Nov. 15, 2005
COACH Charlie Weis: Syracuse has recently gotten the best of Notre Dame the last two times we’ve played them, including a blowout two years ago at the Carrier Dome 38 12. Rest assured, we’ll be spending a lot of time reminiscing over that game.
Coach Robinson, we talk about guys wearing Super Bowl rings, he’s got multiple rings of his own, from coaching the NFL for 14 years. Here’s a guy that’s been running defense at a high level for a long time, and you can see why their defense is vastly improved. In fact, they’re on pace to improve in every ranking in the NCAA in every defensive category from last year to this year.
He runs the defense. The defense is currently ranked sixth in the country, 163 yards a game, third down conversions 32 percent of the time, and they’ve also turned the ball over five times in the red zone, which is a concern of mine.
The other thing that concerns me with their defense other than the weak side linebacker (Tommy) Harris, No. 92, who missed two games with an abdominal strain, every starter on defense has played on every game, and he’s played seven out of nine. You have great unity on that defensive group. I mean, their defensive line, you’ve got (James) Wyche and (DeAndre) LaCaille. LaCaille has seven sacks himself. He’s a hustler all over the field, along with (Chris) Thorner and (Kader) Drame. The linebacker I already mentioned, about Harris missing two games, it was Rutgers and Pittsburgh, with an abdominal strain, but (Kelvin) Smith is in the middle and (Kellen) Pruitt is the other linebacker, and then at safeties, it all starts with (Anthony) Smith at free safety who’s leading the country, by the way, in interceptions. It’s the same Smith who had two interceptions against us in 2003, and you’ve seen Smith, I’m going to talk about blocked punts this year, as well. He starts at free safety along with (Dowayne) Davis at strong and then you’ve got (Reggie) McCoy and (Tanard) Jackson as the corners, and when they go to nickel as a matter of fact, it’s Jackson, McCoy play along with (Steve) Gregory. Gregory is the other corner at starter. McCoy comes in at nickel.
On offense they also have a coach who’s coached in the NFL for a decade, Brian Pariani. You ought to know him from when he was with the 49ers and the Broncos. He was with the Broncos for a long time. The one thing, you look for positives and negatives, but the one thing is they lead the entire nation in red zone offense. They’re scoring 93 percent of the time they get into the red zone.
You have two quarterbacks you have to be concerned with. (Joe) Fields started recently. Their shorter quarterback is a righty who’s a threat with passing, and then (Perry) Patterson, the big lefty, 6’4″, 250, he’s not afraid to run it, either. He has three rushing touchdowns this season, as well, but here’s a guy who’s thrown for over 3,000 yards in his career.
(Damien) Rhodes is their No. 1 back. He’s got closing in on 4,000 all purpose yards. I think it’s over 3,800 as a matter of fact, with 53 more yards, he goes past Art Monk, and the last I checked, Art Monk was a pretty good player. He’d go past Art Monk as fifth all time in history at Syracuse.
He has a chance to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the season in addition to being second on the team in receptions. Backup (Kareem) Jones, he’s also their kick returner and he’s averaging over 24 yards a kick return.
The thing about their fullback and tight end is they’re all big. They’re big bodies. The fullback (Stephen) McDonald is 6 foot, 250, and you have two big tight ends, (Joseph) Kowalewski is 6’4″, 250, and (Alex) Shor is 6’8″, 255, so it’s a little bit bigger bodies than we’re used to at both the fullback and tight end positions.
(Tim) Lane and (Rice) Moss are their two leading receivers. Lane is their leading receiver, and Moss, he’s good in the team receptions, I already talked about Rhodes being No. 2. And then they have two freshmen they play afterwards, (Nicholas) Chestnut and (Bruce) Williams, and Williams came in last week and took over the punt returns and averaged 11 yards a return.
