Nov. 21, 2006
Q. You talked about how you started getting ready last week. When you first got here, you mentioned USC right away. How much time do you spend during the season, during spring ball, pre?season, all that, thinking about this game?
COACH WEIS: I usually spend the pre?season for the most part ?? in training camp I spend for the most part getting ready for the first couple of games early in the year. I think every team’s personality changes from the start of the year to the end of the year.
So to sit there for a team that you’re playing game 12 and spend much time on their personnel or their schemes really doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense because teams evolve within a year. Like what you see right now from most teams won’t be exactly the same based on a change of personnel, and what they their strengths and weaknesses.
I really don’t spend a whole heck of a lot of time on teams we play later on in our schedule other than make sure I know what happened last year and make sure that I know what recruits they signed or what change in personnel they have. Like if a guy went out early for the draft, how that affects their depth chart.
By the time we play them, usually those things have taken on their own personality and I really don’t spend much time on them.
Q. Wasn’t a point maybe a couple weeks before Army you began peeking ahead to this game?
COACH WEIS: Well, see, when you get within striking range of these games, that’s a little different because now once you get within three weeks of playing each opponent, looking ?? starting to get preliminary feelings on the personnel of the teams, now their personality has already taken place. I do that all the time. It isn’t just with USC. I do that on a regular basis. I did it with Army. I did it with North Carolina. I did it with Air Force. Did it with all of them.
Q. Is it harder with the players to take this ?? I know every game is the same, but to take this as the same game as all the others?
COACH WEIS: Yes, I’d say that’s a fair question because of the magnitude of the game. Besides the fact that it’s a big rivalry, the magnitude of the game is so much more. That and the fact that although I’ve only been here going on my second season, the guys here haven’t beaten USC. I mean, you’d like to figure that you walked out of the door having beaten them once. The magnitude of the game, because of the fact that you have two teams with only one loss, combined with the natural rivalry that it already is, combined with the fact that USC has had the best of us recently, it all builds all together.
Q. When you were asked about your job here, you always say, I haven’t done anything yet. Clearly after two years, you have the team back to where a lot of alumni would like to see it, top 10 for a second straight year. There’s been a lot of accomplishments. Do you think the one thing aside from a national championship that you’re missing is a (indiscernible) victory? You’ve had some wins but haven’t had that win that everybody says, Wow, that was a great victory?
COACH WEIS: There’s very few victories that I don’t consider great victories. If you glamorize one game, then you’re not giving just due to all the other games. There are very few games that we’ve won that I didn’t say, Well, that was a great victory. I mean, we’ve had two dramatic comebacks this year. I’d say they were great victories. How could you not say that Michigan State and UCLA in the fourth quarter were not great victories? You couldn’t feel much better than the euphoria after those two games.
Just because it’s not USC or Michigan or Ohio State or one of the teams that are considered the creme de la creme, I think there’s been some victories here that you couldn’t convince our team or players that they weren’t great victories.
Q. More in terms of you beat Michigan last year, they were No. 3. They end up 7?5. You haven’t had the win that people would say, when they’re arguing Notre Dame should go to a championship game, they should be in the championship game because of this game?
COACH WEIS: I think with all these teams that are trying to put theirself in place to be in the picture, okay, all these one?loss teams that are trying to put their place to be in the picture, I mean, everyone could try to politic and show their bias one way or another.
Still the bottom line is there’s a blemish on your record. Our blemish was the loss to Michigan at home rather convincingly. Now, the naysayers ?? let’s talk the pros and cons. On the one side you have people say, That was in September. They’re a lot better team now. If they go into USC and beat them convincingly, shouldn’t they come into the conversation? The flipside of that, Well, you had your opportunity. You had your opportunity. You lost a game at home.
When I’m so prejudiced and biased toward Notre Dame, why really go there? Every team that has a blemish can sit there and say why they should be in there. The bottom line is, if you wouldn’t have lost, you’d be like Ohio State, guaranteed a spot. Ohio State is guaranteed a spot and deservedly so.
Q. Coaches a lot of times say it’s hard to get teams up emotionally game after game. Do you think right now you have the advantage because this is the game ?? the second Army was over, your team was up there? USC has California, three games in a row, big games for them.
COACH WEIS: You have to give Pete a little bit more credit than that. He has his team in position to play for a national championship. This isn’t just another game for him. This game is the one that could put him over the hump. I mean, he’s really close to Michigan right now in the BCS ratings. If he goes and does a number on us, that might be in your to put him up to two.
