Feb. 8, 2008
COACH WEIS: We really have about three different issues to talk about. We’re going to talk about some things going on with the coaching staff first of all and then a few personnel issues, and then I want to bring up one issue as it related to something that happened at the AFCA convention this year, so I’m going to go in a couple different directions here. I’m going to start with talking about few things related to the coaching staff.
As you all know, last week we announced that (assistant head coach/defense) Bill Lewis was going to move over from a coaching position into administration. A little background on this. Back in early December we were on the road recruiting in some little cafe waiting to go into a home visit, and he informed me that he had to get both his hips replaced. So he gave me like his game plan that we had talked about where he was going to have one hip replaced, then coach spring ball, then have the other hip replaced, then be ready for the start of the season, which I thought was a little optimistic on his part.
I said I would heed his advice and then come back. So I thought about it for a while, and I came back, and I said, listen, Bill, here’s what we’re going to do. Let’s get one done and let’s get the other one done. (Defensive coordinator) Corwin (Brown) will coach the DBs in the springtime and you go ahead and get those done and get healthy, and let’s get you ready for the season so we don’t have any downtime and leave some margin for error in case anything went wrong when we have that done.
In the meantime, over the holidays, (Notre Dame athletics director) Kevin (White) and Bill had some coffee, and they were talking, and Kevin asked Bill if he had ever considered going into administration. Everyone loves Bill. He’s beloved by our staff, and I think the feeling is common for anyone who knows him. If he’d be interested in going into administration.
So Bill was a little bit worried that he was doing something behind my back, and he came to me and we talked about it. I said, `well, I’m not aware that you had the conversation, but it’s fine with me.’ And he goes, `well, I’m going to actually consider doing it.’ I said, `well, listen, we’re in no rush here, you have no timetable. I already told you what we’re going to do as far as coaching goes. If you want to do that, that’s on you and we’ll address it after recruiting is over.’
So now it got to be January, and I wasn’t really sure which way this was going to go. He had met with both Kevin and he had met with (Notre Dame senior associate athletics director) Bill Scholl, and this wasn’t like etched in stone yet but this was something that was a possibility more than a definite.
I was now on the road spending some time — a whole entire week with Corwin, so we were addressing this issue while we were on the road, and we threw about a number of possibilities where if Bill decided to step aside, what would we want to do. The number one thing I wanted to do was make sure that he had an idea guy. I told Corwin, `as long as you’re defensive coordinator, you’re always running the defense, you’re always calling the defense.’ I think if Bill steps aside, that veteran coach is something that we need to replace with a veteran coach.
So we threw a couple names about and started making a few phone calls. At the end of the day when it was all settled, one of the guys that was available, fortunately for us, one of the guys that was available was Jon Tenuta. So I called Jon and we had met briefly — we had talked briefly at the AFCA convention on January 7th when I was out there to pick up the Presidents Award for graduation rate. I bumped into him and we talked a little bit at that time.
I’m flying back from California, and it rattled through my mind, like God, this guy is on the street. This would be a great guy to help, and that’s really how it played out.
So I talked to him a couple times and Corwin talked to him a couple times, and Corwin and Jon have a very close mutual friend at Virginia. Jon went to UVa, Corwin coached at UVa. They have a very close mutual friend that they’re both very close with, so they both inquired about each other, about the chemistry and working with each other, because to me it was important to Corwin and to me that there be chemistry, because without chemistry it doesn’t make any difference how good a coach you have if there’s no chemistry.
So Corwin and Jon met, and I flew Jon in under the radar to meet with Corwin and I for a day, which he did, and went back and kind of had the plan in place where if, in fact, it came down with Bill, that’s the direction we were going.
So when rumors start spreading in recruiting, I think it’s important never to lie to any kids about what’s going to end up happening. So rather than — I got a hold of Bill, and I said, `look, rather than waiting until next Thursday until the day after recruiting is over, it’s an issue, we’re going to address it, let’s address it right now.’ So he decided that he was going to move over there. As a matter of fact, Bill Scholl hadn’t even had an opportunity really to talk to his entire staff about it yet because it hadn’t been an issue yet. But we felt that it was only the right thing to do to make sure that we were honest and up front with everyone, and I kind of force fed — Bill’s kids weren’t even quite ready because we weren’t even going to address it until the Thursday after recruiting was over.
