Dec. 19, 2006
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s amazing what a free lunch, what kind of crowd it will draw.
As we get ready for me to go into my initial notes on LSU, just a couple notes. Probably by Thursday I’ll have through the academic divisions be able to calculate what our grade point average was, but first bit of good news now that exams are over is every player is eligible, which that’s always a good thing, good way to start as we get ready for Christmas. That means that a couple guys that were right on the borderline of not doing so well all rallied there down the stretch, so that was good news walking in the door.
What I’ll probably do is when I do have what that is, I’ll probably just give a little release out to you so you know what the grade point average was for the semester. I probably won’t have that until Thursday.
It’s been a hectic few weeks, and between recruiting and practice and studying LSU, I think we finally, now that we’re off the road as of Saturday, we’re happy to be off the road from recruiting during this dead period, gave us an opportunity over the last few weeks to make sure we had studied enough so we could start preparing for LSU.
Yesterday our players returned in the morning after a weekend off after exams, and we had a pretty rough practice in the afternoon, did a lot of work, one-on-one, good guys against good guys, then the rest of the practice was devoted to special teams. Today we’ll introduce 1st and 2nd down, and that will be the focus of today’s practice.
LSU, well, the thing that really concerns me about LSU, I’ll talk about their personnel as I always do and their coaching staff and a number of other things, but I have some very, very genuine concerns about LSU as we get ready for this game.
First of all, they’ve outscored their opponents in every quarter this season, but the first quarter is the one I’m worried about probably the most because they’ve outscored their opponents 122 to 20 in the first quarter, so that’s over 100 points more than their opponents.
As we know in the couple games that we’ve lost, we’ve gotten behind early in the game and tried to climb back into it and weren’t able to do that, and I think that we have to make sure we avoid that pitfall in this game or else we’ll be in for a long night.
Second quarter 97 to 53, the third quarter 80 to 39 the fourth quarter 95 to 38, and the one time they went into overtime they kicked a field goal so they won that 3 to 0.
It’s basically a home game for them. I think they’ll probably have anywhere from two thirds to three quarters of the crowd. We’re cognizant of that and the noise that goes with playing at night down there. This year at home by the way they were 8 and 0, so that’s an unenviable task, and the only two losses they had were on the road against Auburn and Florida.
Coach Miles came there two years ago. He’s been the head coach, record is 21 and 4 there since he’s been there. He’s got Michigan roots, he had two tours of duty with Michigan, was the OC over at Oklahoma State and was with the Cowboys there for those three years as a tight ends coach, then he went back to Oklahoma State as the head coach and ended up going over to LSU.
Two coordinators I’ve become very familiar with because they’re very good; Jimbo Fisher, who also coaches the quarterbacks around the offense, he’s been there at LSU as the offensive coordinator now for seven years and the quarterbacks coach.
A few stats on their offense. Both offensively and defensively you’re going to hear some national rankings coming here, but they’re averaging over 33 points a game, 10th in the country, they’re averaging 4.6 per rush, 159.2 rushing. In the passing game per attempt they’re averaging 8.8, which is very high, 245 yards passing, 404 yards a game for which it’s 18th in total offense in the country.
They’re converting 50 percent on 3rd down, they’ve only given up eight sacks the entire season, and they’re scoring about 75 percent of the time touchdowns when they get in the red zone.
JaMarcus Russell is where it all starts offensively for them. He’s 6’6″, 260 pounds. The more I watch him, the more he reminds me of a young Daunte Culpepper. Being around the NFL for a long time, I usually try to draw an analogy when I get a good player, and he reminds me of a young Daunte Culpepper which that’s a very, very high accolade. He has a career record of 24 and 4 as a starter, he started 24 consecutive. His completion percentage is ridiculous, 68.5 percent, he’s 211 for 308 with 26 touchdowns, seven picks, throwing for just under 2,800 yards. He’s thrown three touchdowns in five games this year, First Team All-SEC. He’s a really, really solid player.
At running back four guys show up, Vincent and Williams and Broussard all show up in their own capacities. Vincent is also a core special teams player, Williams is a true freshman, and Broussard is 250 pounds and second as far as carries go.
