Nov. 22, 2005
COACH Charlie Weis: As we get ready to play Stanford, obviously they have a lot at stake, just like we do. They’re 5-5 and they probably need this game to be Bowl eligible. On top of that, there’s some history involved here. They’re going to construct this new Stanford Stadium starting after this game on Saturday and from what I understand, they’re going to be honoring all the decades since 1921 of Stanford football, so that’s coming in before the game.
Stanford has had a really grueling schedule this year. As a matter of fact, this is the second toughest schedule in the country. One key statistic that’s been true to form with this team is that when they win the turnover battle, they usually win. The five games they’ve won the turnover battle, they’ve won four out of five. They’ve only committed four turnovers in those five wins; whereas in the five losses, they’ve turned the ball over 13 times. A critical factor going into this game obviously is going to be ball possession.
Coach Harris, he’s an area native out there, he’s been coaching for over 30 years, NFL and college obviously the last eight seasons at Pitt, and with the six Bowl games, he calls the plays, he’s been good at doing it for a long time. This is a little bit of an unusual team because at most positions there are multiple players that you have to get ready for.
Starting offensively, (Trent) Edwards, the starter (at quarterback), he got hurt last week during the game against Cal and didn’t come back. At the time he was 9 of 14 throwing in the game. But he didn’t come back, and obviously his status is a little bit in question. (T.C.) Ostrander came in and played most of the second half. He was 15 for 23 for 152 yards, so the first thing you’ve got to get ready for is two quarterbacks.
Really there are three running backs that really come into the mix, (J.R.) Lemon, No. 9, the senior, he’s started the last four games. In his career he’s rushed for almost 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns. Then you’ve got (Anthony) Kimble, who is the converted wide receiver; he’s started in six games this year. Then they’ve got (Jason) Evans, and realistically, Evans is the guy who’s had the most rushing attempts and the most catches, so you’ve got to get ready for three different running backs.
One constant is their fullback (Nick Frank, Jr.), who by the way was a nose tackle the last three years. So you’ve got a 6’2″, 260 pound running back playing nose tackle for the last two years, and he got converted last spring and he’s started all the games this year.
At tight end you’ve got two big guys, (Matt) Traverso, who had four catches for 55 yards last week, and (Patrick) Danahy. They’re both 6’4″, 240, 250, both really good sized, and it allows them to go to tight end sets effortlessly.
Wide receiver, there’s really four guys that are in the mix. (Mark) Bradford, he’s their leading receiver, averaging almost 15 yards a catch. (Justin) McCullum is a 6’4″, 220 pound guy who’s their second leading receiver. (Gerren) Crochet is their second leading, in addition he’s rushed the ball for a 75 yard touchdown, and last game he had seven catches for 86 yards. And (Marcus) McCutcheon, who’s their other receiver they play, is also their kickoff returner.
At the offensive line you have to do some study because they’ve really played eight guys. Their center, who they lost for the season, they played three guys at center, (Alex) Fletcher and (Tim) Mattran have both played there. Fletcher has also played right guard as well as (Ismail) Simpson. The one guy who’s been a constant – (Allen) Smith played a little right tackle early in the year. The one guy who’s constant is (Josiah) Vinson. He’s the only guy to start all 10 games at the same position. Over at right tackle you have (Jeff) Edwards and (Jon) Cochran who can both play, so you have eight guys, seven in the mix right now.
On defense, although the personnel is called on 3 4 personnel scheme, they’re very seldom in a true “I” Coach (Tom) Hayes has been coaching for over 30 years. I remember when he was at the Redskins for about five years. He’s been in college a bunch, but I remember him most personally when he was back with the Redskins.
Now, let’s talk about their defensive line. There’s one guy who I like. I don’t know him, but this guy (Chris) Horn, No. 95, I like him because he lists his favorite place that he’s been on vacation as the Jersey Shore. I’m going to have to look him up because he’s already on my good side. He actually splits time with (Gustav) Rydstedt, who’s actually a kid from Sweden, so it’s an interesting combination, a guy who loves the Jersey Shore and a guy from Sweden.
(Babatunde) Oshinowo, he’s their nose tackle and he’s disruptive. He’s had eight and a half tackles for loss. In addition he’s got another four and a half sacks on top of it. (Julian) Jenkins, he’s the guy who’s returning all conference player. He’s another guy who has nine tackles per loss and leads the team with seven sacks.