Offensive line is averaging over 100 yards a game rushing. You have (Kurt) Falke and (Carroll) Madison and (Justin) Outten, (Steve) Franklin and (Quinn) Ojinnaka, obviously they do a fairly good job running the ball. On special teams they blocked a punt, they blocked a field goal and they blocked a PAT. Once again, I mentioned Smith who seems to have a habit of making big plays. He blocked a punt this year, and that gives him six blocks for his career.
Their punter/kicker has a very strong leg, (Brendan) Carney. He’s averaging over 43 yards a punt, and he has 12 touchbacks on kickoffs, and they have two guys that handle the place kick. Barker has been more of their field goal guy where (Ricky) Krautman has been more their extra point guy.
Now, one last thing before I turn this over to you. Obviously this is the last home game for the season, and I know that one of our big deals for the team this year, this week, is honoring our seniors, any fourth or fifth year guy. I know that there’s potential for some of these fourth year guys to be back here for a fifth year; we’re not addressing that at this time. I just read you off all of Syracuse’s guys who we respect a great deal.
The guys I respect in addition are Beidatsch and Bent and Boland and Bonelli and Cardillo and Carney and Chervanick and Fasano and Fitzgerald and Fitzpatrick and Freeman and Frome and Brandon Harris and Hoyte and Jenkins and Landri and LeVoir and Mattes and Mays and McKnight, Matt Mitchell, Mooney, Morton, O’Hara, Raridon and Richardson and Salvador and Santucci and Schiccatano and Shelton and Dan Stevenson and Stovall and Whitney and Woods because they’re all the guys that are going to be graduating here this year or have already graduated and going to complete their fourth or fifth years here in May and never step on this field again after this Saturday. And to me that’s very important that they be recognized at this time.
Q. You just mentioned the seniors. Can you talk about the class as a whole? Some of these kids, the fifth year guys played for three different head coaches.
COACH Charlie Weis: That would be really tough, really tough when there’s a continuous break in continuity, and that’s why you have to really admire their intestinal fortitude because it would have been very easy to throw in the towel, enough is enough after a while. But they’ve maintained their persistence and their hard work, and their perseverance is paying off and hopefully rewarding them with a pretty decent senior year.
Q. You had mentioned, too, that at some point in the winter that there was kind of a breaking down period and so forth. When did you were the seniors the first group that kind of pulled that and started becoming leaders and so forth in terms of your way?
COACH Charlie Weis: The easiest thing for them to do was to buy into it the fastest because this is, in many of their cases, the guys I just mentioned, this is their last shot. We talked about this right after the game last week, that for all these guys this might be the last time they’ll ever be able to walk on that field in front of family and friends, and when you’re in that position in the off season, you realize this is it, it’s a little easier for you to buy into it faster because you have no choice. It’s going to be that way or you might have as well not be here.
Q. Coach Robinson, you mentioned having faced him in the NFL. What are your memories of him having gone against him and how has he adapted his schemes to the college game?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s a very good coach, and he’s very close with Pete (Carroll). I don’t know if you knew that, but they go all the way back from high school, right through college. They coached together. I remember years ago they were on the same staff for the Jets, and their philosophies are very similar.
Q. I know that Brady (Quinn) is mentioned being up for the Maxwell Award; he said, no big deal, he’s not even thinking about this. Do you have any thoughts on him being a candidate for that?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’ll worry about individual awards after the season is over. Right now the team is just focused on worrying about beating Syracuse this week, about playing our best game and our last home game and the home version of the second half of the season with a bang.
Q. Is there a line there that you have to worry about as far as getting the team to play for the seniors but not have it be too emotional for the seniors?
COACH Charlie Weis: I have a seven minute tape that I’m going to show them here about the 2003 game here at 2:00 o’clock, and that will be a very humbling experience for them and a quick reminder that this game is really about playing Syracuse as much as it is about being respectful to the seniors. You’ve got to respect your opponent.
Q. You talked earlier in the season about making Notre Dame a tough place to play. Do you bring in the fact that this would give you a home winning record, which they haven’t had in the past couple years?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s important for us to establish the fact that we can win at home. But I give a lot of those accolades to our student body and to our fans in general because by reputation, and I don’t see these things arbitrarily, by reputation this place has been known as a quiet place to play, and it certainly hasn’t been that way this year, and kudos to our students and to the fans for making it a little tougher on our opponents.