So he decided that’s where he wanted to go, and we got everything worked out with Jon, and as a matter of fact we had — before I announced it that day we had a contract faxed in because it isn’t like he had a contract signed. Everyone had him pegged that he was coming here already. We had to get him a contract and he had to fax it in just so we had a copy of a signed contract so we could legally say that we were going ahead and hiring him.
But it was after a lot of due diligence that started back in December, and there were some people involved in this possibility, and what I’m really happy about is twofold. Number one, that Bill is staying at the University because it’s somebody who — I love the guy, and the last thing I’d want is for him to not be part of our program. And I think with him staying on in administration I get the best of both worlds. And with Jon, obviously we get an experienced coach that Corwin can lean on as an idea guy that can really help as our defense evolves and can really help our defense.
Corwin will coach the defensive backs and Jon will coach the linebackers with assistance from other people, and that’s the way that’ll go.
Now, on the offensive staff, one of the things that I’ve done, and you guys know that I’ve spent a lot of time here since the season’s end to change some things around here. Well, I’m going to try to cut the proverbial — the figurative — umbilical cord and try to move myself a little bit away from being the sole primary guy on the offensive staff. So in the springtime we’ll start off with the offensive staff running the offense. That means (offensive coordinator) Mike (Haywood) will write the scripts and set it up on offense, and that means that all the offensive coaches now won’t have to worry about the ever presence of the head coach breathing down their neck all the time.
I’m trying to do this. This is a tough one for me to do, but I’m trying to give them an opportunity to run the offense with me interjecting rather than me demanding and telling them everything that we’re going to do. So that’s how we’re going to run this in the spring.
Everyone is coaching the same positions, nothing is changing. They’re all doing what they do, it’s just that we’re going to try to do it with the head coach less involved. My wife knows I’m going through withdrawal on this one right there. This is really not the easiest thing.
But I’m going to give them an opportunity to see if we can’t be more expansive on our ideas, and I think that sometimes when you have a number of good coaches, sometimes they get stymied or stifled a little bit when you have a very domineering presence when the head coach is also involved in the offense. They know that I reserve the right to change some things, they know that I can interject things, but at the same time I want to give them an opportunity to do it, so that’s what I’m going to do.
I’m actually going to spend more time doing two things; A, spending more time with the players, which I feel that’s one thing I haven’t done since I’ve been here. Since I’ve been here I think I’ve been spending so much time with the offense, I haven’t spent much time with the offensive players to tell you the truth, more with the offensive coaches, and have spent very little time with the defensive players. And come 6:00 Monday morning I’m going to start changing that because although I give the staff off next week, when they go work out at 6:00 on Monday morning I’m going to be in there with them and see if I can’t start being more — I won’t say more open, but more approachable with the players because I think that especially the young guys get so intimidated, they don’t know that you can come in and talk about everything.
I think if we’re going to play a bunch of young guys, which we did last year, I think the one thing I have to do is make sure I’m much more approachable and make sure I start working on that — now that recruiting is over, start working on that on Monday.
As far as special teams go, I screwed that up last year. Brian Polian is going to be the special teams coach. He’s not coaching defense. He’s just coaching special teams, and I’m his assistant. So the only two people who will be coaching special teams this year will be Brian as the special teams coach, and that’s his, and I’m going to be his aide because since I’ve been here I’ve been talking about how special teams, special teams, special teams.
As a matter of fact, I’m going to meet with Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech, who I think has done the best job of anyone in the country on special teams. I’ve already set up an appointment with him. I don’t know whether or not I’m bringing Brian or not at that time, but I know one thing: I’ve got to figure out a better way of getting special teams righted, and I think (Beamer’s) done the best job of anyone I know in college football with special teams. I asked him if I could mention his name at the press conference to make sure that I was not overstepping my bounds and got his permission to do so.