The interesting guy really is Hester because Hester has definitely got some position flexibility because he plays both halfback and fullback. He’s got the most rushing attempts, he’s averaging 4.6 per carry, he’s also caught 34 passes for a 7.6 average. He’s a tough runner, he’s a good receiver out of the backfield, and with him along with those other three guys, it allows them some versatility, especially when they want to put two backs out there. Sometimes he’s the halfback along with Jordan at fullback. Jordan is their bruising, blocking fullback, so between the combination of those backs they have a lot of versatility in what they do.
Zinger the tight end got hurt. He suffered a really – I know it was some kind of a stomach deal in early November. I think he’s supposed to be out the remainder of the season. He was the starter early this year. And since he’s gone out, Dixon has taken over. He’s a true freshman, and he was named Second Team All-SEC by the coaches.
But you also see Mit Cole, and Doug Planchard also shows up there. It’s like having another offensive lineman out there because Planchard is 6’3″, 280, so sometimes they put them out there it’s like having a sixth offensive lineman out there.
Really solid at wide receiver, got three seniors. Dwayne Bowe is their leading receiver. As a matter of fact, he’s the LSU career leader in touchdown receptions. All three of the guys that play in their three wide receiver packages are all seniors, and this season he’s the team?leading receiver with 60 catches and over 900 yards, 15.2 average, 11 touchdowns and First Team SEC. Let me tell you something, he’s tough, he’s physical and he has good hands, and it’s pretty obvious when I watch that on tape.
Okay, Craig Davis also doubles as a punt returner, he’s the second leading receiver on the team with 52 catches, Second Team All?SEC. This guy has got very good speed and he’s got very good ability to run off the catch.
Last but not least of the triumphant of seniors is Doucet. You know, he’s their third receiver but he’s got 51 catches, so they all have between 51 and 60 catches. Also early in the year I saw him line up at quarterback. I think that was in the Florida game. He’s got good hands, and the thing about him is he looks courageous going over the middle.
The fourth guy that shows up in their four wide package is freshman LaFell, who’s also got good size at 6’3″, 194. One guy you can’t forget on this team, not that he’s the only other receiver, but you cannot forget Trindon Holliday because he’s 5’5″, 159 pounds, and everyone says why are you worried about him? Because every time he touches the ball he’s got the capability of taking it to the house. He’s small but he can flat?out fly. He wanted to – enrolled last year into LSU and was on the track team. I think he must be the fastest player on the team. This kid can just scoot.
Offensive line, they’re big, they’re physical, and they really play just five guys. Will Arnold got hurt. He got hurt in early November after starting the first five games or so at left guard, and I think he’s supposed to be out. So really we should see Black at left tackle, who’s a red shirt freshman who’s started every game. We should see Herman Johnson at left guard, he’s 6’7″, 351 pounds. He’s started nine games this season, two at right guard and seven at left guard. I think the phrase they have on him is the biggest player ever to wear the purple and gold. That is not encouraging.
As a matter of fact, Brian Johnson is the other guard. He’s started 10 out of 12 games. I think he missed at Tulane and Mississippi State games with an injured toe. Last year he was their right tackle and they moved him into guard.
Brett Helms, he’s played in 11 games this season, started every one of them. The only game he didn’t play was Fresno State. He didn’t participate or play in that game. And Dyakowski, he’s their right tackle, he’s played and started all 12 games at right tackle.
Let’s go over to defense. You’ve got Bo Pelini as the defensive coordinator, second year there at LSU. In his first year at LSU they finished third in the country in defense. They’re giving up 12 and a half points a game, 4th in the country; three yards per pushing attempt; 93 yards rushing per game, that’s 15th in the country; 145 yards passing per game, that’s 3rd in the country; 248.8 yards total a game, that’s 2nd in the country in total defense. They have 38 sacks, which is 6th in the country, and they’re holding opponents to touchdowns in the red zone, which I always talk about touchdowns in the red zone, teams have only scored nine out of 27 times for 33 percent touchdowns in the red zone.
I know Bo. We briefly had a changing of the guard when I was going into New England with Belichick and he was going out and he had been with Pete. We tried to retain him at the time but he went on to Green Bay.
Defensive line starts with Tyson Jackson over on our right, their left defensive end. He leads them with sacks, and he’s got eight and a half – eight or eight and a half sacks. He’s Second All-SEC. But he’s a good pass rusher off the edge. He’s got speed and he comes flying off the edge.