Q. Talking about Coach Robinson, do you know him very well personally?
COACH Charlie Weis: We know each other. We’ve gone against each other a fair share of times. We’re cordial. He’ll say, hey, Charlie. We’ve seen each other a bunch of times but we haven’t worked on the same staff.
Unless you’ve worked on the same staff, there are very few guys that you get very close with. There are the exceptions. I’m very close with John Fox, I’m very close with Andy Reed, who I didn’t work with either one of those guys, but in most cases, the guys you’re closest with are the guys who you actually worked with or for.
Q. Coach Robinson was talking yesterday about the fact that the things he’s had a problem with at Syracuse is the fact that going from option style offense to the West Coast schematic change. Do you think that you inherited a better situation here just because the West Coast offense
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t know what the West Coast offense is anymore to tell you the truth. The West Coast offense really is what the San Francisco 49ers ran in the late 80s to early 90s. Everything now is just an offspring of that. Everyone has their own adaptation. Philadelphia, Green Bay, you can go right down the list of all these people running a West Coast offense. Atlanta, they look nothing alike. That’s really in name only. It’s not the true Bill Walsh three step drop step-drop-hitch and diagonals that they throw all the time. As far as it related to me and the people here, we had especially on offense, so many guys returning that it was very easy to mold those guys into a system, and I’ve always been one to find out what your guys can do and that’s what you do. So my philosophy is a little bit different.
I can put in whatever I feel necessary to give us the best chance based on what I feel our guys are capable of doing.
Q. If that had been an option, would that have been really hard to change right away?
COACH Charlie Weis: If I think about an option quarterback, he’d be playing another position.
Q. You’ve worked very hard on keeping your team focused and on an even keel. Can you imagine what Pete Carroll has to deal with with 31, 32 straight victories?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, Pete has got it even tougher. Not only that, but they’re the only show in town, too, when it comes to football. Like here you’ve got the Bears that are having success and you’ve got the Colts having success, so at least there’s football distractions within close proximity. USC and UCLA are the only shows in town, and you have to admire, really, the job that guys do, that they can keep the focus of their team when you have a lot of potential distractions. Obviously they’re doing something right.
Q. How do you think you would deal with that? I mean, is that something that you’ve thought through?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ll tell you what, I’m from New Jersey. I don’t know how good a fit I’d be out there in LA. Pete fits it in really well there. He’s a California guy, and obviously it really helps because he’s the bar. It’s what everyone is trying to get to.
Q. Did you know Coach Parcells’ brother who recently passed away?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ve known his family; yes it was a tough day for Coach Parcells. I’m sure yesterday he went through both the emotions of the lows and the highs. Going to the funeral yesterday afternoon and then winning that game at the end of the game, you want to talk about an emotional roller coaster. That’s tough.
Q. I’ve noticed a lot of New England Patriots doing a lot of commercials. There must have been a lot of commercials during the off season. For somebody that is so cognizant of distractions, do you think that maybe they’ve created a few distractions for themselves?
COACH Charlie Weis: If you notice, most of those commercials are team related. When they make a commercial, you see the one Tommy (Brady) is doing with all the offensive linemen, it’s still selling the same message, and they’re making a few bucks in the process. I’ve got no problem with that.
Q. This will be the fifth consecutive home game. Is that beneficial in terms of continuity, in terms of not having to worry about traveling and all the things that go with it?
COACH Charlie Weis: The only problem was there were byes intertwined in that. So we’ve been home forever, but in there we also have had two sets of unorthodox weeks, a no game week followed by a long week. So there’s the flipside of that in both ways.
Right now, like I said, our next game is at home and we’re just happy to be playing at home, but we realize that Syracuse isn’t going to just come in here and lay down now. They’re going to come in here trying to beat us, and the last two times that we played against them, they have done that, so they’re going to try to make it three in a row.