There’s all the motivation in the world for them. There’s absolutely zero chance of them coming in flat against us. It’s just not happening.
Q. When you came in your first press conference, you talked about what kind of team you wanted to have. You talked about having a nasty football team. To what degree have you been able to achieve that level of nastiness?
COACH WEIS: Well, I can tell you that I would not trade these guys on this team for another team regardless of record because these guys have lived, endured my personality and the transformation to follow the leader of the head coach, and have done it very professionally, as well.
I could tell you that any time you have a team, there’s going to be holes in your team, but I really like this team. Therefore, you talk about how happy I am. If I didn’t like this team, I wouldn’t be very happy about it.
Q. But the question still stands. You talked about a level of nastiness.
COACH WEIS: I think you watch our team play, as the season has gone on, how they compete week in and week out, how few pitfalls they’ve had as far as having peaks and valleys, not fighting through it, I think that they’ve more than passed the test.
Q. Is there a limit to that at a place like Notre Dame where the type of student?athlete that you recruit?
COACH WEIS: I would hope not. I’d hope not, that you could continue to get high?character guys that were good students that played football at the highest level. Usually the ones that play it at the highest level are guys that compete at the highest level. With that comes a temperament. It’s just part of the game.
I don’t know how many frontline football players you can talk about that have a competitive fire that don’t come across with that nasty element that we were talking about.
Q. When you first came in, you talked about programs that you looked at, at coaches, how they did things. Pete Carroll was one of the guys that came up. When you were still in the pros, he was in college, did you have contact with him or was this just kind of you were watching him from a distance?
COACH WEIS: Pete and I, we knew each other. We were friendly, not friends. He’s very close with our special teams coach. They were pretty good friends. Brad had a very big rooting interest with USC, so therefore I’d follow them. There’s only so much college football you can follow when you’re coaching in the NFL because usually it’s such a time?consuming job, it doesn’t leave you a lot of time to sit there and watch football.
All I know is the guy, in the last 57 games the guy played, they won 54 of them. You think about what I just said now. 54 out of 57. I mean, three losses by a combined eight points over that span. I mean, if you give me that record right now, I’ll take the next four years off, okay? Go ahead, give me that record right now, I’ll take a little siesta.
Q. One of their players claim that the grass here caused an injury to him. Do you think too much was taken out of it? Are you thinking about the grass height for this game?
COACH WEIS: This is the Midwest, okay? In the Midwest, grass doesn’t grow as high as it does in the South or in warm?weather climates. Therefore, if you cut the grass low early in the year, usually you have no grass left at the end of the year.
I mean, it’s pretty simple ?? a pretty simple concept if you think about it. If we go cut the grass low early in the year, it’s not going to grow as much, then you’re going to be playing on dirt. Because we’re not going to field turf here, last I checked, we’re going to stay on natural grass, was the grass higher than it will be in a lot of places? Yes. Both teams played on the grass. What difference does it make what field you play on? You play on a field, you play on a field.
Q. Your defense, when you look at them, do you feel like there’s still a ceiling, there’s still another gear they have that maybe we haven’t seen to this point?
COACH WEIS: Well, you can’t really tell because they really weren’t threatened very much in the passing game last week. Army was not a team that was really threatening them in the passing game.
Now this team, they’ll threaten them both in the passing and the run game. When you’re going against certain opponents ?? Air Force, predominantly a running team who made some plays in the passing game, but this is a team that can run or throw it.
I think therein lies the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is being able to stop a team that both runs it and throws it at a high level of efficiency.
Q. In your observations in practice, that you’ve seen, your confidence, your feel for your team, do you feel they’re ready to step it up to meet that challenge?
COACH WEIS: I would say yes. If I said anything else, I’d be stupid. But I would definitely say yes because I think our players are still capable of playing their best game. Hopefully that’s the one that comes up this Saturday.
Q. Kicking concerns. Do you have any concerns about how that went, given the last couple games?
COACH WEIS: There’s a couple things. That extra point this week, unlike last week, I can’t attribute that one to Carl alone. He had a lot of help on that one. Our kickoffs, we need to improve our kickoffs because that was not ?? our kickoff coverage wasn’t so hot either. It all starts with the kick.
Is there a concern? Yes.
Q. How difficult is it to prepare ?? to go from a team like Army to a team like USC, where obviously there’s a significant difference in athleticism that you’re dealing with in terms of preparation?