At linebacker it’s kind of interesting because (Jon) Alston, who’s their pain in the butt, 37, it’s pretty obvious when you watch him. He’s got a high motor, fifth year senior. But what happens with Alston and (Udeme) Udofia, they both play outside linebacker, but they’re also both capable of playing defensive end. So a little bit similar components to the Navy game that we played; they go in and out of 3 4 and 4 3 fronts just by trading one of those guys as a down lineman. Then they rotate three guys a side, (Kevin) Schimmelmann and (Mike) Silva and (Michael) Okwo.
Now, in the secondary you have (Nick) Sanchez and (T.J. Rushing), two different guys. Sanchez is second on the team in tackles. He’s a real physical guy. And Rushing, he’s a track speed guy. He’s got front line, top end speed. He’s a big time returner. As a matter of fact, if you go back and really do research, his big numbers were really last year, even bigger than they are this year. He has return one 93 yards for a touchdown. You’ve got to be concerned with him because you’ll see him as both a kick returner and a punt returner.
As far as the safeties and the nickel, you can count on (Trevor) Hooper and (Brandon) Harrison as the starting safeties. You’ll see (Calvin) Armstrong come in there when they go to nickel.
Now, the special teams, one thing they’ve had is some continuity there. Even though this is a new staff because it’s Coach (Tom) Quinn, who also coaches their outside linebackers, he’s been at Stanford the last four years. One thing that concerns me is they blocked three punts this year. Now, (Michael) Sgroi, their kicker and kickoff guy, one out of every two times he kicks off it’s a touchback. He has 46 kickoffs and he has 24 touchbacks. (Jay) Ottovegio is averaging over 40 yards a punt. He’s done that for the last couple of years.
So they’re a sound team and they’ve got a lot to play for and there’s going to be a lot of hoopla around the game, and we’re going to have to really focus on not being distracted.
Q. This is not the first time you’ve had to prepare for two quarterbacks. Have you learned anything about doing that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, a little different than some other teams, they try to do the same thing with these guys. Coach Harris has his offense and they run the offense, and these quarterbacks have shown that they can run the offense. He doesn’t have to change what he’s doing because one guy is hurt and another guy is in. We’re going to get ready for Edwards, but whether Ostrander or Edwards is in there, it’s not going to really affect what Coach Harris is going to do.
Q. Last game DJ (Fitzpatrick) limped off the field. Is he okay? Will he be kicking this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s a little banged up. If we would have had to play Monday or Sunday, I don’t know what his status would be. But he’s a day better than he was yesterday. I’ll wait and evaluate him when we get out there at practice today. I know talking to DJ on Sunday, he has every intention of being out there kicking. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Q. When you’re preparing for Stanford or any team for that matter and you watch the tapes and their schemes throughout the season, do you ever get to the point where it’s game time and they come out with something totally different, and if so, how do you adjust so quickly?
COACH Charlie Weis: What ends up happening is with really solid coaches you have two experienced guys running an offense and a defense. When you have third year vets you don’t have to worry about them not knowing what they’re doing, so you don’t try to trick them. This is not a game where you try to trick them. You have to go and play sound fundamentals and be ready for what they throw at you.
Q. At what point in the week are you normally confident you’re ready for a game, whether this game or any game? Or would you like to have an extra day or two to prepare?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I’m ready for first and second down right now, but that’s all I am. I’m not ready for the game, I’m just ready for first and second down. Each day is a little different day for me. Today I feature third down and tomorrow I feature red zone and goal line. By about Thursday post practice, that’s usually when I’m ready for the game that takes place on Saturday. Thursday night is when I’m ready because that’s when I’ve got a chance to sink in all these three practices and put it all together.
Q. Do you look forward to off weeks?
COACH Charlie Weis: What off weeks?
Q. Or any week that you don’t play, a bye week. In other words, to give you more preparation time for the following game.
COACH Charlie Weis: When this game is over it’s going to go right into recruiting. I don’t consider those off weeks. I think that you do something and there’s something else you have to do.
Q. Out of context, what do you like about the Jersey Shore?
COACH Charlie Weis: That’s me. You talk about utopia if you were from New Jersey you’d understand that. You’re obviously not (laughing).
Q. You talked a lot in the past about position flexibility. Is that something you look for when you look at linebackers as far as guys that can move from inside and things like that?
COACH Charlie Weis: It really helps when you have a guy that you can play in multiple positions. It isn’t just moving from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. It’s also whether or not they can pass rush or they can cover, whether they’re just run stoppers. The more that a guy can do, the more use you’ll have for him.
