Oct. 18, 2005
COACH WEIS: As we begin the second half of our season, we’re approaching it that way, the message to the team this week is this is the start, it’s the first game of the second half of the season. As you talk to our players and coaches this week, they’re only going to be talking about the second half of the season; they’re not going to be talking about the first half of the season. So don’t bother asking the questions on that because they won’t be talking about it.
As we get ready for BYU this week, Coach (Bronco) Mendenhall, he took over the program after the two previous years being defensive coordinator. He’s still, from what I gather, the defensive coordinator.
On offense, Coach (Robert) Anae had played at BYU, has returned there after a stint at Texas Tech where he’d been the offensive line coach. When he played, I believe he was on the national championship team in 1984.
Their offense is averaging 423 yards a game, 317 in the air. And although they’re only averaging 115 yards rushing, if you watch the Colorado State game last week where they rushed about 52 times for 274 yards, they definitely went to a ground attack last week after being more of a passing team previous to that game.
They have two experienced quarterbacks. The starter back, obviously last year, (Matt) Berry, the guy who led BYU in a victory over Notre Dame is still there. (John) Beck, their starter, is averaging that 317 we were just talking about, which is seventh nationally. He’s completing just under 65% of his passes. He’s made 20 career starts.
They play two running backs. They’re quite different in their approach. (Curtis) Brown last week, he had an 100 yard rushing game versus Colorado State where he rushed the ball 31 times for 147 yards and a couple scores. The thing that scares me, I’m going to talk about him and (Naufahu) Tahi, who is the big back for them, they’re two of their five receivers. Two of their five have made 20 catches or more. In this case, Brown has 29 catches and Tahi, the big guy who is 6′, 240, who is their second leading rusher, including the game they had against Colorado State last week, he also is a leader on the team in receptions. He’s fourth on the team with receptions with 21 catches.
They have two tight ends they play a bunch. (Jonny) Harline is a little bit smaller. But he’s their leading pass receiver, he’s got 29 catches for 450 yards, which is just over 15 yards a catch. He had four last week for 81 yards. Then they had a bigger guy, (Daniel) Coates. Although he was an inch shorter on the program, he was definitely bigger by size. They really play three wide receivers. Rather than talk about two, the first two guys are the guys that give you that total of five that have caught 20 or more. You’ve got (Todd) Watkins, a senior, who was All-Mountain West last year. Third on the team with passes for 23, averaging just under 16 yards a catch, has five touchdowns. Then you have (Bryce) Mahuika, who is a little smaller, but he’s also their punt returner. He also has 25 catches. (Matt) Allen is the third wide receiver.
What I just basically showed you is how they have five different guys that have already caught 20 balls or more which has to make you worry about a lot of different weapons they have on offense.
They have a very, very big offensive line. They all weigh over 300 pounds. They average 325, which might be a modest program estimate. If you’re watching them on tape, it might be significantly more than that. Especially, you know, (Jake) Kuresa, the right tackle, who is listed as 6’4″, 339, started 28 out of 29, looking at Kuresa, I think that he might be a little bit bigger than 339 just watching him on tape. They have some big men on that offensive line.
Coach Mendenhall has quite a unique scheme on defense. It’s different than anything we’ve gone against this year. They basically playing 3 3 5, which means they have three down linemen in (Manala) Brown, (Hala) Paongo and (inaudible). They have three bigger linebackers who all make a lot of plays. (Paul) Walkenhorst is 266 pounds, definitely a big man who started 38 career games. (Cameron) Jenson leads the team in tackles with 39. (Justin) Luettgerodt, who is the other linebacker, like last week, had two and a half sacks, eight tackles. In addition, Luettgerodt is also I believe the long snapper so you can see a lot of confidence in there linebacker corps.
Their secondary, on a regular basis, has five DBs out there. They’ve got the two corners, (Justin) Robinson and (Kayle) Buchanan. (Nathan) Soelberg was starting, but he’s hurt. It will be Robinson and Buchanan at the corner. The three safeties, they rotate all over the place. (Dustin) Gabriel and (Spencer) White. Either (Quinn) Gooch or (K.C.) Bills will be the third safety.
Special teams, there’s the McLaughlin boys, do both the kicking and the punting. Sometimes I can’t really tell, but because of the altitude, I just know when they kick off, about half the time the ball is about five, 10 yards deep in the end zone. I see that on a regular basis.
I think today at least going into our press conference, now I have a pretty good idea of who we’re going against, what they do.