Now, probably the guy that gets the highest accolades on the team, although I think this Tyson Jackson is pretty good, is Glenn Dorsey. He’s third on the team in tackles with 59 and is AP All-American First Team SEC. The thing about this guy for a tackle, he’s quick off the ball, he’s disruptive, and he seems like he’s always in the backfield. So he’s a good player.
The other tackle is either going to be Alexander or Favorite, they play them both, and Pittman will be their defensive end on our left, their right defensive end.
At linebacker let’s start with Beckwith because he’s played – he’s started for them both at Will and Mike. I think he’ll be the Mike. He suffered a little knee injury in the Alabama game and missed the Ole Miss game but played and started in the Arkansas game. This season he’s the team’s second leading tackler with 61. He’s a good player, but the thing about Beckwith is we they ever take him off the field. When they go nickel he stays on the field, when they go dime he stays on the field. He’s a guy who obviously runs their defense.
Highsmith, he’s their so?called balk, their most athletic linebacker, he’s fourth on the team in tackles. He had an ankle injury in the Arkansas game but I think that he’s probable for this game. He’s another guy who was Second Team SEC. He’s a guy who can run sideline to sideline. He has very, very, very good speed for a linebacker. And opposite him will be Luke Sanders who’s a bigger, more stout type of guy.
Another two linebackers we will see that are both score core special teams players is Cutrera, we’ll see him as a backup insider, he’s a true freshman, and Spadoni, we’ll see him as the backup outside linebacker.
In their secondary, Zenon and Jackson are the two corners, they’re both very athletic. Daniels, their strong safety, appears to be the quarterback of their secondary and make all the calls, and the guy who’s been starting for them forever is Landry, their free safety, leads the team in tackles, First Team All-SEC, First Team All?American. He’s been playing there forever and he’s a really good player.
Francis comes in at nickel, Stoltz comes in at dime, although he plays safety, and they go ahead and knock Daniels down, and we’ll also notice McCray will also pop in there. We’ll see him show up sometime in some of their dime packages.
Last but not least, in special teams, their linebacker coach, Bradley Dale Peveto, runs the special teams. This is his second year doing this. This is his second year at LSU. So they’ve got David who’s the place kicker, Jackson handles both the punting and the kickoff duties, O’Hair handles the PAT and field goal snapping, while Zimmermann is their punt snapper.
They have a backup quarterback Flynn who’s their holder. Two kickoff returners are Doucet, who I mentioned before, one of those three senior veteran wide receivers, and Holliday, the little fast guy that I talked about. By the way, he’s averaging 32.4 for a kickoff return. And then we’ll see either Davis or Jackson back handling their punt returns.
Q. (Inaudible.) Is there a particular that you feel you need to work on to offset offensive things? What’s their best asset, passing, running, short game, whatever?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the most important thing is to not give up big plays. I think that’s the most important factor in this game. I think that when we’ve given up big plays, we’ve fallen behind and we’ve been fortunate a couple times to be able to rally and a couple times not. So I think it’s important to make sure we make them have to be patient in what they do and not give up the big play.
Q. You didn’t exactly paint a rosy picture for an Irish fan of LSU as you sit there and listen to that, so I’m sure people at home are sitting there saying, well, what is the point?
COACH Charlie Weis: We are not going to be throwing in the towel in case you’re wondering.
Q. From a confidence standpoint have you seen good confidence from your team coming back from the loss of USC?
COACH Charlie Weis: Right now I just saw good confidence that they’re all eligible academically because we just started practicing yesterday. I think the practices prior to exams were very, very good because they were short and fast, and any time you cut down the reps, okay, and you cut down your practice time, in exchange you expect people to be flying around, you always get that in return. The players give you back – if you give them something, they give you something. That’s what we got in the practices prior to exams.
I think right now we’re just getting into the nuts and bolts of LSU.
Q. Is it too early to see kind of a hunger to win this game from these guys since it’s so far away or is it already there from what you can tell?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that the problem that this team has is not from a lack of confidence. I mean, our team has plenty of confidence. I think that you have to make sure that you don’t try to peak prior to Christmas. I think that you have to be ready to peak by January 3rd, and I think that right now they’re just going through the installation – it’s not about an era of – right now they’re just becoming really familiar with who they’re playing. They’ve watched plenty of tape on them, but now they’re getting familiar with their schemes and what they do offensively and defensively and on special teams, so I think we’re a ways away.
