us down. We’re just going to have to find out.
Q. At the beginning of fall camp, you said the two biggest questions on your team were linebackers and special teams. Are you satisfied with the answers to those questions to this point?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, I’d have to say yes. I mean, I think that our linebackers have settled in nicely. I know who can do what. I wouldn’t say I have too many questions about what we can or cannot do.
As far as special teams, there’s a lot of elements of special teams. But I feel we’re very well?prepared going into this game on special teams. I expect a very good performance.
Q. Talking about linebackers, talk about the advancement Travis Thomas has made since he’s moved over.
COACH WEIS: Well, when you make that move, you hope he gets beat out, because I wouldn’t make that move and put him second and take away one of my top runners and just give him to the defense. I’m not into giving away a charity player. I always argue with Rick about that. I’m not looking to give away offensive players.
So when I put him over there, the deal was I’m going to put him over there, you put him first until somebody can beat him out. No one could beat him out. That says a lot about how Travis handled this.
People want to make a lot of a guy not having played there since high school, but in reality, you know, that’s up to us as coaches to put in a system that allows him to make sure he knows what to do so he can go out there and play.
Of course, in camp it’s just us against us. So far, so good.
Q. You keep pointing out he’s not as big as a linebacker. Does that concern you at all?
COACH WEIS: Not with the way ?? I mean, you always ?? you always want a 6’4″, 240?pound linebacker that runs a 4.4, but there aren’t too many of them out there. I think every player has strengths and weaknesses.
This is a very physical player who is fast. That’s what he is. He’s a physical player who is fast. I think that’s what I’m expecting to see on Saturday.
Q. You’ve said several times during this pre?season that you’re confident the team is better than they were last year. Where do you know they’re better, and why do you know they’re better?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, any time you have an experienced group of linemen on both sides of the ball that bodes well for your chances. You know, Parcells told me a long time ago to always start with the big guys. When you have four returning starters back on the offensive line and really you got more than four returning starters on the defensive line, because both Frome and Talley started over there at defensive end last year.
For that matter, Justin Brown started at defensive end there last year, too. Then throw Lico back into the mix, and Kuntz coming along, all of a sudden you’re talking about two veteran lines.
Any time you have two veteran lines, you have to think that you have a chance.
Q. Your first game here when you were a student was Notre Dame playing Georgia Tech. Any recollections of that game? Did you make the trip down to Atlanta?
COACH WEIS: No.
Q. Any recollections of the Rudy game?
COACH WEIS: No. I ain’t going to lie to you, Yeah, I remember that. But, no, I don’t remember.
Q. Charlie, with Darrin Walls, obviously he’s fast. What else has he shown you in fall camp that’s put him into the mix?
COACH WEIS: Well, not ?? I’m going to throw Raeshon in there, too, so I can talk about the two together. But with those two young corners, they are definitely, definitely capable of covering people. The first thing you’re looking for when you’re putting somebody in there is whether or not you got to cover corner or not. There’s really two different types of corners: there’s a cover two corner and then there’s a cover corner. Cover two corners are the corners that smack them at the line of scrimmage then settle in the underneath zone and look to play the flat.
I mean, it’s easier to find those than it is to find a guy that can cover the guys down the field. So the early returns on both these young corners is the fact that they coverability, and I think that’s an important quality to have.
Q. You mentioned earlier that if the weather was really humid and hot down in Atlanta on Saturday night, you’d really like to use your depth on defense. It looks like it may not be that hot and humid.
COACH WEIS: That’s a shame, man.
Q. Do you still want to go with that game plan of rotating people?
COACH WEIS: I think we definitely plan on going into every game where we’ll get guys having an opportunity to get out.
Now, like I said before, it all depends on how the game is played. I mean, if there’s a lot of three and outs on either side of the ball, whether we’re on the field for three or they’re on the field for three, it has a lot to do with how many plays the defense is out there in a row, how many plays the offense it out there in a row.
To be honest with you, it has a lot to do with the offense and the defense together. ‘Cause if the defense is out there for six plays and we go three and out then defense is out there again, you know, might be time to start making a couple substitutions.
Whereas if the defense is out there for six plays and we’re out there for nine plays, those guys are fresh and ready to go. So it’s all going to depend on how the game plays out. That is not a game time decision. That’s an as?it?occurs decision. You have to go with the flow of the game in those cases right there.
Q. As you approach your second season opener, where do you feel like you’re a different coach? Where do you feel like you’re a better coach than last year?
COACH WEIS: I don’t know if I’m better. I’m different in the fact that there were things last year going into the season that I really didn’t have a total grasp of. I think we respected for Georgia Tech in a very similar manner to how we prepared for Pittsburgh last year. I think there have been a lot of similarities as far as that goes.
But I think that I’ve tried ?? I’m trying as best I can to be a little bit more patient than I was last year because I’m understanding I got two levels of players on this team: I have the very experienced level players, and then I have all these young pups that are in here at the same time.
A lot of time it forces you to bite your lip, you know, because you realize, you know, the young quarterbacks are not going to know the same thing that Brady Quinn knows. You can’t talk to them the same or expect the same thing out of them. It just doesn’t work that way.