Q. When you met with the team yesterday what was your message to them?
COACH WEIS: I basically have broke the season into two halvesThey’re ready to start the second half of the season. Their home opener is against BYU this week.
Q. Does that change what you do with them this week and the fact they are on fall break?
COACH WEIS: Obviously if you’re starting the season over and you’re treating it like your home opener, you put in more of a training camp mentality. I let them sleep in some. Give them a lunch. We’re starting earlier than we normally do. Start at 1:00 instead of starting at 2:30. Because there’s no school this week, you have no restrictions on how much time you can have them. We’re using that time wisely. That does some unique things, both offensively and defensively, especially the punt formation that they use.
Q. The defensive line last week…
COACH WEIS: I’m not talking about last week. We’re only talking about BYU.
Q. What are you going to do this week?
COACH WEIS: Go ahead and get some practice. We had the home opener coming up. We’re ready to go. And, like I said yesterday, Brandon Hoyte was the person I was talking to at the time, I said, “If I told you we were opening up this week against BYU at home, how fired up would you be?”
He said, “Pretty fired up.”
I said, “That’s what’s happening. That’s the way we’re approaching this week.”
You always want to know what my message is. That’s my message. My message is we’re getting ready for the first game of the second half the season. BYU is our opponent.
Q. (Inaudible question)
COACH WEIS: We’re opening up against BYU. I’m only worried about BYU. Talk to me about it if we lose on Saturday. We’re trying to win on Saturday. That’s what we’re shooting for. We have enough problems on the different things. This team is unique. They have a different defense with this 3 3 5. They have a different offense. Very similar to what Texas Tech is doing, tearing it up, being undefeated right now. This is where the offensive coordinator’s background is. We have enough of a challenge getting used to two totally different schemes than what we see week in and week out.
Q. With what happened last weekend…
COACH WEIS: What just happened? I think you need to have an approach, okay? I think you need to have a theme and a message. I told you I was going to have a message. I just wanted to get it to them first. And the message is we’re breaking our season in half. The first half, you know, we could sit there and give midterm grades. But the first half is gone, so now we’re starting a second half. There are midterms, right? Didn’t we just finish midterms last week? This is a mid semester break. We’re fired up about the second half.
Q. What midterm grade would you give the team?
COACH WEIS: Incomplete.
Q. Any thoughts of wearing the green jerseys again?
COACH WEIS: I think we might just wear them every game. You know, what the heck? But I told you that using the green jersey a payback to our players. That’s what it was. It was a reward for a job well done. Unfortunately, as a coach, staff and a team, that didn’t work out. We’re not worrying about that right now. We’re just worrying about Saturday at 1:30.
Q. As far as player reaction, what do you think the Stadium will be like with the student gone on fall break?
COACH WEIS: I think there will be a full house on Saturday. I don’t think that will be an issue.
Q. Can you give us an overview of the pros and cons as far as the match ups between the two teams?
COACH WEIS: I think the biggest challenge is you’re going against an opponent that’s schematically is that much drastically different than what you normally see. There’s usually elements in different people’s offense and defense that are very similar two weeks ago, three weeks ago, last week. But this is quite a drastic change on both sides of the ball, for that matter, on special teams. You’re going to watch a team, from center to guard, they’re three yards away. You’re going to see a lot of things that are a little bit different. I’m sitting there watching. You hear about some of this stuff. Until you start watching it, you say, that’s something.
I think that we’ll have attention to detail solely on the fact, if for no other reason, a team who has beaten Notre Dame in the past. Coming into this game right here, there are a lot of things different X and O wise than any opponent we have faced this year. That grabs your attention.
Q. What is the status of Chris Frome?
COACH WEIS: We’ll be fortunate if we get him back at all. Not until after I know if it’s season ending. I know he’s having a procedure done today. When I know.
Q. How are you going to use the extra time this week with fall break?
COACH WEIS: It’s not a training camp as in beating them down twice a day or being with them for 24 hours a day, but it’s more to know what’s going on, so it gives them an opportunity to get going. That’s what we need to do. We need to get going.
Q. Goals any different for the second half of the season as they were for the first half?
COACH WEIS: Yup. We want to beat BYU. Big opener. We want to be 1 0.
Q. The fans and alumni seem to have embraced this team. Where do you think that comes from?
COACH WEIS: I think that any time a program plays hard for 60 minutes with a lot of guts and a lot of effort, they become favorite sons. I think that people can recognize giving it all. That’s what the guys here do. They’re high character guys, that it’s important to them and they’re intelligent guys. They all realize the task we have at hand. The No. 1 thing we need to do is come to our place this week and win at our own stadium on our own field in front of our own fans and get this program headed in the right direction.