COACH WEIS: Mentally it’s easy to do. Physically is where it’s not easy to do because it’s really tough. They have very good team speed, okay? It’s really tough to go from the level ?? not to be disrespect actual to Army, but let’s use that analogy. To go from the level of athleticism of the Army players to the level of athleticism of the USC players, that is the biggest difference.
The preparation will be easy because psychologically and mentally the players are fired up to play. It’s easy to do those parts. The mental and psychological parts are easy. It’s getting ready for the speed of the game. That is the biggest thing. No matter how hard you try to simulate that, it’s just not the same.
Q. One of the intriguing aspects of this match?up is the head coaches. What do you recall from going head?to?head as coordinators against Pete back in the day? Could you comment generally, you descend from these very two different distinct and different coaching families. Can you discuss the differences in philosophy?
COACH WEIS: First of all, Pete has been a good ?? let’s talk about defensive coordinator, because that is ?? the question ?? even though they have a very good defensive coordinator. When he was both the head coach when I went against him and a coordinator when I went against him, but more importantly I think he’s been ?? he was one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL for a while.
He’s been around for a long time. I remember going against the Jets, watching ?? have Ronnie Lott running all over the place. When they brought him in there from San Francisco… I mean, he’s been a good defensive coordinator that has had the guys fired up and ready to go for some time.
But what he’s really been able to do, even though he had two tours of duty as a head coach in the NFL, he’s been able to take that whole level of excitement that he would have as a coordinator and bring it to the entire team at USC. For that I commend him because that’s easier said than done. It’s one when you only have half the team to worry about to try to get excited to go. You’re the one Xing and Oing them. He’s been able to do it with the entire team.
That and the fact that he’s a tireless recruiter, which is probably my biggest complaint. I wish he’d stay home. Every time I’m on the road, there’s a handful of guys that are out there either coming right before me, right after me, or right on the same day. Unfortunately, he’s one of ’em.
He’s not willing to rest on his laurels and just sit home and take for granted that, hey, this is USC, you want to come here. He’s a very big competitor off the field especially in recruiting as he is on the field.
Last but not least, I think whatever tree you come under, like in my case coming under the Parcells/Belichick tree, that’s where you’re groomed under, therefore you carry a lot of the traits of that tree. I mean, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and I just happen to come under one, he ended up coming under another. I think they both can be very successful. 54 out of 57, 54?3, 57 games, you can sign me up right now.
Q. Did you break even or do a little better?
COACH WEIS: I don’t remember exactly to be honest with you. I’m sure we lost and we won.
Q. I think someone asked Coach after the game on Saturday how your defense evolved. I think he used the term “more of a pressure package.” Can you talk about how the defense has developed, taken on a new identity or changed its identity over the year?
COACH WEIS: I think when you sit in base defense, sit in base defense without mixing it up from coverage to coverage, adding a fair amount of pressure, you play against certain teams that you don’t have a physical advantage over, you’re just asking for trouble.
I think that’s the problem that the defensive staff has from week to week. As an offensive play caller, you can dictate the flow of the game because whatever they do, you could force them into doing some things and just hope that they don’t do them very well. As the defensive play caller, most defensive play callers just adjust to what the offense does.
The really good ones are the ones that say, we’re just going to take it to them just like an offensive guy would. I think you need to be able to mix up those two personalities, those two styles of play. I think that lately we’ve done a little bit of both. That’s led to more success.
Q. Is that kind of a collaboration between yourself and Rick or that is more Rick?
COACH WEIS: What I do is I talk to the defensive staff early in the week and late in the week. Other than that, I watch practice tape and give my thoughts on what I saw.
I’ll come in and say, Hey, you know, we got to take away their wide receivers. If that isn’t a profound statement this week! We don’t want Smith, throw Turner in for that matter. Okay, that’s Football 101. Now what are you going to do about the rest of the guys?
What I do is I’m really big on personnel. That’s what I’m really big on, studying team’s personnel and saying, Don’t let this guy beat us. Then I kind of throw my two cents in of how I think we can do that. They’ll pacify me and make sure those calls are in the game plan.
Q. The defensive crew that you have had, can you talk about their role? Their tackle production, it’s really striking how much more they’re involved in those plays.
COACH WEIS: It’s funny because they play the same amount of plays because they’re basically the same guys. Now the thing is they’re in the backfield so much more. Both of them had seven tackles last week. Look at Landri’s performance. Out of seven tackles, four and a half were for a loss and two sacks. You think about six and a half of your tackles recorded end up being for losses. I mean, that’s a good day at the office.