So when you have 28 new guys, you have to understand you have a class system.
Q. Hitting on Ernesto a little bit more, do you prepare for that at all? How much do you watch the weather? Seems like the storm is moving a lot.
COACH WEIS: I watch ?? I go on multiple sites every day. I check South Bend. I actually check Notre Dame. Check Notre Dame’s weather, and then I check the place we’re going. I do it, and I have a couple guys that do it, too, especially Chad who is the operations guy who is worrying about the flights.
But we always track ’em. I track ’em for potential weather problems both in travel and in the game.
Q. Is there any way to really prepare for that at all?
COACH WEIS: No. I mean, if it rains, it rains. But one thing you always have to be concerned ?? number one thing is you always have to take safety into consideration in case it forces you to try to tweak your schedule somehow.
I mean, there was a game a few ?? a couple years ago when I was — we were going to play the Steelers. There was going to be a snowstorm. We weren’t going till Saturday. There was going to be a snowstorm on Friday night. We actually got up Friday morning, loaded up the plane, and went on a Friday morning and got there a day early.
Of course, now, we got no snow that night, so we were in Pittsburgh for an extra day. But best?laid plans ?? at least there was a plan in place in case the weather came into play.
Q. One more thing on Travis Thomas. You said he worked on Sunday at running back. Is he going to work at running back at all this week?
COACH WEIS: Very little. He won’t work at runningback very much this week. But that Sunday practice, I mean, he’s ready to play in the game if we need him.
Q. Is that going to change after this week?
COACH WEIS: We’ll see. This week we had an extra week. That’s a good question. This week we had an extra week. So because I had that extra week, instead of taking one segment that’s a Travis Thomas period, I was able to dedicate a whole day to cover all the different type of things that he would be used at on offense in a game if they presented themselves.
Q. Aside from just being successful, which you touched on already, what are the characteristics of a Jon Tenuta defense? What differentiates him from other guys that have gone ahead of him?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, they have a great scheme. They have a lot of confidence in both their scheme and their players. I think a lot of defense is when your players know what to do and can do it at a high level — I mean, he’s had success for a long time here now. I’m not the only one who is saying good things about John, okay? We can talk about blitz zoning, bringing pressure, which I know is part of his personality. But the bottom line is they have a good scheme and they play it well.
Q. As far as the quarterback position with Reggie Ball, I think even he would tell you he hasn’t been as consistent as he would like over his career. But when he’s on, playing well, what does he do well?
COACH WEIS: Well, depends on what ?? you can watch some games now where you say he’s not consistent. I’ve watched a lot of games now. There’s some games that he’s as good as anyone you can see. That’s the Reggie Ball I’m getting ready for. You can talk about being consistent all you want.
I’m getting ready for that Reggie ball who is on, because I think he’s prepared himself like our guys prepared themselves. I expect that he’s expecting to have a big game on Saturday.
Q. What are the keys to having the crescendo going into week one?
COACH WEIS: Well, the first key is getting through your last scrimmage without anyone getting hurt. That’s what every coach in the NFL has concerned themselves with right now. They’re getting ready to play this last exhibition game. If it wasn’t for people buying tickets to the game, every one of them would not want to play the game. Because right now your biggest nightmare, the head coaches are telling you, assistant coaches, play ’em but don’t get ’em hurt. Well, great. Play ’em but don’t get ’em hurt. How does that work?
So getting through your last scrimmage relatively unscathed, which we did, that’s a good sign. Then being able to give them an extended period of rest while not losing the continuity of what you’re doing, I think is important. That’s why in our case we went Friday, we didn’t go Saturday. We went Sunday, we didn’t go Monday.
So realistically for the last four days, they’ve really practiced once. Today probably is the freshest our guys will have been since before training camp.
Q. You’ve been asked a couple times, would you like a pre?season game, all that stuff, in college. I get the impression you prefer this setup more than what you’ve had.
COACH WEIS: Well, what I really think would be pretty good to do is have a scrimmage with another team, not a game, where you could set up all your situations and keep it private.
Because obviously when you’re getting ready for your first game, whatever you have new, you know, you don’t want anyone to know. They have new things new. We have things new. Six games into the year, there aren’t too many things that are new. I mean, all of a sudden they say, Well, we could go scrimmage whoever, somebody within however far from where you are where you could go nine?on?seven, seven?on?seven, blitz period, do all those things. I think that would be kind of good.
A lot of NFL team do that. They have scrimmages with each other where they’ll go for a day or two where they’ll have extended periods where they can work on doing things against somebody other than their own guys. The only problem with that is you have to control the amount of fisticuffs you have. There’s usually a little, usually.
Q. From a game planning standpoint, how is preparing for an opener maybe different than as the season moves through?
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s a lot more uncertainty. Usually things don’t fall ?? start falling into line until about the fourth game of the year because ?? you know, we’ve done scouting reports, for example. We’ve done work on every team. We’ve done scout reports in the off?season on the first three teams, because the first three teams will not have played at least three games.