Q. As far as the young guys, which ones that we haven’t seen a lot of yet this year have stood out for you?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’ll worry about that when they start playing. Right now they’re not playing, so I’ve got nothing to say about them.
Q. Saturday Darius (Walker) was able to make a run of over 20 yards for the first time this season. Is that a concern for you, that your running backs haven’t been able to break off bigger runs this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, I’m concerned with rushing attempts and how many yards we gain when we call them, in that order. Obviously if you have a game where you call runs a whole bunch of times, usually you’ve won the game because usually it means that you’ve got control of the game by just pounding them. But as far as you’re getting first downs and you’re moving the ball I’m a ball possession guy. I don’t care if I’m throwing little dink and dunk passes, I like moving the chains. I thought Darius had an excellent game last weak and was one of the critical factors in us winning.
Q. You’re not looking for more explosiveness in the running back position?
COACH Charlie Weis: Everyone wants to hand the ball to Reggie Bush, but there’s only one Reggie Bush. Darius and Travis (Thomas), I’ll take those guys any day. That’s who I have and I like who I have.
Q. On the special teams you mentioned that wing, getting the blocked punt the blocked field goal and nearly having a couple others blocked. Is that a scheme correcting thing, or how do you go about correcting that problem?
COACH Charlie Weis: On the blocked field goal?
Q. Yes, and your blocked extra point.
COACH Charlie Weis: There were two problems there. One was the protection, one was the tempo with which we kicked the ball. So we’ll be working at upping the tempo, and there’s a good chance we’ll be working on improving the protection, as well.
Q. When you improve the protection, is that through a scheme, personnel or both?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it could be both. It depends if the people who are messing it up can get it right. Part of it is scheme, part of it could very easily be personnel. That’s a good question. That’s a loaded question, though.
Q. Coach Harris has really built quite a reputation as far as an instructor of quarterbacks and also as a play caller. Your reputation also has been built on play calling, and Coach Harris has done it for a long time. Did you ever see yourself one day maybe relinquishing the play calling duties, or is that something you feel you need to hold onto?
COACH Charlie Weis: Different people look at it different ways. I’ve talked to a number of people about this question. Some people just don’t feel comfortable giving that up. I don’t know the answer at this time. It’s a bit premature for me.
If it got to the point where I felt that let’s say Michael (Haywood), for example, because he’s the offensive coordinator, if it got to the point where Michael and I were on such the same page that I didn’t need to do it and I could just manage the team, I would do it, but we’re a long way from that right now.
Q. Also, Coach Harris has combined many times his duties as an offensive coordinator with tutoring quarterbacks at the same time. Do you feel that sometimes you need to separate the two or it just depends on the situation?
COACH Charlie Weis: Because I call plays, it gives me an opportunity to talk to the quarterback all day long because every time we’re running a team segment at practice, I’m the one giving them the play, when we’re running a team segment. Therefore I can also give coaching points before a play takes place or after a play took place. That’s where we were. I get a chance to give my insight to Brady (Quinn) on how things are going. I don’t think I need to be with him every second of the day because I have a lot of confidence in Coach (Peter) Vaas knowing that he’s going to be improving on a daily basis with his instruction.
Q. You’ve got kind of a strange week this week with the holiday and the travel plans. Any changes from what the road experience has been in the past?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s going to be similar to like when we went out to Washington. It’ll be similar to that, but the only difference is so I can give them some time to lay around on the couch and watch those football games that are on Thanksgiving Day, I’m moving the practice until the morning. I’m moving everything up because they don’t have school. I’m not under the requirements of not bringing them in until 2:30. So we’ll bring them in on Thursday morning at 8:00 o’clock, we’ll go through our normal four hour day from 8:00 o’clock to 12:00 o’clock with our meetings and practice, and then I’ll turn them loose from 12:00 until 5:00. I’ll bring them back and stuff them up with turkey and stuffing and give them a nice dinner and then we’ll get on the bus and head to the plane.
Q. When you think about you mentioned red zone and how efficient you’ve been throughout the year, but last week wasn’t quite what you have been doing. How do you go about fixing that, putting your team in the mindset that this is red zone and this is where we have to be the most efficient?