But we already have a time set, and before spring ball starts I’ll be flying over there to spend some time with them to see if we can’t get this righted. Brian will be the special teams coach, it’ll be his deal, but I’ll be his assistant. And I think when the head coach makes himself an assistant to an assistant coach, I think it might create a little sense of urgency with us on special teams.
I’ve coached special teams in the past myself, and I think that we can’t be hypocritical. I think we really need to move in that direction, and I think by me pulling away from the offensive staff, it’ll give me a lot more time to do just that.
So that’s what’s going on with our coaching staff. You ought to know what everyone is doing. Obviously Jon is going to be our assistant head coach and coach the linebackers; Jappy (Oliver) is coaching the defensive line; Corwin is coaching the DBs as well as being the defensive coordinator and calling the defense; Mike Haywood is coaching the running backs and set up the offense and be the offensive coordinator in the true sense of the word; and all the position coaches are going to hold their positions and see if we can’t move that in the right direction. Brian Polian has got special teams with the head coach as his assistant. I’m not going to put in the program under my bio “assistant special teams coach” if you don’t mind.
As far as personnel issues, there’s really three matters to talk about. Pat Kuntz, as you all know, he’s not enrolled in school this semester. I hope he’s back with us this season. Other than that, I’m limited in what I can say by federal law and University policies that protect student privacy.
Will Yeatman, he’s in school but he’s been suspended indefinitely from football for a violation of team rules. I hope he’s back with us this season, otherwise I need to abide by student privacy laws and policies, and really that’s all I can say about both the matters.
And then both Derrell Hand and Bartley Webb have been determined to be medically incapable of further competition, and as a result they no longer will be members of the Notre Dame football team. Both will continue their undergraduate studies here in accordance with University practice and they’ll retain their scholarship aid, so they’ll be on medical scholarship instead of — they’ll no longer be counters on our 85. They’ll be on medical.
And lastly, from the issues I’m going to address before questions, one big thing happened at the AFCA convention this year, and this is significant. They passed a rule effective immediately that head coaches cannot be on the road recruiting in the spring. They passed that at the convention. Head coaches cannot be on the road recruiting in the spring.
So as you know, I’m very big on time management. I said, `okay, now what are you going to do with this time?’ Once again, that will be recruiting withdrawal for me. One of the reasons I pounded it so hard down the end there is knowing this rule, a number of the juniors that we were already involved in forced me to get to all those guys the last week of recruiting. I put on more miles than you’ll ever know in that last week from coast to coast and over oceans on top of that. I mean, there were some significant — too bad I don’t get frequent flier miles, but one of the reasons why we did that is knowing that this was coming into play.
We also have a junior day that we’re going to be involved with on February 24th, but now we’re going to add another junior day towards the end of March, and the reason why we’re doing that is because I personally am not going to be able to get into all these schools anymore. Even though you couldn’t talk to them, your presence as a head coach there made a big difference.
Now, this time allotment now, after the spring game until right before Memorial Day, that month or so, that month of change, it will allow me to do a few things. Obviously the number one thing is spend more time with our own players. That’s the one thing it’ll do. Obviously my wife and kids, I’ll get to see them a little bit more, especially when my kid is playing baseball. I’ll get to see him play a little bit more than I have in the past.
But the other thing that I haven’t been able to do since I’ve been here — when I got here, we came and made a statement that every year we’d go to the Rockne dinner, and because of the amount of time I was going to spend recruiting, that was going to be it for alumni associations or Notre Dame clubs.
But now I’ve got this month of time, so I met with (Notre Dame Alumni Association executive director) Chuck Lennon a week or two ago, I went over to his office and I sat down and I told him I was going to give him some time during this time, and we went over a game plan.