Q. Is travelling a distraction when there is travel?
COACH Charlie Weis: Travelling can be a positive. If you make it into a distraction, it’s going to be a distraction. Normally when you get the whole team in the hotel and they have nothing else to do but be focused in on the game, a lot of times that can be a very strong positive.
Q. I assume you’re happy with the way this team has shut out home distractions?
COACH Charlie Weis: So far. The only distraction that was created was really my fault to be honest with you. Way back early in the year when we lost to Michigan State, not that we didn’t deserve to lose, but that was the head coach’s fault.
Q. You mentioned Trevor Laws on Sunday as one of the guys that had a good game against Navy. Can you talk about his performance this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: All I can say is those interior guys very often go unnoticed, and you can throw (Derek) Landri in there. Those two guys who have been playing most of the reps, and (Brian) Beidatsch takes a little bit of heat off both of them, backing up both of them, but the defensive tackles are the most unglamorous position you can have, other than maybe offensive guards that no one ever notices. At least the center touches the ball whenever you play. Those are the guys that are getting double teamed and caught and everything like that, and all three of those guys have had pretty solid years for us.
Q. You mentioned they made it easier for everyone else. How specifically did they do that, by tying up people?
COACH Charlie Weis: When you’re penetrating or when you’re knocking people back or when you’re beating guys across their face and all of a sudden you use up multiple blockers that are supposed to go on the linebackers but can’t get on the linebackers because of the havoc that the inside guys are playing, it’s a linebacker’s best friend, defensive linemen that are using up multiple blockers.
Q. He’s got a wrestling background. Did that help him kind of grasp the nasty mentality sooner than other people?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think he already had it. See, some of these guys already were like that. I have to say the same thing with Derek (Landri). Derek is a very nasty, ornery person by nature, which is a good thing when you’re a defensive lineman. Those guys have had solid years for us.
Q. Can you talk about DJ (Fitzpatrick) this year and the progression he’s made in the kicking game? His numbers appear to be up in just about every category.
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s consistent. The thing is he’s been asked to do a lot. Very seldom do you have a guy who’s handling the punting, the kicking and the field goal kicking. I know we’ve spotted him a couple times, Carl (Gioia) got a few of the kickoffs, but for the most part it’s been all DJ all the time, and that is very taxing. That’s why it was nice in those bye weeks that we did have, I didn’t let him kick at all during those weeks so he could try to have his leg fresh down the stretch here.
But he is a guy that because he is so multidimensional he’ll wind up being in somebody’s camp next year because he is a guy who can do everything.
Q. He came here as a walk on. Certainly walk ons have a pretty good history here in the kicking game. Talk about the walk ons that you have on this team and the importance of the contribution that they make every day in practice even though we don’t necessarily see them.
COACH Charlie Weis: I’d like to talk about them as a group, not as individuals. You have to understand what really a walk on is at Notre Dame. This isn’t every school now.
First of all, they are asked to do absolutely everything that a scholarship guy is asked to do as far as time commitments go. They don’t get excused from this because you’re a walk on. Then on top of it they’re paying for school. So they’re doing every bit the same as Brady Quinn is doing, but they’re paying for it. So they’re paying to go to school and they’re doing the same time commitments.
I always say when people say the kid got a scholarship, I say, well, those scholarships are earned. It isn’t an easy job that they have. These walk ons are doing the same job without getting paid. It’s a tough task.
This is not an easy school on top of it. So you have to give them a lot of credit.
Q. You want to set some standards for the team as far as performance and work ethic. Do you feel like progress has been to the point where you can be comfortable in preparation for Navy and Syracuse and Stanford knowing that they have it at a high level and they keep it there every week?
COACH Charlie Weis: You never can let up on the players. It doesn’t make a difference what level you’re coaching at. If I were in New England today, we’d be putting pressure on the players. You always put pressure on the players to make sure that there’s never a letup because when you let up as a coach, you’re just opening the door where there’s a possibility of a letdown.
