Dec. 24, 2005
Charlie Weis PRESS CONFERENCE
Friday, December 23, 2005
Coach Weis: We just concluded this week of practice. I just turned them free at about 11:30 (a.m.) and put them on their way to spend some time with their families over the holidays. They all have to be in Tempe by midnight on the 26th. We have a charter going out on the 27th. I, personally, am going to get out there on the 26th to make sure everyone’s there and checked in. Then I’ll have a meeting with the players at 10 o’clock on the morning of the 27th and go out to the airport to make sure I’m there when the charter gets there. So, logistically, they’re all set and ready to go. Everyone’s on their way to go spend some time at home.
It’s been a very productive week for us. We really turned this week, football-wise, into getting the rust knocked off, first of all, then we were able to spend two practices on first and second down, which is one practice more than I’m used to being able to. We came back and spent a good day on third down, then came back yesterday and spent the morning on red area goal line and caught up with some more fundamentals and technique that night. We ended up with a 40-play scrimmage with all the non-starters, so they got some live contact before they wrapped up. This morning we came in and got a workout in and went over all the logistics, as far as the itinerary goes, for the week when they go out there, and the expectations regarding all the activities, schedules, and the times, attire, that they all know exactly what’s going on. As you guys have come to know me fairly well, you know I’m a creature of habit. I like everyone being on the same page with me and I don’t like surprises.
Probably the best thing that’s happened this week, besides us getting healthy, were the grades coming out. Their grades were just great. Normally, I would sit here and talk about football and Ohio State but I think I want to spend a couple of minutes just talking about these grades sitting here in front of me. I’m very proud of this team’s performance in the classroom this semester. It’s almost phenomenal to sit there and read through the list of grades that I’ve read through – 4.0s, 3.9s, 3.8s, 3.7s, 3.6s, 3.5s…Think about it – there are 98 players out there and 56 of them had over a 3.0 (grade-point average). That’s phenomenal! I just don’t know how these guys do it.
When I was in school, I thought my grades were pretty good but I didn’t have football to deal with and I think that I’m very proud of this team. They have an aggregate grade-point average of well over 3.0. I don’t know if it’s ever been done before (at Notre Dame), to tell you the truth. I try not to be a hypocrite when it comes to academics, but I can tell you that I’m very proud of this list of grades that’s come back to me. It kind of shows me that these guys get really fine academic support.
Q: How are D.J. Fitzpatrick and Ronald Talley coming along?
Coach Weis: They both looked perfectly normal this week, which lifted my spirits, to tell you the truth. D.J. kicked without any side effects of that leg getting banged up in the Syracuse game and Ronald looked full speed. So, that’s why I’m saying, besides getting healthy, it was good to see D.J. getting back and Ronald running around full speed.
Q: You mentioned over a 3.0 grade-point average. What was it exactly?
Coach Weis: Well, it’s actually gone up a little bit since I got this because a couple of grades have been changed even higher than this. I read down there, it’s phenomenal. All I’m saying is it’s well over a 3.0 and let’s just leave it at that. I have the exact number right here but if I tell you I’d have to shoot you so I’d better not tell you.
Q: Can you get some of these guys to work with my kids, because their grades are pretty low?
Coach Weis: I’ll just read down here, here are 10, and I’m just reading them, as they appear – 3.134. 3.133, 3.750, 2.733, 3.500, 3.667, 3.0, 3.5, 3.0. It’s phenomenal, really. I mean, these are real classes. I’m really proud of these fellas academically.
Q: How do you account for that? I mean, is it a huge jump from where they were last semester?
Coach Weis: Yes. It’s a huge jump from last semester. I really don’t know how to account for it. I’d like to take credit and pat myself on the back, but I was here last semester, too. We should talk about Pete D’Alonzo and the academic support staff, who do a great job with these guys. It all falls under Pat Holmes, but that whole department over there obviously has done a good job and we’ve gone out of our way to establish a rapport and get more information from professors early so we can get on top of any problems earlier. I really can’t put my finger on one thing specifically.
Q: A minute ago you made the comment that you didn’t want to be a hypocrite about academics…
Coach Weis: In other words, I don’t want to get up here and sit here and say that I represent Notre Dame and the student-athletes and them not be student-athletes. I think that so many people sit there and say, “Hey, it’s all about academics”. It just like in recruiting sometimes when you go into a home and you’re telling a guy what a Notre Dame education is. I don’t talk about the other schools; I just talk about ours. Then, they end up going to a school that I feel is a significantly inferior academic program. I don’t mean relatively equal, I mean significantly inferior, and they’re sitting there saying that academics are important but they’re going there? I don’t get into negative recruiting, so I don’t want to say an example but I think that holds true for me, too. I won’t sit there and talk about how important academics are and, then, have a bunch of kids on academic probation because it works both ways.
Q: This is the time of year, because of all the bowl games; you see the scroll along the bottom of the TV screen saying that so-and-so is ineligible for the bowl game…
Coach Weis: We have no one ineligible for the bowl game, by the University’s academic standards. But there might be a player, or two, who have some work to do before our departure before I decide to take him or not. No one significant.