Q. Is some of that scheme? Are you able to take advantage of their talent more this year?
COACH WEIS: I think they’re both very quick players which gives them an opportunity to penetrate and make some plays.
Q. Terrail Lambert has some high and low moments this year. Where is he now? The angle, going back to Southern California?
COACH WEIS: I’ve been very pleased with the performance of Lambert over the year. I think every corner gives us some plays, but if you would have said to us ?? if I would have said to you at the start of training camp Lambert is our starting corner, he’s going to play pretty solid, you would have looked at me, Lambert, he hasn’t been playing here. I say it to you now, yeah, he’s had a pretty good year.
I think he’ll be really excited about going home to play.
Q. Back to what you said about being big on personnel, needing to prepare for their wide receivers. Is it something that you would consider or have considered doing this week putting your first time wide receivers up against your first team secondary?
COACH WEIS: Not happening. Don’t have enough reps in a week. That’s why you recruit more than three guys. Put the next set of guys in there, give an 8?1, 2?1, 1?1, then you put them out there, try to get body types that are very similar to those guys, speed very similar to those guys. You have two receivers out of the first three that are 6’5″.
I don’t think Samardzija is going to spend a lot of time being Jarret this week. I think he’ll worry about being Samardzija.
Q. Would you say October 15th last year is still the sitting moment for these seniors? Last year also you were talking about you needed two weeks to get these guys prepared to think they could beat this team. It’s a different mindset this year, I’m guessing.
COACH WEIS: I would hope that this year our players are expecting to win versus hoping to win. I would hope that to be the case.
Now, of course, that’s easier said than done because I’m sure the team we’re going against expects to beat us, as well. Look, Pete is 19?0 in November. They’ve won 32 in a row at home. I think the odds are in their favor the way they’re looking at it, okay?
For them to go and do what we’re counting on doing, they’re going to have to play an awfully good game against an awfully good team.
Q. Your freshman year was the USC game in 1974. Do you remember much about that, where you were?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I remember ?? the thing I remember the most, besides the green jerseys, okay, which I thought was awesome, that big Trojan horse coming out, I don’t know how they got it through the tunnel. I remember that, too. I mean, I don’t know how they did it. But the thing I remember the most was us blocking a kick, then there being a penalty on the play, us blocking the very next kick for a touchdown. Did that happen?
Q. (writers point out that the question was about 1974, not 1977)
COACH WEIS: I don’t recall that game (laughter). Actually, I was a senior in high school at the time. I do recall missing the second half of that game. I thought the first half was excellent, though (laughter). I’d rather talk about the 77 game.
Q. You said the last couple weeks that your players and you are cognizant of this game coming up, but take care of business the week in hand. No more than a minute or two after this game is over on Saturday, your players are chanting, Beat SC. Is there excitement for this game?
COACH WEIS: I think every time as soon as a game is over, if I would have gone into the locker room, if they wouldn’t have had that share the moment with the fans, as soon as the game was over, when we go in the locker room, I really discuss two things. Whether we win or lose, I discuss the approach with the media, showing respect to your opponent regardless of what happened in the game. That’s the first thing I always talk about. Then the second thing I immediately start talking about is getting them focused on the next game because that game is already over. There’s nothing you can do about that game. Within the first three minutes of my conversation, those two things are addressed every week.
It just so happened they were out there for a half hour, so they beat me to the punch. If we were in the locker room, that chant that was going on in the stadium, that probably would have been going on in the locker room. We were out there for quite some time. They’re excited to go out there and have an opportunity to play against a team of this caliber.
Q. How much of that do you think is based on what happened last year, what a great game that was?
COACH WEIS: I don’t think losing last year was any worse than losing the year before, which was any worse than losing the year before. I think losing’s always bad. It’s never a good thing.
I would like to think that for these fourth and fifth?year guys who have never beaten USC, I would like to think they could walk out of here ?? I would hope they could walk out of there saying, Finally we got ’em once.
Q. Eight wins in a row. Do you think your team is peaking right now? You’ve talked about improvement over the last couple weeks. Is Notre Dame playing its best football right now?
COACH WEIS: Well, the jury is still out on that one. I’d say we’ve improved in many areas. All those areas we’ve improved in are going to have to come to fruition at one time here this Saturday if we’re going to have a chance to win this game.