Each year the Alumni Association awards different clubs at different levels for what they’ve done, production, whatever. I’m not exactly sure, but there’s anywhere from eight to 10 award winners. This year there happened to be 11. So what I’m going to do is during that time frame where I would have been on the road recruiting, I’m going to go meet or go visit with all 11 of those associations to kind of pay them back for being award winners. Chuck is going to notify them all today. He’s all jacked up now. He’s pumped, as you can imagine Chuck; he isn’t a guy who lacks for adrenaline to start off with.
Now because of the fact that I have this window of opportunity that didn’t exist before, and if you’re in time management, it gives me an opportunity to get around to some of these Notre Dame clubs without deviating from the rest of my schedule as it currently stands.
So that’s coaching, personnel, and I thought that that was significant. I was kind of surprised that that hadn’t become more of a public issue. I don’t know how that stuff goes down with the AFCA, but they’ve tweaked some other things like we can text guys that are — now the guys that just signed, we can text all those guys as if they’re here, which that’s a nice level of communication. But the most significant thing I thought that came out of that convention was that effective immediately in the springtime, head coaches couldn’t be on the road.
That’s all I have.
Q. What brought this whole head coaching not going on the road thing on? I mean, what was the ground swell for that to happen?
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s two different thought processes on that one. One thought process was there were a few head coaches that were on the road all the time and they were getting pressured by their ADs and presidents to get on the road to compete with those people. That was one thought process.
The other one is to make sure that you don’t hang the head coaches out to dry in the springtime or expose them to potential bumps, no contact in the evaluation period rather than the non contact because what happens is every school you go into, you can’t talk to anyone. And I think that the presidents and the ADs and everyone else by a wide margin felt that keeping the head coaches off the road would minimize the exposure that head coaches had to being in compromising situations.
The truth lies somewhere in between those two answers.
Q. I know that Bartley (Webb) has an aspiration to be a coach someday. Is there a chance he’ll be involved?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact I got that cleared so that the hours that he would use are going to be in football. They always have to do like a work program so that the scholarship isn’t for nothing. You have to do something. But he asked me that, and I got that cleared through compliance, that he can be involved in football. And yes, as a matter of fact, as of the week of February 18th we’ll get him going on that.
Q. I know that Jon (Tenuta) isn’t even up here yet, but obviously they (Georgia Tech) were a 4-3 type deal. Is there going to be any look at schematic changes with him coming aboard, or because he’s an idea guy? How is that going to play out?
COACH WEIS: I’ll let them work that out. We played a lot of under last year on defense. It was 3-4 personnel, but when you reduce the weak side in, it becomes under. So we played a lot of under last year, and that was their primary defense.
We played their front with our personnel a good portion of the time last year. But how that works out, you know, I think that they’ve spent hours — tens of hours already discussing some things. I think the idiosyncrasies of what they’ll do we’ll start worrying about on February 18th.
Q. In defining your role, too, will you still in practice be the primary coach for the No. 1 quarterback?
COACH WEIS: I’ll stay involved with coaching the quarterback, but I’m not going to — I always feel that my greatest strength as a football coach is developing quarterbacks, so I think that for Jimmy (Clausen) and Evan (Sharpley) and now the new guy (Dayne Crist), for all those guys, I think that that’s part of what I do.
And I think that — (quarterbacks coach) Ron (Powlus) and I have already discussed this, that I’ll always be part of the development of that position, and I’ll always be part of the development of the offense. But I think that — I don’t want to pigeonhole the offensive staff, and I think that some of the creativity that comes in offense sometimes gets stymied when you have a domineering head coach that happens to be an offensive guy.
I’m trying to cut this cord. Really, it’s not the easiest thing to do. I’m trying to do that.
Q. There was a point where Coach (Bill) Parcells got a new job, and there was some thought, what if he calls Charlie, and obviously you’re sitting here today. But was there ever a conversation between you two? Did he ever talk to you about that?
COACH WEIS: Everyone who knows me in the NFL knows that I have no aspirations to be coaching in the NFL, so the guys that know me, that wouldn’t even make that phone call because they know the answer would be no. So all my friends or mentors or those people know that that’s not what I’m doing. So there would be no need for that conversation to take place.