Regardless of how mature your team is, you never can let up.
Q. Following up to that, you mentioned on Sunday that in a college game you had a little bit more time than you’re used to. Is the college game a little bit more difficult from the perspective of if you lose four, five, six games in the NFL, you can still make the playoffs and still maybe have a Super Bowl run, and here there’s no margin for error?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s funny you said that because my wife said the exact same thing to me last night. We had this conversation, that despite the fact the season is so much shorter, you lose one game, you could be out of it, especially watching how this whole thing is going down the stretch.
Obviously we had our two blunders earlier, but just watching how it’s all going down, you’ve got two teams that are undefeated. What if one of them gets beat here? What if Fresno beats USC? What if Texas loses? It’s amazing how when you come down the stretch how tight it can actually end up being.
We just had the same conversation, that it’s a little different than, like you said, we’ve lost two games a year for the last two years in New England, and still, we’re Super Bowl champs. You really have less room for slip ups.
Q. I also wondered, the last couple of weeks in the NFL you had a situation where John Gruden went for two when the ball was at the 1 and Dick Vermiel went for it from the 1 and even Pete Carroll. Everyone is saying it’s a courageous call. Have you put yourself in that situation where if you were in there, it’s just one yard, would you go for it?
COACH Charlie Weis: I would probably kick, that’s what I would probably do. As much of a gambler as I am, I always would have confidence if the game went into overtime that we could score. Usually the reason why you do that is because either, A, you don’t believe you’re ever going to be able to stop them if it goes into overtime; or B, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to score if it goes into overtime. Why else would you do it? If you don’t end up getting in, you lose. That point gets you a tie. At worse, you’re tied.
I’d say by nature, I would play a tie and figure that we’d be able to win the shootout, so to speak, in hockey.
Q. In college both teams get possession…
COACH Charlie Weis: I understand that. I have to believe that we’re going to score when we get the ball. That’s what I believe.
Now, unfortunately I had one and we didn’t score. But I’m still hedging on that if it gets to overtime, I’m going to have to think that most times we’re going to score.
Q. At the pros there’s a chance you might not get the ball.
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s right.
Q. You’re willing to take that chance?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m willing to take that. As a matter of fact, in college it’s more fair because in college you know you’re always going to get a shot, whereas in the pros you don’t know if you’re going to get a shot. That’s the tough part about the pro system. A lot of times it’s decided by the coin flip.
Q. Would you have an ideal balance about what would be right for the overtime system between college and football?
COACH Charlie Weis: I like the college overtime system actually better than the pro overtime system, whereas I like the pro replay system better than the college replay system. So it always depends on the subject matter.
Q. You’ve already made clear how much you respect the seniors on this team. You’ve also made it clear the focus is on Syracuse Saturday. With that in mind, do you do anything before or after the game to honor the seniors?
COACH Charlie Weis: We try to win. That’s how you honor them. There would be nothing worse than to honor a group of guys with a loss. That’s the whole point is to respect your opponent, know your opponent, know the strengths, know the weaknesses, play for your seniors.
Q. The last few years Notre Dame home games have always been played, although sometimes a little rainy, in very pleasant weather. Acknowledging long term forecasts are not always accurate, it looks like it may be cold, a little snow. At what point does weather become a factor in a game and when can you use it to your advantage?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it’s a factor right now. For example, I’m not going outside today because it’s 52 degrees and rainy and windy. That doesn’t help me when it’s going to be 40 degrees on Saturday. I want them to be cold. I want them to go outside and practice in the cold. 52 degrees doesn’t do it for me. I want it to be cold, so we’ll make sure that we don’t mess up our preparation today.
We’ll go indoors, but my intent is the next two days it’s supposed to drop significantly. As a matter of fact, it’s supposed to warm up a little bit for Saturday from what it’s supposed to be like on Thursday. To me it’s more important to be out when it’s 34 degrees on Thursday than anything else because the one thing we haven’t had we’ve practiced in rain, we’ve practiced in wind, but we haven’t had cold yet. So that’s what we need to do is get out there in that cold.