Q. You alluded on Sunday to playing a four?corner style in football that you do in basketball when you say a team of the caliber the USC. Pretty much followed it to perfection last year. You had the ball 39 minutes to their 21. I would think that’s something you would want any game. How were you able to execute that game plan so well last year to dominate the time of possession?
COACH WEIS: The first thing is patience. I think one of the problems that people have regardless of the personnel group or the style of play, that people have when they’re going into a big game, is not having patience. I think you need to have patience.
Our team has shown that when the game style warrants them playing that way, they could play that way. That’s what it was last year.
Now, of course, their staff can dictate a different style of play if they care to. You got to be ready to adjust according to what style they’re looking for you to play. Like if all of a sudden they’re putting 18 people up on the box, they want to sit there and say, We have to shut down corners, they’ll shut down Samardzija and McKnight on every play, you have to be willing to take that chance and see what happens.
In most cases, good football teams, like USC, okay, make you be patient because when you get impatient, that’s why you’ve seen, as good a team as there’s been in the last five years, easily in the second half, they play with so much confidence in the second half because teams become impatient with how things have gone. Next thing you know, USC is up 7, 14, 21, just starts pulling away in the second half.
Q. Since USC especially has this tendency, the bigger the game, the more ?? they beat Oregon 35?10, beat Arkansas 55?14, whereas they struggled sometimes with lesser teams.
COACH WEIS: But it’s like any other team. Getting people up every game… It’s impossible to get your team up emotionally high, psychologically high every week. We spent a lot of time trying to address the psychological, motivational, emotional issues. Still the facts are still the facts. When a team is that good and they’re playing against a whole string of teams that they believe they’re better than, no matter how much coaching you do, sooner or later you’re going to have games like that.
The difference between them and a lot of other teams is they’ve been able to, when they have those games, win. Even the one game they lost, the only reason they didn’t win it is because they got down by so much, because they made this frantic comeback. Two?point conversion away from the game going to overtime, with all the momentum on their side. You could guess how that one would have ended, too.
Q. It was mentioned how it already started on Saturday the beat SC chant. As a coach and staff, how difficult is it in a week like this to get the team not so emotionally peaking early in the week?
COACH WEIS: I got that out of the way Sunday. That’s one of the reasons why they changed our preparation for Sunday. That’s why today’s press conference is a question and answer period rather than me going over the state of the union with USC. On Sunday we dealt with the emotional highs and lows, all the trash talking. We got that out of the way on Sunday. I specifically wanted to get it all out of the way.
We’re not going to come into the USC fight song today, okay? We’re not going to put any motivational tools by different announcers across the country. We’re coming in, put up the game plan, we’re going to go to work. That’s what we’re going to do today.
Q. You talked about USC’s success under Pete Carroll. One of the things he’s been able to do, he came in, Carson Palmer wins the Heisman, hands off to Matt Leinart. As a guy who knows quarterbacks, how have they been able to do that? How much of that is attributable to the way their offensive line has played consistently overtime?
COACH WEIS: Let’s start with the quarterbacks. First of all, you have two of the best very best solid quarterbacks playing in the NFL right now. Carson has done a nice job in Cincinnati. Looks like Matt might be the answer in Arizona. That’s a very strong statement for both of those guys that were, at the time they walked in there, in need of a frontline quarterback. Moody, he’s obviously just getting into the real flow of it now as he’s become the guy.
I think with their system in place, the system is stable, I think one of the issues you have when systems are not stable, when you’re changing from offensive scheme to offensive scheme, what they’ve been able to do is just bring in guys, plug ’em in. Look at their offensive line. I mean, you lose three or four guys off the offensive line last year, you plug ’em in, let’s go. You move one guy over to left tackle, center is your stud, three guys, put them in there. By now they’ve been starters for a whole year. This is their 11th game now. Isn’t like these guys are new starters any more. They’ve been playing for a whole year already.
I think they just do a nice job of taking players, putting them in there, and let’s go. A perfect case in point, doesn’t have to be the quarterback, doesn’t have to be the offensive line, but look at the game last week. Moody goes down. Washington gets banged up a little bit. What are we going to do? We’re going to put in another guy, he’s going to rush for 91 yards, whatever he rushed for. They just put in another guy, they seem to breed success.
You got to give ’em credit for doing that. You got to give ’em credit.
Q. As you watch film of Moody compared to Leinart last year, does he seem like he’s starting to reach that level of proficiency?