Q. I feel like in the past you’ve said that you felt your greatest strength as a coach is as a play caller, so how is the program better off when you’re not playing to your greatest strength?
COACH WEIS: I think that play calling is my greatest strength, okay, but I’m the head coach, and I think that when you’re play calling on offense, you might not necessarily be the best head coach. So what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to be a better head coach. That’s what I’m trying to do.
When you ask that question, it’s very valid, and that’s getting back to this — but at the same time, I think this might give me the best chance of being the best head coach.
Q. Kind of the changes that you’re talking about, how much of this was a byproduct of sitting down with the Patriots and talking to them about…
COACH WEIS: When I made the comment about going to the Patriots, everyone thought it was just about Xs and Os, and it was really more about how to become better at my job than about Xs and Os. I went and visited with (Patriots head coach) Bill (Belichick) in particular prior to the Giant Patriot regular season finality, that final game. I flew into Jersey and we spent a bunch of time talking about it.
He was one of the people I talked to. He wasn’t the only one. But he was one of the people I talked to, and I just felt that I had to, after this past season, figure out a laundry list of things on and off the field that I wanted to make better, and this was one of them. So that’s what I’m doing.
Q. When you made it out there, was it an eye opening experience, or by that point had you thought about the season enough that you were looking for confirmation, I think I need to change this, what do you think?
COACH WEIS: No, I was already heading in this direction. It was almost like I wanted somebody to help me out with this, confirm that I was moving in the right direction.
Q. One of the differences in this class is just having Corwin on the road recruiting. How would you kind of assess the impact of not only having his personality out there but also the fact that he kind of provides a definitive defensive direction that you really haven’t had the past couple years in terms of presenting that to prospects?
COACH WEIS: I think that any time people know what you’re getting into, know the direction of what you’re doing on offense or defense, in this case we’re talking about defense, I think it helps, because he has that infectious attitude that people gravitate to. But just as importantly, Notre Dame football is starting to establish more of an identity, and I think that that’s critical.
Q. When you said you were working with the offense in the spring, I assume you meant you were planning on carrying it over into the fall?
COACH WEIS: Yes, that’s the plan. The plan is cut the first cord, then cut the second cord, then cut it altogether. So I said to them, ‘fellows, I’m trying to do this, so spring to training camp to the season.’ What I’d like to be able to do is if everything works out is have my goal, they’re calling the plays with input from the offensive staff and then with me interjecting, run it, play action, rather than sit there and say let’s — here’s what we’re doing. That’s what I’d like to do.
Q. You said you…
COACH WEIS: But I’m not counting on that having to be the case. I don’t want to do this expecting failure. I’m doing this to better the program with confidence in my assistant coaches expecting success.
Q. You said you may get a little more involved with defense…
COACH WEIS: I want to be more involved with the entire team. I think that that’s — I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily been an error, but going back to the question from before, I think even if you’ve identified your greatest strength as being an offensive play caller, I don’t think that necessarily in the long run puts you in the position to be the best head coach. And I think that when you go 3 and 9 and you’re not in a Bowl game and you’re sitting at home saying, okay, how am I going to make things better, I don’t think that you make drastic changes for no reason; I think you have to make changes with a plan for the future. This is planning for now, as it heads on into the future.
Q. Can you be any more specific on what the injuries are to Hand and Webb?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that — I’m not really sure whether I can answer that. I’ll tell you what, I’ll find out — let me just find out if I can say more definitive — I have no problem saying what it is, but these privacy acts and everything, let me check and then I’ll get it to (Notre Dame senior associate athletics director) John (Heisler) and (Notre Dame director of football media relations) Brian (Hardin), and if I can, I’ll just tell you exactly what it is. But let me find out because I don’t know the answer to that question.
Q. Are these changes — you told us back when we talked to you after the season that you were going to have this self evaluation. Are these changes as a result of that self evaluation?
COACH WEIS: I would say this is a part of it.