Q. And what impact can cold have on you come Saturday?
COACH Charlie Weis: Not too much on me.
Q. On the players or the way you call plays, what impact does it have?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’ll be honest with you, wind has a lot more impact than cold does. Wind is a significantly greater factor than cold. I mean, snow, rain, those things are not as important as wind because wind affects the passing game and it affects the kicking game.
Q. You were part of one of the most famous snow games of all time. Did the snow have an impact on that game?
COACH Charlie Weis: It had an impact on the game because we actually went ahead and called two minutes just to get the game tied. No one could pass rush. So the mudders performed the best in that game. We had a guy who is playing for the Vikings, Jermaine Wiggins, he had about 100 catches in that game because he’s a mudder, he’ll be the first one to admit it. It had an impact because no one could pass rush.
But that day was very mild. It was in the 30s, there was very little wind. It was just snowing and snowing and snowing, whereas a few years ago we played Tennessee on a Saturday night playoff game; now, that was cold. It was very, very cold. I don’t know what it was, but it was in minus degrees real temperature before the wind chill. It was cold.
And then, of course, we had guys like David Givens going out without undershirts on to show how tough they are.
Q. Can you just talk about what Mark LeVoir has brought to the offensive line this year, and has he really kind of emerged as the leader of that line?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think there’s any one leader of that offensive line. That offensive line has six guys that have been playing together all year long, and it’s a very cohesive group. They all stick up for each other. He’s a big body who’s very strong and has been playing there for a long time and is a very consistent player. And that’s one of the greatest compliments you can give to our offensive linemen; I think they’re all very consistent.
Q. When you first came in here, did you look to him a little bit more because he’s had all those starts?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, I didn’t look to anybody. I was going to go by what I saw because if I went by somebody just because they started a whole bunch of games, if I wanted to move them out and move somebody else in, you just have to go by what you see. What I’m seeing is he’s starting right tackle and he’s played every play.
Q. Rashon Powers-Neal, do you talk to him at all, and is there any chance that he comes back this week being senior week?
COACH Charlie Weis: There’s a possibility, and yes, I have talked to him.
Q. I see you’ve done your homework on Syracuse; you were giving some stats there that I wasn’t even aware of and I’ve covered a few games here.
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m good for something then.
Q. I just want to follow up on a question that you were asked earlier in terms of the transition that you’ve undergone as opposed to the one that Greg has undergone here, and that is conceptually, did your offensive line, for instance, understand the kind of teams that you wanted to run when you came in, or did you have to go back with them from square one and teach them how to block, for instance, or was it easier that way?
COACH Charlie Weis: Oh, they had the concepts down, but schematically, we’re talking night and day difference. What they were doing versus what we were doing schematically is night and day.
Now, technique wise there was a lot of things that they were doing that there were similarities, but when you’re coming in and putting in all terminology alone, that is enough to cause great confusion, and they’ve handled it very well.
Q. And just to follow up, I see that you have three former college head coaches on your staff. Did that aid you in any way in making the transition to the college game, and B, how has that worked out with so many head chefs in the kitchen now?
COACH Charlie Weis: That was one of the major things coming in when I was hiring a staff is I wanted guys like that because I didn’t want everyone to be yes men, and what ends up happening is if you surround yourself with guys that have not been in that position, you have no one to turn to when you want to ask a question, and everyone just says yes to everything you say. How are you going to get any better? I certainly realize I don’t have all the answers. It’s been a great, great aid to me to have resources like that on our staff.
Q. I have a couple questions for you. First of all, you mentioned that you were going to talk to your team about the 2003 game, and I believe it was Brandon Hoyte yesterday, somebody said the 2003 outcome could provide motivation this year, and he said no, that was in the past.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, he’s wrong. You can tell him he’s wrong, he just doesn’t know it yet. He’s going to be watching it at about 2:30.