COACH WEIS: I think you have to go a long way. Might Leinart was one of the best players coming out of football last year. He was one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks coming out in a long time. This guy can play. I mean, he can play. He can control the line of scrimmage, he can make all the checks. People talk about his arm strength. All I know is I see him completing balls wherever he throws them. Don’t underestimate how good Matt was. I think as good as Moody is, as good as he’ll become, which I don’t know the answer to that, it’s tough. It would be like me comparing one of my young guys to Brady Quinn right now. I don’t think that would be giving them their just due ?? giving Leinart his just due.
Q. Can you talk a bit about the development of Dwayne Jarrett as a big?play receiver.
COACH WEIS: It’s interesting. When you have tall guys, a guy who is 6’5″, 215, and the best way I can relate it to is sort of like when we went to the Jets, Keyshawn was in his second year there. A tall guy, come out of USC, caught a whole bunch of balls, okay? The one thing that Keyshawn always reminded me of is, well, when I worked with him, how he was capable of using his body to get himself open.
I think that Jarret, besides being a very good athlete for a guy who is that big, does a very good job at using his body. That’s one of the reasons I like Samardzija. I like Samardzija because here is a guy who is 6’5″ who does a very good job at torquing his body to be able to be in the right position all the time.
I think that’s one thing he’s been able to do, is take that big frame of his, that size, use it to his advantage, where a lot of people, that becomes a disadvantage.
Q. Can you comment on the historical significance of the series between SC and Notre Dame.
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s been some ebbs and flows in this series. There was that string where Notre Dame won a whole bunch in a row for over a decade. Now USC has gotten the best of us.
I think the bottom line is, any time you have an intersectional rival, it’s one thing like we play a bunch of teams in the Midwest that are all big rivals, every year they’re big rivals because they’re within driving distance of each other. We can get to Ann Arbor, East Lansing, West Lafayette. Any time you have an intersectional rival that you play year in and year out like this one right here, it always creates rooting interest just because of the allegiance towards the different parts of the country. I think that’s what makes it so special.
I’d just like to think that as good as their program has been for quite some time, we’re on our way to being on equal footing. I’d like to think we’re on our way here.
Q. If you go 54?3, would you describe yourself as miserable most of the time?
COACH WEIS: I’ll be miserable at least three times. I can tell you that (laughter).
Q. This week gives you a situation where you probably gotten days of activity to get in in six days. Is that going to work to an advantage in that everybody will be pretty busy, time will fly by?
COACH WEIS: We’re in really good shape. We are. We’re in really good shape because what we were able to do by giving the USC scout report on Sunday, which we normally don’t give till Tuesday, that allowed us Sunday night, which normally would be a time when we’re doing scouting report, to work on Wednesday night’s work because the only ?? what happens is normally on Thursday, which we’re going to practice Thursday morning and meet Thursday morning, normally you have that window till the kids get out of school in 2:30 in the afternoon where you can be doing preparation for Thursday. The only time you really lose is Thursday morning. We just have to tack that onto Wednesday night after we’re done with practice.
In reality, I think the kids are looking forward to practicing today, tomorrow and Thursday morning, putting on the feed bag, going over and having a nice Thanksgiving dinner, then sleeping all the way to California. I think they’re looking forward to it.
Q. Will there be any late adjustments from Junior? Given you his game plan for the week already?
COACH WEIS: Yeah. My cult hero son, yeah. He’s reveling. You guys have really made this into a nightmare at my house (laughter).
Q. If you were not coaching, broadcasting the game as an analyst, what would you say?
COACH WEIS: I’d say if I were looking at it from USC’s perspective, this is a game that could help put them over the top, be one step closer to playing for a national championship, if they could soundly beat Notre Dame. I’d say Notre Dame, really you would like to go out there and get this little losing streak out of the way and put themselves in a position to be in a strong BCS game with a very, very longshot of playing for it all. It would only be after an extremely convincing win, which the odds of that happening, being they haven’t lost by more than seven but once in that string I was talking about, I’d say you’d need to have a very, very convincing win even to get into the discussion, okay?
I think if that ever materialized, sign me up. If that ever did materialize, that would be the only way Notre Dame would get into the discussion because let’s be practical. That’s just the way it is.
Q. With the season winding down, anything about the team surprise you as far as the players go?
COACH WEIS: No. I’m proud of this team and happy for this team that they’re in the position they’re in. I really do believe that it’s important to finish the season strong. I don’t think you can be content being 10?1, going out to USC, losing there, going into a Bowl game, losing there. That’s not what we’re looking for. That would not be the way you’d want the season to end.