What happens is, a lot of them will not have showed their hands. Like your second opponent won’t show all the stuff they have in their first game. The third opponent won’t show all they have in the first two games. But by about the fourth or fifth game, when people are starting to develop their own personality, now you’re using ?? if you played against them last year as a reference and then what they’re doing now with the current players as it currently stands.
Q. Is there then more flexibility built into your game plan, or not necessarily?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the one thing you can do in training camp is make sure there’s enough flexibility to where you have answers to different things that come up that you’re not exactly counting on.
Q. What is making you tick this week? What has you fired up as it specifically pertains to Georgia Tech and the opener? COACH WEIS: What’s got me fired up? Tomorrow night when I go home, I’ll be in a new house. I’m being moved as we speak.
Q. New bed?
COACH WEIS: My wife gets to handle all the problems of the move. Thank you, Honey.
No, I think the excitement of going against — having your players go against somebody other than yourself, I think that’s always exciting. Going on the road, to me, is always exciting. Going against a top?flight opponent is always exciting.
This is a good football team we’re going to play. Don’t expect anything other than this team to show up with a high level of energy, both by their players and by their fans. This is going to be a hostile environment. This is going to be a tough task we’re going down there for. That excites me. That’s part of being a competitor.
Q. Your motivations, though, just to showcase what you think you have with this special group?
COACH WEIS: No, that would be a very selfish answer on my part, to showcase. We just want to go down there, win the football game, come home. That’s what we’re going for. They all count the same. Doesn’t make a difference if you win by one or if you win by a hundred. You’re trying to win the game, stay healthy, get on a plane, and come home. That’s what you’re trying to do.
Q. A term you used when you were hired, what kind of a football team that you were going to have, was a “nasty” one. A lot of people out there really liked that. Is there a term you could relate to this team in particular, maybe even the same one, that people can expect to see on Saturday night?
COACH WEIS: Well, I’d like to think that that temperament now is ingrained in this team. I don’t think that’s no longer a temperament that needs to be developed. I really believe this is the way this team plays, with a high level of energy. That’s what I expect.
Q. What kind of things can you do to contain a dual?threat quarterback like Reggie to take his legs out of the game?
COACH WEIS: That’s a good question, really it is, because you have to pick your poison on that one. There’s about four different things you could do, okay? What you have to do is decide when you’re going to do ’em. What you can’t do is you can’t just pick one train of thought. You have to have multiple ways of disrupting what he does, and then make sure you tackle well.
The easiest way of doing it is tackling well. But you have to have multiple ways of handling that answer. I know that’s a general, but the best answer is that you can’t just do it one way.
Q. A question about Wrotto. You don’t often see a guy moving — as accomplished a guy moving from the offensive line to the defensive line. What do you see from him on tape that convinces you that he’s going to be an effective offensive lineman?
COACH WEIS: He’s flip?flopped before. This isn’t the first time they’ve had this experiment with him going back over to offense. That’s been in his past at Georgia Tech. The thing is, he’s a very big, physical player. He’ll fit in nicely at this right tackle spot, because most teams at right tackle are looking for big, physical players. He definitely fits the bill.
Q. A question about Reggie Ball. You mentioned the inconsistency, which is what everyone talks about.
COACH WEIS: No, I didn’t mention the inconsistency. Somebody in this audience did. I would never mention that word, trust me.
Q. So someone else mentioned the inconsistency. Historically there are players that really seem to find their stride senior year. Especially for a quarterback, what is it that makes them so effective? Is it the knowledge they gain over the first three years?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s two things. Knowledge is part of it, but I think more it’s confidence. Usually a player rolling into his senior year, the light clicks on and the level of confidence goes up. As your level of confidence goes up, you usually play a heck of a lot better.
Q. I had the opportunity to interview Father Hesburgh the other day. During your undergraduate days, did you have any contact with him? Or since you came to Notre Dame, have you had the occurrence to sit down?
COACH WEIS: Oh, I had contact with him when I was at Notre Dame. And since I’ve been at Notre Dame, I’ve been up in his office. His secretary has been with him forever. Quite intriguing. It wasn’t the only time I was ever in his office. I was in his office as an undergrad as well.
Q. Can you explain the circumstances?
COACH WEIS: We’re not going there (laughter).
Q. Sam Young is not available this week. The reason behind not letting freshmen talk to the media who is a starter?
COACH WEIS: After they’ve been playing for a while and they’ve done something, then I’ll let them talk. I’m not trying to hide him. We haven’t even played a game yet. He’s been anointed hero because he’s playing. I mean, when he has been playing for a while and we’ve had a chance to evaluate how he’s doing, he’s going to stay in this playing, then I’ll make him available. I’m not trying to hide him from anyone. We haven’t even played a game yet.
You have to remember, this is a kid that just came from high school, now is getting ready to go start on national TV for his first game. I think part of your job as the head coach is to help protect him some. If, in fact, he settles in there and ends up being the guy in there, then I think you go ahead and make him available.
I think right now that’s the last thing he needs, is more distractions as he’s just worrying about trying to block these guys he’s going up against, which is a tall enough task I believe.
JOHN HEISLER: I think that’s all we have time for. Thanks very much, everybody.