I slowed down the process for this game. I’ve slowed down the process. So right now I’m not concerned with getting them ready to play like this Saturday. I’m just getting ready to get them home for Christmas with a lot of knowledge base of what we’re going to do when we get down to New Orleans.
Q. Does there come a time when you do have to do that, or will that happen naturally as the game gets close?
COACH Charlie Weis: That will happen game week. It won’t happen this week. I did that last year and it didn’t work out so well. We’re going to just ease into this day by day and we’re going to take – we’re going to have three days of 1st and 2nd down and then mix in some 3rd down in those three days, so for the next three days what we would normally do in a day and a half we’re going to take three days to do. We’re going to take our time and spend plenty of time studying tape and become familiar with who we’re playing against and get them home for the holidays and get down to New Orleans.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about how John Carlson is progressing?
COACH Charlie Weis: Fortunately he’s progressing well. He was out there practicing yesterday, which lifted my spirits. I’ll probably hold him from the contact form of it even maybe most of this week, but he’s running around fine. We don’t practice again – we don’t really practice again after this Saturday until Friday. We run and stuff on Thursday when we get down there on the 28th, but the next time we’re really practicing is the 29th, so there’s a long window from this Saturday to the following Friday before we start having contact again.
Q. I’m assuming the goal is to have him full speed for that?
COACH Charlie Weis: He conceivably could play this week. Running around was not the issue. He couldn’t run beforehand, but he’s running around fine.
Q. And lastly from me, when you’re going up against a team that is so talented could you speak a little bit about the importance of execution, avoiding turnovers, converting on your money downs and so to speak?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that situational football is always critical in a game. I think that usually we’re pretty good, usually we’re pretty good at taking care of the football. That’s usually been one of our strengths. But I think that we’re going to have to tie in a lot of other situations, as well, and like you say, staying on the field offensively, converting and keeping drives going and getting off the field defensively, we’re going to spend a day and a half on that this week, and we’re also going to follow up on it again on Friday, as well. We’re going to spend a lot of time on 1st, 2nd and 3rd down this week, but 3rd will be the point of emphasis starting tomorrow.
Q. The analysis of LSU, do you do that to yourself? Do you look at what your strengths and weaknesses were through the season and what LSU is going to see when they break your club down?
COACH Charlie Weis: We do an extensive self?scout and we stay on top of it. We do it by the whole season, but we also do it by the most recent games because usually when teams start to break you down, they’ll pick the last four or five games. So you have to analyze yourself two different ways; one, generically through the whole season; and the other one more recently because that’s the information flow that they usually have in their scouting reports.
Q. When you look at what you’ve done well during the season, do you go down there and say we’re going to dance with who we’ve been dancing with all season, or do you try to, again, evaluate your game plan so that it applies to what their strengths and weaknesses are?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’re a game plan team. Every week is a different week. Whatever gives us the best chance of winning this game, that’s what we’re doing.
Q. You talked back in the beginning of December about how you were going to change some things with game plan preparation. What about when you get down there? Last year it seemed like the guys ??
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s changed, too. Let me just tell you they’re happy right now. That’s all I’ll tell you.
Q. So they don’t have a curfew?
COACH Charlie Weis: Let’s not get ridiculous (laughter). Let’s just say the first night down there they have late curfew, okay, but the guy doing bed check is the head coach, and it’s followed by an FCA breakfast the next morning, so do the math. But I think they’re very pleased by the give and take. I don’t think you’ll hear any of our players whining.
Q. As far as the help of health of everybody except for Carlton, where is that at?
COACH Charlie Weis: Right now I’m very encouraged by the time we play, we’ll have everyone ready to go.
Q. As far as Abiamiri goes, looking at his season, has he met expectations do you think this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: We haven’t played the last game yet and I haven’t had not one second – I haven’t been able to study or analyze whether somebody has met expectations for the season. Right now, it was a combination of practicing, exams, recruiting, and now we’re getting ready for LSU. I couldn’t answer that question at this point.