Q: Did the training camp mentality you had this past week help guard against some problems that could occur off the field during that time frame?
Coach Weis: I think a better residual was giving them the time to actually nail their finals the week before. I think by giving them that time frame in which they didn’t have to worry about football, it was more important because they could get through all those last papers. We all know what it is, you’re cramming to get those papers done, and you’re cramming for those finals… Not having to worry about football during that time frame, I think they gladly went through the schedule we had for them this week, to get back into football, and they actually feel good about themselves walking out the door. They feel pretty ready to go.
Q: Ohio State only had six interceptions by the defensive backs this season. Do you anticipate them trying to send some corners or some linebackers a little bit more, blitzing more than they normally would? Not letting Brady (Quinn) sit back there and pick them apart.
Coach Weis: Well, they’re only giving up 14.8 points a game so I think if I were them I wouldn’t do too much different if I were giving up only 14 points a game. The second part of that, you never know, when people have this much time, from the end of November until the beginning of January. You never know how much change is going to occur, you just have to be ready to react to it if it does.
Q: I asked a couple of the defensive players if the notion of having a “spy” on defense on Troy Smith would help and they kind of shot it down. How often does that happen? And, does it work?
Coach Weis: I think it happens a lot when you are playing against teams with guys who are running quarterbacks, but it all has to be situational. You can’t create a spy situation on first, second, and third down. Usually a spy situation comes more into play on third down because on first and second down they have everything in their arsenal: they could run the option, they could run the zone, they could run the power, they could screen, they could draw, they could be in shotgun like they are a lot, just slinging it down the field. So, you have to be ready to defend everything. When it comes to third down, now it’s about conversions so now the packages change some. I think having a running threat; it’s always an extra weapon that teams have, who have a running quarterback, that you have to take into account.
Q: What thoughts do you have that Brandon Hoyte will be playing his last game in a Notre Dame uniform in this game? What has he meant to the program?
Coach Weis: Since the time I’ve been here and got to know Brandon, he’s really taken the bull by the horns when it comes to leadership. I think that last year when I got here he seemed like the man on campus. He was wearing about a hundred different hats, doing all sorts of different things. He’s all over the place. Besides being a good student, he’s involved in about as many different things as anyone I’ve ever seen. I think this year he’s really taken his responsibility of being a captain with pride and I think that he’ll certainly be missed. I think there are a lot of guys in a place like that. I look at Corey Mays being a very similar type of leader. The difference is that Brandon had been playing a whole bunch in his career and Corey hadn’t been. So, when the players turn to somebody they usually turn to somebody who’s been playing, but we have a lot of good kids here, especially a lot of older kids who are high character guys. I’ve leaned on them for a lot of things when it comes to leadership this year.
Q: Do you think Brandon will have a pro career?
Coach Weis: Oh, he’ll play on Sundays. Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind.
Q: When you look at your players here, can you draw any comparisons with players you had at New England? And, do you use examples of people you coaches in the pros when discussing Notre Dame players with pro scouts?
Coach Weis: I always try to look at these guys, good or bad, to give them analogies from different guys that I’ve come across in my years in the NFL. Often when I talk to pro scouts about Dan Stevenson, I compare him to a guy we had in New England by the name of Joe Andruzzi. Smart, tough guy who, ya know, what you see is what you get. You’re going to get it on every down. When I say that to pro scouts, they understand the body type and everything that goes with it because it gives them an analogy. I’m a big Joe Andruzzi fan, so I think you could say I’m a big Dan Stevenson fan.
Q: What do you want the Fiesta Bowl to typify about you, about your team, about your program?
Coach Weis: First of all, it’s not about me so let’s cut that one out right away. It’s about Notre Dame. I think that these guys have overcome a lot of things this year as they’ve built a reputation as a team that’s going to play in every game for 60 minutes. Even when things don’t go perfect, they’re going to play the whole game, finish it out, even the couple of games we lost that came to fruition. I think you’ll see the same thing. Hey, we’re going against a good opponent. Let’s not lessen the fact that Ohio State is good. I think one thing you can count on is this team showing up and playing for 60 minutes with every intent of winning the game.
Q: Is it one of those things where you want to tell the country, “We’re going full throttle. Notre Dame is back”. Or, is it a situation where you want to tread lightly and take a little time, depending on the outcome?
Coach Weis: I think you should know the answer by now. If you know me well enough, you can answer that one yourself.
Q: You’ve been asked about (Jeff) Samardzija a lot this year but, looking back at the season he had versus what you thought when you got here, how has your perception of him changed?
Coach Weis: Well, I knew he was a very good athlete. I knew he was a gifted athlete. That’s what I did know. I didn’t know a lot about a lot of these guys but I did know by the time spring ball was out there was no doubt in my mind that this kid was a player. I told him that in spring ball, then I told him again early in training camp. I pulled him aside, I pulled him into the team meeting room early in training camp, I told him I would be disappointed if he wasn’t pushing Rhema (McKnight) and (Maurice) Stovall for a starting position. I said, “I’d be disappointed if you were just content being number two, you’re good enough to be a starter here.” Obviously, Rhema getting hurt everything kind of fell into place but this kid’s pretty good.