Q. Can you tell us what other changes you expect to make?
COACH WEIS: I will give you more, but that probably won’t — I’ll probably have to wait until right to the start of spring ball to get to that point because this is really to me the major part, where we are right now. The next part is going to be fixing the problems with football. Fixing the problems with football — identifying the problems in football and closing recruiting is where we are right now. Now the next thing is fixing the problems. So I think we’ll address that again right at the start of spring ball.
Q. Last year when we talked about recruiting, you hoped at this point you’d be up to 85 (scholarship athletes). By my count you won’t be quite there.
COACH WEIS: I think we’re now closer in the low 80s. I think we’re getting closer. That’s why I was willing to go to 25 if the right guys fell in line. The minimum we wanted to walk out of with this class was 22, 11 and 11, was the minimum we wanted to walk out of there with. So the fact that we came out of there with 23, that was heading in the right direction.
Q. Have you set a number for next year, and do you think no matter what happens next year you’ll finally be at a spot where you want to be?
COACH WEIS: As a matter of fact, I’m meeting on those numbers here later today because I don’t have it etched in stone. I know preliminary numbers that we put at each position as we go forward, but I want to make sure, hey, you didn’t get this position so can you take another one at that position, do you have the number to do that. There’s a couple things that we’re still working on there.
Q. I’m curious how significant the surprise was on Haywood’s face when you first broached the topic with him, or was it something that had built up in conversations leading up to it?
COACH WEIS: Well, at first we were on the road recruiting when I first said that this is the direction I might be heading, and he was driving at the time, and I was concerned (laughter).
But I had year end conversations with every one of the coaches on the staff here this week, on Monday and Tuesday and then yesterday morning. You know, I went over good and bad of every one as I perceived it, as I gave them a chance to write up year end evaluations as they perceived it before they went on vacation. Now this gave me an opportunity for me to tell them how I saw it. And in every conversation there was some good and there was some bad.
But I told them this is where I was heading, and I think he’s really looking forward to that opportunity. I think so is the entire offensive staff, not that they didn’t want me in there. I think that they know that this puts a lot more pressure on them. They don’t have the security blanket anymore.
Q. I realize Jon Tenuta has the title associate head coach, but how do you go about approaching somebody that has been such a successful defensive coordinator…
COACH WEIS: Assistant head coach.
Q. Assistant head coach. How does one go about approaching somebody that’s had so much success as a coordinator who was considered a head coaching candidate? Was that your first concern when you approached him?
COACH WEIS: Well, twofold. I mean, I knew from going against him the last couple years, you don’t just go against a guy Xs and Os. Any really good play caller really studies the play caller, and it’s more than just the Xs and Os, the mentality of the person, the aggressiveness of the person. It’s more than just the X and O part.
So you knew from afar what you were getting, but I think that more importantly, he understood right from the beginning, I said, here’s the way it’s going to be, here’s what I’m looking for. It was really important — we spent an entire week, Corwin, Jon and I, round robin conversations for an entire week. This wasn’t like it happened in a day. We spent a week’s worth of conversations going on to make sure that we could blend this, before he understood what the offer was going to be, and then it was can we all three of us mutually coexist. I think that we came up with a ringing “yes” when it was all said and done. So everyone knew how the dynamics were going to work.
Q. And I’m sure you go into a meeting with Frank Beamer with a very open mind, but what are some of your expectations as you head into that?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, how are you guys so good? How do you create a mentality with your team, okay, where year after year you’re perennially one of the best teams in the country on special teams? How do you do that? Because there’s a lot of teams with a lot of talent that don’t play as well on special teams as that place does. I mean, it isn’t like I watch Virginia Tech tape because they’re not in our film exchange. It’s not something at this point that I’ve spent much time doing. I’m intrigued and fascinated about how they do it.
And I know that he has a lot of involvement, so I’d like to find out exactly the mechanics of how they do it before I even worry about the Xs and Os. I’d like to know the mechanics about how they do that.
Q. And lastly, I believe you were a participant in the roast for “Mike & Mike”, and there was a situation involving one of the ESPN employees. If you could, offer your take on that situation, what transpired that night.