Q. (Derek) Landri and Trevor (Laws), what did you think of their performance last season and what are you expecting from them in the opener and beyond?
COACH WEIS: Very good question. Being it was worded like that, I will respond.
You’ll notice this team (BYU) takes very, very large splits, so you have to be very careful on how you play inside with your inside players because they almost bait you into just taking the gaps. As they bait you into taking these extremely large splits that they’re taking, a lot of times, if you don’t play the fundamentals and techniques, you find yourself out of position.
We’re worrying about this one. We’ll worry about the next one after that. Right now we only have one game. Remember now, the following week we get a chance to go back into training camp again. So we get two weeks of training camp. We have this week, we play a game, then we have another two weeks to go back into training camp because we don’t play the following week. Right now it’s one game that we can put all our energy into because there’s not a game after that for another two weeks.
Q. You have a history of being with organizations that play well with a target on their back. Can you talk about the mentality from a coaching standpoint for being able to do that well?
COACH WEIS: We talked earlier this year about an us against the world mentality on the road. You can kind of use a very similar analogy when you’re playing at home or when you’re a marked man, and it’s just like, they’re all gunning for you. But we’re all gunning for them, too, so it goes both ways.
Right now the players have all their attention on winning a game at this stadium right here to open up the second half of the year. I think that’s the only thing we can shoot for because it will set the tone for the second half of the year.
Q. Brady Quinn seems to have developed well and played well. What do you do to continue his improvement this season?
COACH WEIS: I set higher expectations. That’s how. What you have to do is each year, and the same thing is going to be true the first half of next year’s season. Each year you have to take your players and your team and keep on raising the bar. That’s what my job is. My job is to raise the bar.
Q. Justin Brown and Ronald Talley will see significant time now with the loss of Chris Frome. Any thoughts on that?
COACH WEIS: They understand now, I know Coach (Jappy) Oliver talked to them extensively yesterday and said, `This is your time,’ because now they’re not just in the background, they’re in the mix. They’re going to be out there and they’re going to be playing and they’re going to be playing a lot. We need for them to step up and make a bunch of plays.
I think they’re going to be up for the challenge. I’m excited about watching them play.
Q. Do you have any issue with the fact that we use Big Ten referees on the road and the visiting team’s officials at home?
COACH WEIS: No. Here is the only thing I wish. This has nothing to do with Big Ten or Pac 10 or anyone. I just wish it was standardized, universally standardized with everybody. I wouldn’t care whose crew it was. I just wish that everyone had the same set of rules.
The one thing good about the NFL when it comes to things like that is it’s one set of officials. They can officiate anywhere, which I know you can’t really do in college because there’s so many more teams. One thing, there’s one set of rules, like replay. The Big Ten’s interpretation and the Pac 10’s interpretation and then the visiting team’s decision on whether or not they want to have it or not have it. There isn’t anything like that. Everyone has the same set of rules and that’s what you have to abide by.
You’re not always happy with it there either. But at least you know it’s the same set of rules. I think that’s the one thing. I can’t worry about whether it’s Big Ten or Pac 10 officials. I really can’t. Whoever is there at the game, that’s who I have to deal with. You have to try to deal with them as best you can.
I just wish the rules were standardized week in and week out, regardless of who you’re playing. This week it’s BYU’s officials. Last week it was USC’s officials. It all depends on where you are, who’s playing and who has them.
I have no problem with officiating crews. I really have more of a problem with the big picture that there’s different rules at different places, not what’s off sides. I’m talking about things like replay.
Q. What about using split crews?
COACH WEIS: I could care less. I really could. It sounds like I’m indifferent. If you start worrying about who the officials are, okay… One thing I try to do, though, is I know who the officiating crews are, I haven’t been able to gather enough research at this time, what you like to do is try to find out who the officiating crews are and then find out statistically what they call the most.
I haven’t been able to get enough on them yet. But we used to do that week in and week out in the NFL. We’d say, Marcbright is the referee this week. He likes to call roughing the passer. You’d warn your defensive line about roughing the passer.
The sooner I can get a beat on not whose officials are reffing the game, but who the actual referee is, what their crew calls, you want to go one step more than just whether it’s a Big Ten official. It’s which crew in the Big 10? Because different crews call games differently. It’s really different.