COACH Charlie Weis: The one time we scored was on the goal line, so obviously the goal line offense wasn’t the issue. It was between the 20 and the 5 that was more the issue. Some of that can be play calling. So before you start blaming the players, I’ve always been one to analyze myself, sit there and say what could I have done in this situation or that situation. Remember, we did get a touchdown called back on the touchdown to (Maurice) Stovall, and that was a bit of an unfortunate penalty. That was not a stupid penalty, it was just unfortunate. We just fell into one.
Sometimes you have to analyze what exactly happens before you jump to conclusions on what you need to fix. Some of it is play calling, some of it is scheme, some of it is execution. It’s a combination of everything, realizing that the red zone, there’s a lot tighter windows. There’s no reason for defensive backs to stand five yards deep in the end zone.
Q. How have you graded yourself?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m doing all right. Trust me, what happens is you get to be to the level I’m at now, you’re definitely your own biggest critic. You never look at yourself and say, “I really did well.” The best you’ll say is okay. You could call 50 good plays and two bad ones, and you’ll just harp on the two bad ones. You won’t worry about the 50 good ones, and that’s part of being a perfectionist. I know you’re never going to be perfect, but that’s the way you look at it unfortunately. You don’t look at all the good plays, you look at (the bad ones), I wish I would have done this different or that different.
Q. Ronald Talley is looking kind of gimpy, as well. Do you expect him to play?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s another guy like on Sunday who was hobbling around. Some guys are ahead of others. Stovall came in, now he’s full and ready to go running around today. Ronald is still a little bit slow today. Hopefully by the time we won’t decide until Saturday. Some of these things you’ve got to give them some time.
Q. Talk about grading yourself. Which game do you grade yourself the best on and which one do you grade yourself the worst?
COACH Charlie Weis: I have to grade myself the worst on the Michigan State game, even though we had all that production on offense because I have to feel that I’m not just the offensive play caller, I’m also the head coach, so I think that having your team come out the way we did and get behind that much, you really have to place the blame on you you have to look in the mirror on that one right there. That was a great comeback and all that other stuff, but I would like to think that I would have been able to do a better job not getting the team in that position that we were in.
As far as the best one, I don’t think I’ve had a great one. Hopefully the greatest ones are yet to come.
Q. Would that be an undefeated season or being No. 1 or something like that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I try not to harp too much because when a game is over, it’s over, whether you did a great job calling them or crummy job calling them, the game is over. All you can do is sit and evaluate it and move on, try to learn from the experiences either way.
Q. Did you see the 60 Minutes interview with Tom Brady?.
COACH Charlie Weis: I was on that show.
Q. He was talking about what’s left, have you ever felt that feeling or do you think you’ll ever reach a point where you can look at yourself and say what have I accomplished?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m sitting there with some of the guys watching the videotape of it, not having seen it, and I’m giving the answers to the questions before he gives the answer. I’m literally sitting there and they said, “which (Super Bowl ring) do you like the most?,” so I’m sitting there saying, “the next one,” and he goes, “the next one.” You don’t really look back. You always look forward. So you’re always looking towards the next one. There’s one I’d like to get at here in the near future. I’d like to be able to put those pro rings away.
Q. Could you ever imagine just saying that is enough?
COACH Charlie Weis: Never would I say, “That was great, that’s good enough for me.” That’ll never happen, not as long as I’m alive will that happen.
Q. I know you’re not talking much about post season awards. Do you avoid that at all with Brady (Quinn) to make sure he doesn’t get caught up in that?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’ve had extensive long conversations about these things. Your quarterback is a little bit of an extension of the coaching staff. I spend a lot more time just sitting there counseling and things like that. The one thing that’s been really good, I believe, for our players is a lot of times with these guys, they’re looking for a resource, they don’t really know where to turn, and fortunately they feel that I’m a pretty good resource for them when it comes to subjects like that.
Q. Could you comment on players who play more than one position? Would you use someone like Mike Vrabel at New England?
COACH Charlie Weis: I saw Vrabel score another touchdown the other day. I have to listen to him tell me about it, too. I can hear him now, “Just throw me the ball.”
Q. Could you ever see yourself doing that on a regular basis?
COACH Charlie Weis: I could see myself doing that with a skill position, but the difference here is we go to a game with only 45 guys dressed in the NFL. That’s all you have, you have 45, and a third quarterback could make it 46. That’s 45 guys to play offense, defense and special teams. So the reason why that happens is you just don’t have anywhere to go. Where here I’m going to a game where even on the road we’re taking 65, 70 guys. So there are so many more guys on both sides of the ball and on special teams. You’re really never forced to do that. Could I see myself taking a front line corner and lining up a wide receiver? Absolutely I could see doing that. Could I see myself taking an outside linebacker and putting him on tight end at the goal line? There’s no doubt about it I could see doing that. But we have so many more guys to choose from than you do in the NFL.