COACH WEIS: Are you referring to Dana (Jacobson)?
Q. Dana Jacobson, yes.
COACH WEIS: Well, I’ll just say three things, okay. I was both personally and professionally offended by her comments. And if the situation were reversed, and that were me saying them, two things would have happened. I would have been the lead story on SportsCenter, and I would have been fired. But other than that, the University has issued an official response, and I think it’s best to leave it at that.
Q. Mike Haywood has been up for a couple head coaching jobs that he didn’t end up landing. Does this development, I guess, maybe even help his career looking longer term than just what it does for Notre Dame football? What’s it do for Mike Haywood?
COACH WEIS: The answer is twofold. The answer I would say to your question would be yes. Now that he’ll be known as not the offensive coordinator for the head coach who’s calling the plays, that he gets an opportunity to do that, the answer to that is yes.
But I didn’t do it for that reason. I didn’t do it for — I did it for the reason that I think it gives me a better chance to be a better head coach, and I trust the offensive staff. I trust Michael and the offensive staff that they’ll do a good job doing it. And if they do a good job as an offensive staff and I can do a better job as an offensive coach, it gives us a better chance of winning. But the answer to your first question is it’ll definitely help.
Q. If he could have gotten a head coaching job, would he go somewhere where he could call plays?
COACH WEIS: Contractually he would not have been able to do that.
Q. It’s got to be asked, I guess, I don’t know if you’ll answer, but video spying, the Patriots stuff…
COACH WEIS: It has nothing to do with Notre Dame football. Nothing.
Q. One of the things you mentioned in the self evaluation process is you needed to be more approachable. Did that evaluation come from the players…
COACH WEIS: I talked to former players and current players, and I think the biggest issue as I looked at this is if you’re playing freshmen and sophomores, it’s not the same as when you’re playing juniors and seniors. The maturity level of the players is not the same.
So you can’t take for granted that 18 and 19 year olds are the same as 21 and 22 year olds as far as how you can coach them and the maturity level. You know, I never looked at it from that perspective before. But if you think about it, a kid right out of high school is not the same as somebody who’s been weathered for four years in the program.
So therefore as I look at it, we’re going to be playing those kids, and a lot of those freshmen and sophomores that you played last year are really only in the program for the second or third year, might have only played for one year. And I just felt that too many times when a guy makes a mistake, the only thing they’re concerned about is getting yelled at, versus when you make a mistake, being concerned about letting your team down.
So I’d like to move in the direction that if a guy made a mistake he was more concerned that he was letting his teammates down than worrying about the fear of is Weis going to yell at me. The fear of a kid, the younger guys, too many times they play with that mentality. So what do you do? You get it so that they know you better so if you yell at them they know that it’s not personal.
Q. In retrospect, you coached 15 years in the NFL, and when you came here, you did have more of a junior senior type of team. Do you feel that might have been your biggest adjustment coming into the college mentality?
COACH WEIS: The first two years were a little bit easier to be honest with you because when you’re playing with older guys, they’ve already been through that process. You can be harder on them because they’re older and they’ve been more weathered. I played a lot more younger guys this year, and I think in self evaluation, which is what you’re talking about right now, I don’t think the freshmen and sophomores are really quite ready for the full load, so to speak. I think you have to — they’re not going to change. You’re going to bring another group of freshmen next year. They’re still going to be freshmen. You’re not going to change, you’ve got to be the one that changes.
Q. It appears that the three baseball players, Evan Sharpley, Golden Tate, Eric Maust will all be pretty major figures there. Is there any change in their spring with the work they’re going to be doing for the football team?
COACH WEIS: They’re with football through January, and then beginning of February the deal that we have is that they will go through the month of February and spring break with baseball. And then I’m going to go meet with (Notre Dame head baseball) Coach (Dave) Schrage after spring break is over and see where they are as it relates to baseball. So if they’re major factors, then I’ll let them play a lot of baseball and a little football. If they’re not major factors, it’ll be just the opposite.