There’s still more games left to play. It starts with this one on Saturday.
Q. You mentioned early yes about recruiting. Do you personally visit the home of every high school senior that you’re recruiting? If so, what’s the general atmosphere? Do these kids invite their friends and neighbors over?
COACH WEIS: First of all, yes, I do visit every one of them. As a matter of fact, I will not be returning with the team on Saturday night. I’ll be staying out there, working my way back east because I’m out there. We’ll start on the West Coast and we’ll work our way back.
I’m only one of several people that does this. I’m very well?received, but that doesn’t mean that my presence is going to win out on every kid you end up going into.
Q. Is it a family reunion?
COACH WEIS: It all depends. There’s anything from just a couple people there to everyone within three states all being there at the same time. It’s their call when you go make a home visit. I just go there with my same ?? I have a presentation that I do, go that question and answers. It all depends. It’s their terms, not mine.
Q. What do you like most about your job and what don’t you like most?
COACH WEIS: I think the thing I like most about my job is it’s rewarding to know that in this day of college athletics there is a peaceful coexistence between student and athlete. To have two semesters in a row, the first semester last year they had over a 3.0 grade point average, last semester, a 3.1 grade point average. The fact that you can peacefully coexist, graduate, still play football, I think that probably is the most rewarding thing that I have.
What was the second part of the question?
Q. What is most disappointing, what don’t you like?
COACH WEIS: I think the scrutiny that all programs come under. Obviously with the Internet and the media, this is not derogatory towards the Internet or media, it’s just the way it is these days. I think the scrutiny sometimes puts undue pressure on the players. I think the coaches have to be ready to roll with the punches because it’s part of what they do. You’re getting paid good money for it. You have to be ready to roll with the punches. I think sometimes it would be nice if the kids could just be kids, just go ahead and graduate. It just isn’t like that any more. You’re held accountable. It’s one thing me being held accountable for everything I say. They’re kids. Things still happen. That’s probably the toughest part to watch sometimes, somebody goes out, makes a couple bad plays, everyone alum of the school wants the kid chastised or thrown off the team because he let them down, like they’re not trying to win. I mean, everyone’s out there trying to win.
Q. You’ve mentioned the streak, losing to them four times in a row a couple of times here. As an alum and a coach, how much does that gnaw at you to have lost to USC four straight times?
COACH WEIS: I’ve only lost to them one straight time. I’m trying not to make it two. I’m not looking at it as an alum. I’m looking at it as the coach. I’m 0?1. I’d prefer not to be 0?2. Ask me this question again Saturday night about 8:30 Pacific (laughter).
Q. You talked about going up against Pete several times. Are there 10 nets of a Pete Carroll defense no matter who is playing for him?
COACH WEIS: The sad part about it is he knows me, too. It’s one thing, yeah, I know Pete. He knows me, too. He knows what I do. These guys are good. These guys know what you do. You’re just going to have to do it better than they do it. That’s what you’re going to have to do.
Are they certain things they do year in and year out? Absolutely. There’s certain things I do that he knows, too. Sometimes that comes out in the wash. This guy’s one of the real challenges.
Q. Last week Brady talked about the USC hat that he’s kept in his room. Have you talked to him about this game? Does it bother him that he has not beaten USC during his time?
COACH WEIS: He was only allowed to discuss that on Sunday. We got it all out on Sunday. We played every song known to mankind. If you would have walked in there on Sunday, it was very enjoyable. We had all the USC songs going. We had media going. We got it all out of the way.
Brady is not worrying about hats any more. We’re just trying to go out and beat USC, who is one of the best teams in the country. That’s what we’re trying to do.
Q. Brady has had a pretty good year. Compared to last year, some people are saying it’s not nearly as good. Do you think some of that could come from maybe some undue expectations put on him at the beginning of the year?
COACH WEIS: That’s a fair question. I think statistically he’s probably as good if not better this year than he was last year. I think any time it’s hyped, you’re the best player this, you’re going to win the Heisman, all that other stuff, because it looks as though it’s going in Troy’s direction, people look at that like that’s being a failure.
My answer to that is, let’s wait till draft day and see where he ends up that day.
Q. With the Heisman expectations that you mentioned, a couple years ago Carson Palmer, people say he secured the Heisman with the game against you guys, Matt Leinart did the same a few years later. Do you think if Brady has a big game against USC, it could work the opposite way?