Q. You raised the bar with your team, and obviously from the outside looking in, the bar has been raised on you guys, as well. If you finish 10 and 2 this year, that becomes the bar now, and going into next year 10 and 2 from the outside looking in is not as good or insufficient. How do you feel you will be affected by those outside opinions regarding putting such high expectations on your team?
COACH Charlie Weis: You have to understand that the goal for any competitive player or coach is to win every time you play. That’s your own expectation. You don’t have to wait for somebody else to expect it. Any time you lose, it’s a disappointment. Any time you lose. So should everyone be disappointed when you lose? Yes, because you should be disappointed when you lose. That’s the way it is. You should be disappointed when you lose. You should expect everyone else to be disappointed when you lose. It comes with the territory. Hopefully that just doesn’t happen too many times.
Q. Personally you yourself when you travel, how do you use that time? Is that a relaxation time, or obviously the preparation for the game you’re going to is already done. Do you allow that to be a relaxation time for yourself?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’m usually too paranoid to not make sure all the Ts are crossed and the Is are dotted. I’ll have dinner with my wife because she’s usually out there for a road game. My son usually wants nothing to do with me; he usually goes with this guy Tim (McDonnell) and they go play video games. He wants nothing to do with me. But I’m usually pretty focused on making sure that it’s a business trip, it’s not vacation. I’ve always treated it as such, and that will be more of the same.
Q. A little research about first year coaches and offense and so forth, where this one stacks up. From your own perspective, did you go in and say here’s where I’d like to be? Did you envision this?
COACH Charlie Weis: I thought from studying the players here in the spring, there were enough weapons to score some points. You just don’t know how they’re going to progress, so you really don’t set the bar because you’re setting yourself up for the fall doing that. You just want to make sure that you can keep pushing through the offense and try and get them to buy into it and be able to execute it. You’ve got to give credit more to the players than the coaches because they did a really nice job doing it. One of the reasons for our success isn’t because we have a first year coach or because I came from the NFL or because we have a great coaching staff. It’s because the players take it and run it and execute it. It doesn’t make any difference what play you call. If the players can’t get it, then it’s not going to be any good. If the players can get it, then you’re going to look good. It really comes down to execution by the players and they’ve done a nice job, starting with those big guys up front.
Q. I know that you had the meeting with Notre Dame when you were still with the Patriots. I don’t know how much of that you did when you were with the NFL. As a college coach now, do you stop doing that, sharing your philosophies? And if so, how much do you share?
COACH Charlie Weis: I won’t share it with any college coaches. They could be competitors. I’ve had several requests. We’re not into doing that.
Now, will I mix and mingle with guys on the next level? I’ll do that. I’ll share ideas with those guys. But I don’t think I want to be calling up USC and seeing if they want to have a session of exchanging ideas. That’s going to happen.
Q. The last thing is with Brady, when you were in the NFL with your long weeks and everything, other than when you came here to visit and look at their team, did you have an awareness of who he was and what kind of quarterback he was?
COACH Charlie Weis: Not much. Sometimes I’d lay on the couch on a Saturday afternoon hanging out with my family. It seemed like on Saturdays for me in the pros, Saturday afternoon was my family time. If they wanted to watch college football, we’d watch college football. If they wanted to throw the football in the backyard, that’s what we’d do. If they wanted to watch a movie, that’s what we’d do. I kind of just did what my wife told me to do.
Q. Talk a little bit about offense and 3rd down conversion and how efficient. You’re also a pretty good defensive team, top 30 in the country. Is that a better reflection of the unit, secondary, linebackers, or just overall solid play?
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s not only the numbers, it’s when those numbers occur, too. Like our defense has gotten better and better as the game goes on third down, too. Some of that is coaching, some of it is execution, but normally you have to think about it, most of the time it means you’ve got substituted offenses and substituted defenses, so offensively it usually comes to the hands of the quarterback, and defensively, usually it comes with more and more linebacker/DB types getting onto the field.
You don’t single anyone out; it’s what those distances are out there on third down, and I’m generally pleased by usually as the game goes on, we’ve been excellent in the fourth quarter on third down on both sides.