Q. Everywhere you turn you hear the national media saying this isn’t a good match?up for Notre Dame. Do you think that plays in your favor? How will you use that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think you know me by now. I’m using it every second. But it wouldn’t have made a difference if we were playing Florida or Arkansas or anyone else. If it would have been Florida, their defense is too much for us; Arkansas, they’ve got too much speed for us. No matter who we’re playing, there was going to be that ?? it was going to be the SEC versus Notre Dame. So we were going to hear that ?? the biggest negative by playing LSU out of the SEC is the fact that it’s a home game for them. I’d say that’s probably the biggest negative because no matter who we played, we were going to be playing a tough opponent. None of them were a bowl of cherries. It wasn’t like anyone said, oh, I’d like to play them. There was no easy game.
It’s just now you throw on top of it their fans being able to drive up for the game and have two thirds, three quarters of the stadium. That’s a little bit more of a tougher task.
Q. The assumption always seems to be that it’s a physical mismatch or you don’t have the athletes that these schools do. When you look at it objectively, do you see a vast difference between the two programs in terms of athletic ability?
COACH Charlie Weis: They might have some speed. Ask the draft gurus right now what they think of our team. I think a lot of guys would sit there and rattle off close to ten guys that I think have a chance of playing on Sunday, so I can’t use that as an excuse. I think that’s easy for a coach to say, well, they’re a lot more talented. Do they have good speed? Are they good on offense? You betcha. Are they good on defense? Look at the stats. Right across the board you have to be realistic who you’re going against, but I like our players and I think our players will show up with the intent of winning the game.
Q. You said that you felt like everybody would be ready physically to go, specifically Ndukwe.
COACH Charlie Weis: He was running yesterday. I wouldn’t say that he – I’d say he’d be questionable if we were playing a game this week, questionable, so for me questionable is like a 50/50. If we were playing a game this week. But I’d say certainly probable for playing a game on the 3rd.
Q. Last thing from me and off the subject a bit, and I will ask the players the same question, but –
COACH Charlie Weis: Are you warning me (laughter)?
Q. No, I’m anticipating you saying, well, ask the players. How do you think your players would feel about a playoff system? If you were to poll your players about that, how do you think they would respond to it?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the ones that matter, that really study college football, would be greatly in favor of it. That’s what I think they would say.
Q. What if you told them that they had to participate in those playoff games in December?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that they would say they would be greatly in favor of it. That would be my guess, just from being around the locker room. That’s the conjecture with it. If you asked some guys, they wouldn’t have any clue what the answer to that question would be, but I’d say most of the guys – I think that players almost universally across the country would give the same answer.
Q. You’ve talked about how you’ve changed up things in practice. It’s been a while since we’ve talked to you. What specifically are some things that have been encouraging about what you’ve seen in practice?
COACH Charlie Weis: What was the question again?
Q. What’s encouraged you about what you’ve seen in practice, especially with maybe some of the changes you’ve made?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, like somebody asked a question here a little while ago, let’s start with the first practices after USC. You come back after losing that game to USC, you have to have a strategy involved with how you’re going to get them flying around there, and that’s ?? I’ll give you this if you give me that, cutting the practice way down time?wise and cutting the reps down, as well, so you can rep three deep, and you’re expecting full speed out of them in return. I think that’s what we got.
So that was a good place to start because it gives you an opportunity to keep the starters fresh and give you a chance to evaluate a bunch of players that really you want to see where they are now versus where they were at the beginning of the year.
Okay, now as we get ready, exams are done, I think I’ve given them plenty of time to get their minds back onto football, and I think that if yesterday was any indication, I think this team right now has an all?business approach.
Q. What makes Zibby a good option as a kickoff returner? The USC game was the first time we saw him in that role. What makes him a good –
COACH Charlie Weis: The same thing that makes him a good punt returner, the fact that he’s very – first of all, he can read holes. There’s a lot of guys that can run fast that can’t read a hole, so he can read where an opening is. He has very good vision, but he’s tough to bring down. There’s a lot of guys the first time the wind blows, they fall down. He’s not one of them. You need to wrap him up to get him down. He’s not going down easily.
If Zibby can help get the ball past the 30 yard line, that’s one less 1st down that the offense has to get when they’re moving the ball, that makes your chances of scoring that much better.
Q. I know the fifth year process is this long, ongoing thing that probably goes on until May, but in terms of your own thoughts and in terms of talking to players, are you trying to resolve some of that now, or are you waiting until after the Bowl, and do you feel like you have some of those results?