Q: What does January entail? Do you take some time off? Will you still be recruiting?
Coach Weis: I’ll take time off after February 1st, that’s Signing Day. To me, we’re right in the midst of football season. The football season ends on January 2nd but the recruiting season ends on February 1st. Really, recruiting season never ends because while you’re wrapping up 2006, you’re right in the midst of 2007. We have a big Junior Day January 14. We’re having a bunch of juniors in. We’re on top of that now. We’re pushing that all the time, but I will spend a weekend with my family. We’ll go to the Super Bowl and I’ll get away for a weekend with my wife where just the two of us get away and spend a little time together. Other than that, this is not a six-month job, they’re paying me to work 12 months and that’s what they’re going to get.
Q: A lot of times in game planning, you encounter players you have to be aware of regardless of where they are on the field. When you look at A.J. Hawk and the linebackers of Ohio State, do you have that kind of feeling?
Coach Weis: You have to worry about (Bobby) Carpenter and (Anthony) Schlegel. First of all, you have to know what’s going on with Carpenter. If he’s playing, what is he doing? If he’s not playing, how does that change what they do? Are they just going to put in his backup linebacker or are they going to nickel, like they did most of the time in the Michigan game? You’ve got to be ready for both of those. I think that having that extra practice on first and second down allowed us to do is we practiced both those philosophies, which was a big bonus for me. Now, the players will be, like, its no big deal. Obviously, with Carpenter being another great player, which he is, you better get a hat on A.J. because he can make your life miserable but that linebacker corps, all three of them are good players, it’s not just A.J. He’d be the first to tell you, too.
Q: Where are you at in your preparation?
Coach Weis: What we did is we put everything in the first time through. We’ll tweak a bunch of things now. Either things that we like, things we didn’t like. We might add a few plays; we’ll run in a few plays. But the nuts and bolts of the game plan are already in. I think there are too many distractions when you go to the week of the game to be trying to put in everything mentally during the week of the game. Just like going to the Super Bowl when you have two weeks you put in everything the first week. The second week families start coming down, there’s a lot of distractions. I’ve already screwed it up on distractions one time and I’m not going to make that mistake again.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of change in the last year with these players. Can you describe that for us?
Coach Weis: When you’re standing up here looking in everyone’s faces, watching them. Hey, not everyone’s happy. It isn’t like with a hundred kids you can keep everyone happy. But, I can tell you there’s a bunch of people that have a lot better feeling about themselves personally right now because of how things have gone and that makes you feel good for them that they feel proud of their accomplishments. As we all know, we have a big game yet to go against a good opponent and we’ll see how it turns out.
Q: How can you use your experience in Super Bowls as an advantage in preparing for this game?
Coach Weis: A perfect example is that it’s important to realize that game week still feels like an eternity because, think about it, the players are going there Monday and they don’t play for a week. They still have a whole week before they play. Normally, players are used to practicing three days, doing a little walk-through, then playing the game. Now they’re going to be there for seven days. So I think it’s important not to burn `em out. And you can burn `em out mentally way quicker than you can burn `em out physically. Physically you can tear them down a bit, but mentally you could really almost bore them. I think it’s important to have their minds fresh. I think we’ve always gone into games having our minds fresh as well as our bodies fresh. I think those two things always go together.
Q: Can coming from cold to warm weather adversely affect a team?
Coach Weis: There’s always the chance that you have to deal with some dehydration in the game, which you basically haven’t had to deal with. I understand early in the week it’s supposed to be in the high 70’s and later in the high 60’s. I don’t know what it’s going to be like during the game. That’s all I’ve been able to see so far. But I think that you always have to deal with the possibility of dehydration, but I think as long as you deal with that early enough where you’re pumping Gatorade and water into them multiple days before you play the game usually you can minimize the residual effects.
Q: How do you divide the time between working them hard and free time?
Coach Weis: I gave it to them today. I showed them everything they have. There’s certain things that we’re doing like I’m going to take them to the Insight Bowl. We reserved a restaurant for 150 people in right field over in that stadium right there and we’ll have dinner and watch the game. I got a mall movie night. I have multiple things for them to do that are organized and I have other times where I have vans available to them early in the week where I have a three-hour window. Say the offensive linemen all want to go out for dinner by themselves, you also have to give them a little liberty to do that, but I’ll do that early in the week because I’m not big on having problems. I think that so far they’ve acted pretty responsibility, so as long as they continue to act that way I’ll continue to treat them like that.
Q: You mentioned that a non-significant player might not make the trip. Can you elaborate on that situation?
Coach Weis: Notre Dame’s standards are a lot higher than the NCAA standards and we have nobody on the team that would be ineligible to play in the game, but I have different standards than everyone else does. So, my standards are a little higher than the rule. I just believe there’s a right and wrong way of doing things. We’ll see, there’s a little time frame here yet.