So let’s find out where we are. I think that it’s a little premature for Dave to sit there and say what their roles are right now. But my feeling is if you’re in good standing academically and are a major factor in another sport, I’m going to let you play the other sport. If you’re not a major factor, then you go there when you can. That’s where we are.
Q. With respect to Pat (Kuntz) and Will (Yeatman), can you say how optimistic you are with those guys, what level of expectation you have?
COACH WEIS: Actually it’s almost like I’m reading it verbatim, Brian. What can I say on this? This is what I can say. I hope they’re back with us, and that’s as much as I can say. Hopeful. I’m hopeful.
Q. Can you kind of talk about the dynamic between Jon and Corwin — without having seen it, can you anticipate what that will be like? This is a guy who has run his defenses and now he’s essentially stepped back from that.
COACH WEIS: I’ve been involved with staffs that this dynamic has occurred before and it’s always worked out a positive, not a negative. I think the most important thing is the chemistry has to start before you even start working together to know that you’re going to bounce things off of each other.
Corwin is calling the defense, but I think that you need somebody to lean on, and I think when you don’t have somebody to lean on, okay, it’s not really a healthy thing. When you’re not leaning on somebody — I know as a play caller myself, I’ve always performed the best when there was at least one person I would lean on, both leading up to a game and the game itself, and I think that John will be a perfect person to fill that role.
Q. It’s sort of a thing it seems like you’re saying where Jon was available, so sort of bully for us as opposed to Corwin needs some help?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think when you’re losing a veteran coach like Bill, you’d better go get a veteran coach. When you’re losing a guy with that much experience, the last thing you want to do is bring in some young guy and hang Corwin out to dry. When you’re losing a veteran idea guy, I think you’d better go get a veteran idea guy, and we were fortunate for this guy to be available.
I mean, he was rumored for about a zillion different jobs to be honest with you, and one of the reasons he was holding off all those different jobs is because this was one that looked like it was going to work.
Q. What is it like to match wits against Jon Tenuta head-to-head? What’s he bring and what’s his style?
COACH WEIS: I’m glad he’s on our side. I’ve talked to several people that say if you can get this guy — everyone knows about his aggressive blitzes and everything like that, but the one thing he is, he is very well respected by his players, and he’s a very good Xs and Os guy. That’s before you even get into the mentality of being aggressive. I like him.
Q. Can you talk about what Jon’s like personally, that you want him to be with the players more? Is he more like Corwin, a friendly, outgoing guy?
COACH WEIS: He hasn’t been here one day yet.
Q. From what you know.
COACH WEIS: Well, I can’t say that. He has been here one day. I’ll get a better feel for that after he’s here.
One thing I’m going to do, Brian (Hardin) and I talked about it, is when he gets here that week — he gets here, like he starts on the 18th, someday that week we’ll get a press conference where you guys can ask him these questions yourself because I’d like to get to know the guy a little bit more before I start making an evaluation of that.
Q. You had a lot of transfers from the school. Does that affect your dynamic with the players this season?
COACH WEIS: No.
Q. Just wondering if you’re concerned with transfers and losing kids here and there, what effect that can have on the APR (Academic Progress Rate) and your graduation rate?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that what happens is when you start getting a whole bunch of good players in at different positions, in almost every case where a kid went to transfer, it’s because somebody younger than them had moved ahead of them in the depth chart. Now, when a kid — before I kid goes to transfer, I try to come back and explain to him the value of a Notre Dame education, and say that you are where you are in the depth chart because a guy that’s younger than you is playing better than you. But I still try to emphasize the value of a Notre Dame education.
Some players are not patient enough or not willing to accept the fact that when we make a depth chart it’s made off of objectivity, going by what we see. They’re not patient enough so they decide to go somewhere else. Will it have some minor negative residual effect APR wise, probably, because you lose a point when a guy transfers to another school.
These guys will all go somewhere and graduate because they all can read and write, that’s not the issue. As long as they graduate within six years, you don’t lose that value. So the negative residual will just be the point that you end up losing when they transfer and go to another school.
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