Q. You mentioned practicing 3rd down.
COACH Charlie Weis: You have to understand the personality of the play callers. For example, several offensive coordinators I can’t tell you how many times you’ll hear this in the NFL, `play the sticks’, `play the sticks.’ What that means is they’ll go a yard or two past the first down marker and you’ll always see multiple receivers at that spot right there so they can pick up the first down with the catch. Sometimes I might be a little bit different; I might get underneath and I’m counting on running for first down. Other times I might throw over the top of them and figure they’re going to play the sticks as you go by. It’s got to be very calculating based on what they do and what you do.
Q. On another subject, a lot has been made of the spring schedule this time of year. How much do you pay attention to what happens after you guys play?
COACH Charlie Weis: I could care less what they do after we’re done with them. I don’t go back and say I hope they win so our point average goes up. Maybe if I was second or third in the country and it was to get to the Rose Bowl, maybe I’d be studying that a little harder, but right now we’re just trying to beat Stanford. After we beat Stanford hopefully one of those big boys decides to come our way.
Q. If Tennessee loses to Vanderbilt you don’t think it’ll break their spirit?
COACH Charlie Weis: It depends if you look at it as a week by week deal or not. I’ve always coached that it’s a week by week deal, and the job of the coaching staff after a bad week is to rally the troops. That’s how I’ve always looked at it.
Q. How has (Derek) Landri improved from the past, say maybe middle of the season?
COACH Charlie Weis: He has been solid most of the year, but I think that he’s created a lot of disruption. He’s created a lot of disruption as the year has gone on. He’s been more and more visible in the opponent’s backfield, and you don’t always make the play every time. But penetration by those guys inside poses a lot of disruption. Even on a run when the guy is a cut back away from him, I think both Derek, and you can throw Trevor (Laws) in there, too, they’re both quick, physical guys that can cause a disruption inside.
Q. Do you think Derek might be a little undersized for the middle, or does that help him?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it depends on the scheme you’re in. If you were playing a 3 4 defense where he’s playing nose tackle or defensive end that was two gapping, he’d have a problem. That’s not what we do. You have to understand the components of the scheme you’re using. There’s a place for everyone, just based on what scheme the defensive are using, and we have guys that allow people to penetrate some, and they still use the technique, but these guys that are quick and can move fit our scheme pretty well.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about you always kind of have a message for the guys. What would be your theme for this week’s forum?
COACH Charlie Weis: This one is a little easier than all those other weeks. We all know the ramifications of what this game means, so I don’t need to come up with any psychological ploy this week. It is what it is.
The bottom line is we need to win this game to have an opportunity to play in a BCS game and that’s what we’re going to try to do. There’s no phony things, no lying, no hiding. It is what it is. It’s now down to the last game of the year, and that’s the status. We need to win this game to have an opportunity to be picked, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.
Q. You touched on a little bit after the game getting Syracuse. Would you address sort of the reason for the first quarter lack of offensive production?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think that offensively we were a little tight in the first quarter. We regained our composure. I got off the script quicker than I intended to. We’ve talked about this before, but sometimes you can stay on a script too long, and the next thing you know you’ve floundered through a whole half without getting anything done. So we just got off the plan and we regained our composure there right towards the end of the first quarter, and that led to a couple quick strike scores and started to get the game back under control again.
Q. Why has the second quarter been so good to you guys this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: Usually we do a pretty good job of figuring out what they’re doing and adjusting appropriately.
Q. Just one more thing, if you had to describe this season in one word, what would it be and why?
COACH Charlie Weis: Educational. I’d say that would be the best word I could say. With all the planning and all the thought and all the research you do, until you’ve actually gone through the experiences day by day and week by week and month by month, even with all the foresight that you try to have, there are things that just come up that you just have to go through on the job training.
Q. Bill Walsh has often said that he always liked to draft players from Notre Dame and Stanford because he said those kids were smart and they could execute what he needed them to. When you prepare for a team like Stanford, when you watch them on film, is that intelligence level evident in the way they play?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yes, as a matter of fact it is. I think that Coach Walsh is right on, that there are certain types of players that certain people look for, and it’s pretty obvious when you watch them offensively and defensively. Special teams doesn’t usually come in as much because a lot of times it’s more effort and sometimes scheme. Offensively and defensively you see very sound fundamental things with very few mental mistakes on either side of the ball.