Q. As the coach, how do you balance how much you look back with how much you try to keep your team focus forward? Where is the line there?
COACH Charlie Weis: Each week you have to decide what tactic you’re going to take in your presentation to your team, and a quick reminder a lot of these guys are the same guys playing, by the way; it isn’t like it’s all new guys. I mean, they’ll see a lot of the same faces. A quick reminder to what the team we’re playing against stands for can be a bit refreshing sometimes.
Q. Do you watch any Texas film in preparation for this week, given Coach Robinson last season was the defensive coordinator in Texas?
COACH Charlie Weis: As a matter of fact, our staff did spend a little time watching that Bowl game between Michigan and Texas.
Q. And how much are you able to rely on Mike Haywood? How much can he contribute given he was on the same staff with Coach Robinson? Does it hinder his contribution, the fact that you run different types of teams, or can you rely on what Coach Robinson did in practice?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it helps, but football evolves very quickly, and especially with a guy with the experience that Coach Robinson has, he could tweak and make changes and go against Tennessee very easily. It’s too easy to fall into that trap and just get into a comfort zone of believing that you’ve get them down just because somebody coached on the same staff. I think you have to utilize that as a resource; it would be foolish not to do that. But at the same time, I don’t think I can in any way expect to walk into the game and say that’s what they’re going to do the whole game.
Q. You talked about the passing defense and the improvements they’ve made. It’s parallel to the way your offense has improved. What’s the key to be able to come in and jump start a unit and make that dramatic improvement on either side of the ball?
COACH Charlie Weis: You’re saying for us, for us at Notre Dame?
Q. Well, Syracuse, what they’ve done on defense is similar to what you’ve done on offense, you’ve come in and really…
COACH Charlie Weis: Okay, I’ve got you. Well, what happens is too many times guys get hired as head coaches and don’t utilize their expertise when they get hired. When Notre Dame hired me, they were counting on their offense showing improvement because that’s what my expertise was.
Well, when Syracuse hired Coach Robinson, I am sure they expected the defense to be vastly improved, and fortunately they have accomplished that. The biggest mistake a head coach can make, especially a new one coming in, is not using their own expertise to at least help that side of the ball walking in the door.
Q. How valuable has Jeff Samardzija been for you guys this season and why do you think there’s such a marked improvement from the past few years?
COACH Charlie Weis: He already was a good receiver, just he’s had more opportunities this year. Remember, when we started off the year, he was behind Rhema (McKnight). He was one of the beneficiaries of an injury. Rhema got hurt, all of a sudden he’s in there and he’s really thrived in that role. He was just one of those guys chomping at the bit waiting for an opportunity to present itself, and fortunately for him and unfortunately for Rhema, it did present itself and he’s really flourished and thrived.
Q. Do you attribute that to all his hard work?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think he’s already a gifted athlete. We’ve already documented about his multiple talents and skills at different sports. On top of everything else, he’s a fierce competitor, and although he’s a quiet guy by nature, his competitiveness and his athletic ability give him a chance to be successful right off the bat.
Q. You just got a brand new 10 year contract. Will the job security, knowing that you have that, make your job any easier, or does it even factor in when you’re going out on game day?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’re just talking about Syracuse, we’re not talking about contracts.
Q. Then on that note, when you see Syracuse and you watch the struggles that you’ve seen the offense go through in working with Coach Robinson, do you ever feel for Coach Robinson, trying to get a new coach in the college game like you are, do you ever talk with him about that or anything of that nature?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, I don’t feel for him and I’m sure he wouldn’t feel for me. We have enough headaches on our own. I wish him well, just not well this week.
Q. Could you talk about Smith and why he does so well, why he has had the picks he has this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: Why did he have two picks the last time, too? He’s one of those guys that has a nose for the football. Sometimes the ball gravitates to certain people. Sometimes I don’t even know why. You could say, well, it’s coverage schemes, but sometimes being in the right place at the right time, but for some reason the ball comes to certain people on defense. It always has seemed to be that way, and he happens to be one of those guys.