COACH Charlie Weis: Because I anticipated this question, I wanted to make sure I had the right way of saying this. The process is pretty well completed as far as my end of it. I have met with the players, they’ve met with their families, they’ve come back to me, the ones who I’ve talked to have really come back, and we’ve already come to a decision between us and then given the list to Stan, who then gives the list to the faculty board, who then okays them, then they do paperwork, get schedules set. But to make a long story short, I think Notre Dame football fans will be very happy when the results are in. It’s just there’s a long process that takes place.
Q. I know what your practice schedule is down in New Orleans. What about the rest of this week, what are you guys doing?
COACH Charlie Weis: The times aren’t exactly the same every day. Like one day it’s 3:00 to 5:00 instead of 2:00 to 4:00. But today is going to be 1st and 2nd down, tomorrow we introduce 3rd down. Friday is going to be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd down review – excuse me, Thursday is going to be a 1st, 2nd, 3rd down review. Friday is going to be red area and goal line; Saturday we’re going to do two-minute, and then they’ll be off and they have to be there by midnight on the 27th. We’ll fly on the charter, which won’t have very many players on it, we’ll leave early in the morning on the 28th and we’ll be down there for a team meeting by lunchtime on the 28th.
Q. The last thing from me, you mentioned very early the last time we talked about some young offensive linemen looking good, Ray Herring. Was there anybody in those windows of opportunity for them that you said not only can maybe they help us out next year, maybe they can help us out in this Bowl game more than I thought?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m not looking to make drastic changes in the Bowl game from where we are, but I can tell you there’s a number of guys that showed great promise in several different progressions, but when I singled out the offensive line, I brought it up with the offensive staff this morning, I’m very encouraged with the prospects of our future of the offensive line. It’s a good thing because we lost another couple guys this year just like we lost a couple last year. It couldn’t come any time too soon.
Q. Following up on the question about the fifth year guys, guys that won’t be coming back because they want to do something else after football, are those set in stone, as well?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, all these guys that have a process to go through. Because all our guys graduate in four years, it’s different than a lot of other places because they don’t have to come around for a fifth year. They could go on to their careers in whatever it’s going to be, whether it’s dental school, law school, take a job. I mean, they have several options. I think that’s one of the things unique about Notre Dame is the fact that everyone graduates in four years so they don’t have to stick around for a fifth year to go ahead and graduate.
You know, there’s different categories of guys. It’s just that there’s a lot of thought that goes into this right now, and these guys know that there’s an ongoing process.
Q. As far as LSU’s defense, you talked about the staff, the personnel. What about their MO? What is their style of player? Do they do a few things really well or are they a trick?you kind of defense, and who do they remind you of?
COACH Charlie Weis: Bo doesn’t blitz an extraordinary amount of times. I think the typical mentality in a game like this is probably to try to pressure you more, come up and get in the face of the wide receivers and see if you can get off the line of scrimmage. I know statistically what they do from even over or under. I mean, I can go right down their fronts and tell you what coverages they run and the stats of pressures on 1st down, but the bottom line is you’ve got to be ready. With this long a time that the coaching staffs have, you have to be ready for just about anything because those staffs could be thrown out the window and they could go to a whole different perspective than what they normally do.
Q. That kind of leads into the question about self-scouting, kind of factoring that in; you know they’re watching you, they know you’re watching them. Do you have to be prepared for things you haven’t done all season? Does that fall into the everything category?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, I think that’s true every week, though. But the thing is when you have this much time, that’s more true on a week?to?week basis. On a week-to-week basis, how much new stuff can you put in this three days? It’s different when you’ve got a month and a half. You can do just about anything you want in a month and a half. You can put in a whole new offense or defense if you want to. But with the stats they have on offense and defense, I don’t think I would change a whole heck of a lot.
Q. Early this year when you were asked about team speed, you said you didn’t think it was a problem from the defensive side, it was more a matter of learning the system and all that. The night of the Sugar Bowl announcement, when asked about the things you were concerned about, you said team speed. Did the USC game change your mind about that at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m not concerned that we don’t have any speed; I’m concerned that they do have speed. It isn’t like I’m saying – when we’re talking about our players, I think our players know what they’re going against. I mean, this isn’t a question of whether or not we think they’re too fast for us. You just have to identify what their strengths are, and one of their strengths are they have very good athleticism across the board, and it’s across the board, so it’s everywhere.