Q. Second question, I’ve heard people talk about Tom Zbikowski and Jeff Samardzija as kind of the odd couple. What kind of similarities do they bring to the way they approach the game and the way they approach practice?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, they like to have fun. They don’t look at football as a job. They really enjoy competing. But the competition is really the next thing that drives both of them because they are both fierce, fierce competitors. They both want to be the best. When you enjoy what you’re doing and you’re fierce competitors, a lot of times their personalities are drawn to each other, especially growing up not that far away from each other, as well.
Q. People are always in a rush to judge recruiting classes. Can you talk about the art and the science of judging high school players, judging recruits, trying to figure out who’s going to work for you?
COACH Charlie Weis: We basically try to keep it a very simple philosophy when it comes to recruiting, and then you just have to see how it pans out four or five years later. You know, not every school is looking for the exact same thing that we’re looking for. I try to keep it simple and it really comes down to you’re looking for good football players but they have to be good students and they have to be good kids.
There are a lot of times people say, why isn’t Notre Dame recruiting somebody? It isn’t because we’re stupid. We don’t recruit somebody because we’re stupid. Usually one of those three characteristics that I talked about usually just isn’t up to par, so you just move on.
We’re not in the habit of just giving away good players to other schools. That’s not what we try to do. You really can’t judge a recruit or a recruiting class until their career is really over. That’s really when you can judge how it turned out.
Q. I’ve read in football circles that Steve Belichick was considered one of the best scouts of talent out there. Did you ever get a chance to talk to him about that, about scouting talent and protecting and how he did it?
COACH Charlie Weis: All the time, as a matter of fact. Trust me, Mr. Belichick was going to let you know whether you wanted to hear it or not. You’re going to have to be quiet and listen to him whether you want to or not. He’s going to let you know that you didn’t know what you were talking about anyway. He was very, very good at what he did, and you could see one of the big reasons for Bill’s success under Steve; from the time Bill was a young kid, you could see where he learned his football from.
Q. I just got an email the other day from a fan who wrote me and said the last two or three recruiting classes at Notre Dame have yielded nothing. In answer to an earlier question, you talked about the contributions your players have made and how they’re responsible for the success. Can you talk about what some of the juniors on your team have meant to the success of your class this year?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, how can they say that when these players are not done yet? It’s really unfair to sit there and judge people. Let’s talk about Corey Mays. Here’s a perfect example. Here’s a guy that’s been waiting in the wings his whole career. It wasn’t that he wasn’t a good football player, it was that he was behind other good football players. All of a sudden he gets his opportunity and he’s had a stellar year. Is that to sit there and say that Corey Mays was a mistake? Now all of a sudden Corey Mays is a good player, so which one is it? A lot of times it’s being able to seize the moment. It’s your time. Make the most of the opportunities.
Maurice Stovall, he’s having a banner year and everyone was saying he was an underachiever. Maybe it just happened that things fell into place this year. You can go back too much and find out why things happened, but I know one thing, there aren’t too many people that will be saying bad things about Maurice Stovall at this point.
Q. When you play in a BCS game it’s a big payout, a $14 million game versus a $2 million game. Does that ever sort of creep in? How do you sort of keep thoughts of that because the stakes are obviously very, very high when you’re talking about the difference between a BCS game and a Gator Bowl?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, you don’t want to be disrespectful to the Gator Bowl or anyone else because there isn’t a Bowl game that isn’t important. That’s why there are so many of them and that’s why the schools are so happy to go to them. But to be chosen as one of the eight best programs in the country, that’s something special. I’m sure as it currently stands, I’m sure that USC and Texas are proud to be right now looked at in the limelight as 1 and 2 and get to play it off. I think when you put yourself in that select group, one of the eight best, you’re making a major statement for your program.
Q. Do the payouts ever enter…
COACH Charlie Weis: It’s about being the best you can be. That’s what it’s about, being the best you can be. Right now we’re 8-2 so we obviously can’t play in the Rose Bowl. Now, what we’re trying to do is get to 9-2 so hopefully one of those BCS games will end up taking us.
Q. How do you reconcile a Stanford team that loses to UC Davis and takes one on the chin last week in their rivalry game yet goes to places like Pullman and Corvallis and comes out with wins?
COACH Charlie Weis: Turnovers. Just like I said, if you go back and research their whole year from the first game right through the last game, when they win a turnover battle they’ve won four out of five games. In the five games they’ve won, they’ve only turned it over four times. In the five games they’ve lost, they turned it over 13 times. That really has a lot to do with why you win and why you lose. In any game that you play, you look at most of those games, most of the games that we’re talking about, if they’ve won the turnover ratio, most of those games would have been wins.