COACH WEIS: I’d like to think so. Watching that game the other day, watching that guy play, look, I’m prejudiced. I’m totally prejudiced towards Brady Quinn. My view is tainted because I really don’t know what the description of the Heisman Trophy is. ‘Cause to me, who is the most valuable player to their team, who has done more for their team to be in the position like we’re in than anyone else in the country, I think that my guy qualifies under that criteria.
If the criteria is who is the best player on the best team, well, right now we can’t match that. But I’m obviously prejudiced towards Brady Quinn. I think there can’t be anyone in the country who means more to their football team than Brady Quinn means to Notre Dame.
Q. Could you talk about David Costanzo?
COACH WEIS: One of the guys that brings a smile to my face when I think of him. Here is a guy who is out there on a scout team every single day, okay? Not only have I not seen anything but the guy go a hundred percent every day, but he does it with a smile on his face. It’s kind of amazing when a guy gets beat uhm some every day. Every time you look at him, he’s got a smile on his face. It’s kind of refreshing to think that a guy could be having that much fun getting banged around as much as he does. It’s fun to watch.
Q. What is the ratio of players that attempt to walk on and the ones that actually make the team?
COACH WEIS: We try to keep walk?ons on the team just as long as their grades are good and it won’t are detrimental to their well?being. If a guy is going to go out there and physically can’t hold up, then we’re not doing him justice by letting him stay on the team. As long as their grades are good, they’re not going to get hurt in a competitive situation in practice, I let them all stay on there.
Q. A little cliche, any chance you see of him getting play time down the road?
COACH WEIS: Not this week (laughter). Could I see some down the road? Yes, I could see him in a game.
Q. All the hype about national championship, BCS, the big game with USC, what have you told your guys this week about embracing that? Do you want them to embrace that or try to block it out or accept it?
COACH WEIS: It’s easy for us ’cause we’re just trying to beat USC. It’s not like we’re going against some crummy team here at the end of the year, and let’s see what happens. We’re going to have our hands full just winning this game. To be honest with you, I don’t think our players are really worrying about the hype, they’re not really worrying about the ramifications. They just want to win this game, okay? That’s what they want to do. They want to win this game. Whatever happens happens. I think that’s the attitude of the whole team right now.
Q. Can you talk about the development of Raymond McKnight this year?
COACH WEIS: Raymond is interesting because last year he goes down second game of the year, we’re playing Michigan, he’s our leading receiver, already caught a touchdown pass, blows out his knee. We go to the medical staff. They say there’s a chance we might have him back by USC. I tell the media, everyone thinks I’m lying, but that’s really what we thought. Just very slow coming around. Now we get to the off?season. He’s working his way into the mix. Then we get to the summertime. Jeff is playing baseball. Now Raymond and Brady are starting to develop a chemistry when they’re out there throwing. Then we get to the start of the season where he’s still a little nervous about taking those first couple hits because you don’t know how it’s going to be.
I think once he got the cobwebs out, once he got over that initial it’s going to be okay to go ahead and get hit, you saw his production skyrocket, whether it’s touchdowns, catches, all those other things. It was never a question of whether he could play or not. It’s knowing that your knee is going to be okay.
Q. Today the Observer ran a story about how 75 members of the band are making the trip to USC at your request. Can you talk about your request, how you hope they will influence the game?
COACH WEIS: Actually I tried to get them all to go. At late notice, we couldn’t get that many spots in the stadium. I think I was very appreciative of both the band, Father Poorman, everyone involved in getting at least the pep band to go. USC did work with us, come up with 75 spots where we could go. Once again, I was appreciative of both the band and Father Poorman to get that worked out.
I’m a big fan of the band personally. I think it’s always a positive to have them around. You always can feel them being there.
Q. You talked Sunday about trying to get the hype out of the way. How do you separate the students trying to get involved in the players’ lives, address that control?
COACH WEIS: I don’t do that. The only thing we did on Sunday which I thought was very humorous is these guys came into ?? all those songs you hear the USC band playing, they heard ’em. It was loud. I said, Get used to it because you’re going to hear it, this is what you’re going to hear once you walk into the Coliseum on Saturday.
I can’t handle all the distractions that happen on campus and everything. I think around here, when these players walk in here a little while from now, it’s going to be all business.
Q. Can you comment on Carroll Hall trying to change their name to Weis Hall this week?
COACH WEIS: I can’t show a prejudice towards any specific halls here. I’ll get in trouble with a different hall. I’ll end up reading about it on SportsCenter.