For example, take Highsmith at linebacker. This guy runs sideline to sideline. You don’t see too many linebackers that run sideline to sideline. He happens to be one.
Q. This season your teams has beaten all teams effectively, but the elite teams are the ones – two games and two pretty big losses. Do you think your team feels like they have to prove something in this game?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that for these guys – we have a whole bunch of guys that are walking out the door here, that their careers are ended, and I think it would be a really good thing for them to walk out of here with a Bowl win, especially against a team like LSU on the road. I think it would be a very vivid positive memory for them.
Every time I go into a game, we go in with the expectations of winning the game, but to be honest with you I’d like to win the game not for me, not for the whole University; I’d like to win it for those guys walking out the door. That’s who I’d really like to win the game for.
Q. You mentioned last year about the Bowl intrigue for this year or not. Does it matter because the guys know it either way because they all said that that’s what they want –
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, I addressed that, but I addressed it a little different way than it did – like Tim was mentioning before about how many times are they going to hear in practice, you have no chance. Well, it’s going to be 1,000, in case you’re wondering. But it’s not going to be, well, you haven’t won a Bowl game in 100 years. I already used that one up last year. I didn’t do too well.
Q. You’ve done real well on the road playing us against the world. Do you think that’s something that can help you in this game, that there are some of these games that you can use that as a rallying point?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think there are some psychological advantages of approaching a game that way. When you’re playing on the road, you’re a decisive underdog, you’re not supposed to be in the game, I think there’s definite psychological advantages playing to that. But when it’s all said and done, once you start hitting each other in the mouth a couple times, then it’s whoever makes more plays.
Q. I wanted to clarify something you said with the fifth year guys. What’s the timetable on that?
COACH Charlie Weis: You know, I don’t know the answer to that question. All I know is that I finished my whole process before we started these practices. So yesterday by lunchtime I had finished my process.
Q. Could it be announced before the game?
COACH Charlie Weis: Oh, no, because the faculty board doesn’t even meet before January. So now Stan, who’s sitting right back there, Stan now gives it to Don Polk Davis and then the faculty board, they look at it. Usually everyone is okay, but we can’t go into that because some guys ?? there could be things that come up that I can’t control and they can’t control, so what we do is we just go into the process that Notre Dame has and we just handle it that way. All I know is that if everything goes the way I think it’s going to go, it’s going to be very good.
Q. With Zbikowski’s situation –
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m not going to get into any one player that I’m going to talk about, because one, I can’t go there. I have to protect these guys for that exact reason, Zibby or anyone else, not going to be discussed.
Q. Now that the Heisman stuff is over with Brady, how do you go with dealing with him when it comes to draft projections because everybody is talking about him? How do you get him to kind of clear that up in his mind?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, we have a plan. I think that with all these guys going into the draft – this isn’t about the draft, it’s about the Sugar Bowl. But to answer that question to be respectful, when the draft is over the first thing they do is get representation, and once they get representation, that gives them advice on how they want to handle things. I can tell you he and I already have a plan for how I’m going to help him between when the season ends and when April rolls around. That I can tell you. But that’s a whole other story.
Q. I don’t know if you commented your thoughts on the final Heisman tally.
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the most valuable player on the best team won the Heisman.
Q. But the third place for Brady?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t care. You don’t win, what difference does it make, whether he’s first or not? You’re either first or not first. If you don’t win – I just told him in April he can go buy his own Heisman (laughter).
Q. Are there any similarities in preparing for a Bowl game as there are like a season opener? It seems like the time frame is about the same.
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, I think that you see there’s been a little bit of a learning experience for me, going into the season opener last couple years versus the Bowl game last year and the Bowl game this year. They’re not really the same because exams – you know, right in the middle of the flow, and then you kind of start over again and then you’re giving them five days off again, then you’re starting up again, so starting and stopping is not the same because we’re going into these ebbs and flows. It’s either all or nothing.
The difference is I think based off of what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think we’re coming in rusty, where last year at this time I think we came in rusty and then we got flat. I’m not anticipating those two things happening this year.