Q. Do you know Walt Harris at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: I know Walt. I know enough to walk up and chat with him. We’re not big buddies or anything.
Q. There’s going to be some other things going on, stadium, 84 year old stadium, last game. You talked about sort of minimizing distractions. There’s going to be some extra stuff going on with senior night and the whole thing. Do you keep your team sort of largely away from all that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I know one thing, we’re not going to be disrespectful to Stanford, I can promise you that. I know that there’s something special going on, and we’re going to make sure we stay out of the way. That, I can tell you.
Q. I wanted to ask you to expand a little bit on the one word educational description. I can’t imagine you ever saying you’re satisfied, but if you would have set your first season, could you say you’re reasonably happy or reasonably pleased with what the team was able to accomplish?
COACH Charlie Weis: I’d say pleased. They’re close to synonymous, but I’d say I’m pleased with the team’s performance because they’ve come such a long way and I really like this football team. I really like the team. I like the players, I like the coaches, I like the team.
But I wouldn’t say satisfied because we’ve lost two games that we had an opportunity to win, and I’d like to think that right now obviously they talk about the Rose Bowl and not talking about getting to 9-2 and playing in a BCS game to be honest with you.
Q. This is the third PAC 10 team that you’re going to play. Is there a certain similarity to the styles out there or are each of them a unique challenge?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, each coaching staff has their own personality. Everyone is different in their grooming and their philosophy. They’re all separate entities.
Q. I wanted to ask you in the turnaround that you’ve been able to effect at Notre Dame, what has been the biggest reason? Has it been a change in the system or a change in the attitude?
COACH Charlie Weis: How everyone adapted so quickly to getting on the same page would probably be the number one reason for success. From the president of the University right down through everyone, all the people that I had to deal with, the fact that we came together with kind of one goal in mind and the same voice and one direction. Too many times when things aren’t going well, there are a lot of different sidebars that are happening. The fact that everything has been able to pull together from a coaching staff, from the players, from the support staff, everything has come together fairly nicely for our first year in the program.
Q. Was there a great deal schematically … a schematic difference in the system you put in and the system they were running prior to your arrival?
COACH Charlie Weis: They’re not even close. There are very little similarities between them, the schemes that they were using and the schemes we’re using. That doesn’t mean our schemes are better than their schemes. I don’t want to sit there and say something derogatory about the previous staff because I don’t know what the thought process is. I just know what ours is. But their offensive and defensive schemes are not alike.
Q. You said at the beginning of the season it was your goal to see every game played. Have you watched all the games this year over the course of the season, the past few weeks?
COACH Charlie Weis: All of them. I watched from the time the game ended this week through now. I’ve watched them all. I try to watch them sequentially. I go from the opener right on through. Some people start backwards. I like to just watch the way things have changed. What you don’t want to do in a scout report, you don’t want to include things that happened ten weeks ago because things change. There are injuries, things change. I like to watch and see how they have changed.
Q. You mentioned Saturday was a family time for you last season. Where were you on college football last year? Like a year ago would you have known which teams were in BCS positions and things like that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Pro football players follow college football avidly, especially when their alma maters are playing. There are guys coming in and talking trash all the time. If they got beat, they’d be hearing it, too. It’s kind of fun being around it.
I’ll give you an example, this year when the Patriots got to Denver on Saturday afternoon, it was four minutes to go in the USC game. No one checked into their rooms. They all sprinted into the lobby off the buses to go watch the end of the football game that they were listening to on the buses on the radio. Obviously they had a little connection here. But pro football players follow college football, so therefore you know what’s going on. It isn’t like you have a lot of time to watch games.
Q. You’ve mentioned the Michigan State game as one that was winnable
COACH Charlie Weis: I didn’t say it was winnable. I said I wish I would have done a better job. I didn’t do my best job on that game because I think that I made such a big deal about the home game being a distraction, I didn’t think we came in with focus. Michigan State deserved to win that game, we didn’t deserve to win that game.
Q. Along those lines, what was your evaluation of the block at the first half, for instance, Walker running out of bounds and saving the time out and gave them just enough time to score a touchdown at the end of the half?
COACH Charlie Weis: We’re trying to score ourselves. This was going to be a shootout, the way the game was matriculated, so you try to score. It’s a question if you want to play passive or if you want to play aggressive. If you wait for me to play passive, you’ll be waiting a long time.