Q. Being a play caller and building offenses, how much of a luxury is the extra time in preparation?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I think that time has really been needed because I’ve been wearing a lot of hats here for the last month or so, and I think between watching the offense, watching – I mean, when you’re trying to watch every game for an entire season, which I do, when you watch every game on offense and every game on defense, I don’t just watch three or four games, so it’s tough to get that in there, especially when you’re on the road a whole bunch. I think that having all that time is giving you the opportunity to get that stuff done.
Q. I wanted to see if I can ask you a question about your wide receiver Jeff Samardzija. Can you tell me the thought process that was going through your mind when he told you that he wanted to also play baseball, and what does that say about him, that he did both extremely well?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I actually talked to him not this summer but the summer before that right after the first spring we were here, and we sat down that summertime and we went over a game plan for baseball and football, and at that time I told him that I would allow him to play full-time baseball as long as he guaranteed me he would come and play full-time football after that. I told Coach Minter we were all involved with this together. We said go through your baseball draft, then go through football and go through the football draft and see how it all pans out. But to be honest with you, this plan was implemented two summers ago, and I think it’s been executed very well.
Q. What does that say about him as a player, that he’s playing both sports very well?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, first of all, he’s pretty good at both of them. I think he’d have a career in either one of them. But I think he’s rare. You don’t have too many guys that can play – potentially play a professional sport in two sports. That says a lot about his ability.
Q. You’ve been described as obnoxious, arrogant, boorish, a jerk, a couple other things –
COACH Charlie Weis: That just means I grew up in New Jersey, that all that means.
Q. My question was what’s your feeling about that, or that it just means you grew up in New Jersey?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think they’re all lies to tell you the truth. I think that anyone who really knows me – I think that somewhere along the line people have an impression of you based off of hearsay. That’s what I think. I think that anyone who really knows you, and there’s several people who are sitting in this auditorium as I speak right now who have come to know me over a couple years, they see a bunch of sides that somebody looking from far away doesn’t see.
To be honest with you, I don’t think I’m any of those things. I think I’m a tough football coach who will do anything within the rules to win, but at the same time I’m a loving husband and father, and that means even more to me.
Q. One other thing. How much have you really embraced the college coaching? Is it easier than you thought it would be, or do you have any desire to go back?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t have any desire to go back to the NFL. I’ve embraced it probably even more because it’s my alma mater. I love it here; my wife loves it here; my kids love it here. And I don’t know if I could have embraced every college situation the same as I did with this one.
Q. You’ve touched a little bit on LSU’s group of wide receivers. What is it about this group that maybe concerns you the most?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, the chemistry between the quarterback and the wide receivers is a good place for us to start. I think that when you have a veteran group of wide receivers with a veteran quarterback that have been playing together for a little while, it gives you a better chance of getting in sync. A perfect indicator of that is their completion percentage being over 68 percent. That is not done by fluke. That means that guys are on the same page.
Q. In looking at the LSU film, what previous opponent, if so, do they remind you of?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it’s interesting because they remind me a little bit of Tennessee a year ago on defense, a year ago. I didn’t play Tennessee this year, but they remind me a little bit of Tennessee a year ago on defense, and offensively with the exception of the quarterback, because JaMarcus is 6’6″, 260, they remind me a lot of Michigan State to tell you the truth, with all the different athletes they have at wide receiver and their offensive line and running back.
Now, the style of offense is not the same, mind you, but athletically with the exception of the two quarterbacks being different styles in Stanton and Russell, they remind me a lot of Michigan State this year.
Q. I know y’all didn’t coach together I don’t think, but are you friends with Nick Sabin at all, and would y’all communicate about personnel for this game?
COACH Charlie Weis: I wouldn’t do that. Yeah, I’m close enough with Nick where I could call him up. Obviously I’ve got Mike Haywood on my staff who I can do that with, too, because he’s very close with Nick. But I try not to play that game. I think you’ve got 12 games on tape, you should be able to figure it out with 12 games on tape.
Q. Some of those words that Ted used to describe you from other people have been used for Coach Sabin. Do you think that y’all are similar in ways, in your approach as head coach?
COACH Charlie Weis: We come from that same kind of tree, his connection with – my connection, even though we didn’t work together, he was defensive coordinator under Belichick at Cleveland. Offensively I was an offensive coordinator under Belichick in New England, and of course Belichick and I both worked under Parcells. I think that that mentality is a lot the same, but I think just like you’re saying, people were saying about me, I think the people that are close to Nick have nothing but good thing to say about Nick.