You’d be really, really surprised.
Q. Were you serious about wearing green jerseys the rest of the year?
COACH WEIS: I was joking (laughter).
Q. When you face a defense like this, they move a lot, they do a lot of different things to give your quarterback a different look. How important is it for Brady this week to have a big game?
COACH WEIS: He has to have a big game every week. I think the most important thing that he has to do in a situation like this is to be able to identify the front, okay, in everything you’re doing. It affects how you block plays. It affects sights and everything like that.
The one thing he needs to do is have a good handle on the identification of what they’re doing because you’re going to see a lot of spinning around, you’re going to see a lot of fronts where you’ll see a lot of pressure, looks like they’re coming off of one side, then they’re coming off the other side, or it will look like it’s going to be a soft zone and then they step up or vice versa.
But I think it all starts with the identification of the front so you don’t just turn people free on either the running back or the quarterback. He’s going to have to be more mentally sharp this week, okay, when it comes to identification purposes than anything else.
Q. With that question, is it more Brady is going to have to check into the right play?
COACH WEIS: No, he won’t have to. We’ll have the right play.
Q. Defense has been exceptional in creating turnovers in the red zone. Talk about the mentality that has to happen for that red zone defense.
COACH WEIS: Two things you have to understand. The red zone passing lanes are reduced significantly. It isn’t like passing out in the field. There’s only the goal line, 10 yards past the goal line. That’s the only area you have to cover. So the windows in the red zone for passing become much, much smaller. It’s tough. That’s why it’s easier to score in the red zone with a heavy diet of run and run actions where they’re biting on that.
What happens now is when your defense starts to have confidence that they can stop a team when they get down in the red zone because some positive things have happened, it becomes a psychological plus that they figure people aren’t going to get in. That’s a very good psyche to have. I think our defense at this point, that’s the way they think.
Q. Way back in the first half of the season…
COACH WEIS: I vaguely remember.
Q. You only lost a couple of people to injuries. This past week, I don’t remember exactly, long time ago, you have some more fellows in. Is that when you want to wait to look for somebody that can step up?
COACH WEIS: To be honest with you, Chris (Frome) is really the only one that’s in that boat. Chris is really the only guy. Everyone else, some things that looked significant didn’t turn out to be significant. Chris is the only one that turned to that boat. A knee is a knee. It’s a little different thing than getting hit in the head or getting a little wobbly.
We talked about Ronald (Talley) and Justin (Brown) here a couple minutes ago. It just pushed them up a spot. That’s what it does. That’s the way we think around here. One guy goes out, the next guy goes in. That’s the way it is.
Q. It’s been a ceaselessly recurring theme since the pre season about the weakness of the secondary, the porousness of the secondary. With the season opener just over the hill…
COACH WEIS: Just around the corner. Not over the hill.
Q. Do you feel those statements and that entry assumption is being somewhat invalidated?
COACH WEIS: I think right now we’re starting this new season with an experienced secondary. We have two corners who have been starters for a while. We have two safeties that have been starters for a while. It’s a lot better situation than last season when we opened up with Pittsburgh.
Q. As the offensive scientist you are…
COACH WEIS: Where is this one going (laughter)?
Q. I mean that with all sincerity.
COACH WEIS: Okay.
Q. Aren’t you looking forward to facing a gimmick defense on Saturday?
COACH WEIS: There are pros and cons with that. If you hit it right, you have an opportunity for plays. But the other thing that happens is you could hit it wrong in terms of people coming free.
I worked back in the mid ’80s for a guy by the name of Joe Lee Dunn. Joe Lee had a scheme not exactly like this, but he used to stack the 3 3 look a lot of times. I know one thing, sometimes people would hit us for big plays, but there were other times we would have people running free in the backfield all day long.
There are pros and cons with that. You have to make sure you’re very sound fundamentally. It goes back to the previous questions about Brady (Quinn) making sure he identifies the front so we don’t turn people free.
Q. BYU’s offensive scheme, in last week’s game against Colorado State, only one pass was attempted in the second quarter. Given what their running backs can do, do you think there’s a possibility they will try to use a similar type of ball control to keep the ball away from your potent offense kind of scheme that you have used in past seasons?
COACH WEIS: I’ve addressed that with the staff earlier this week. Actually we talked about it some last night. We talked about it some this morning. I think that they showed last week against Colorado State, they’re very capable of going towards the heavy run over the heavy pass. Because they’ve shown both personalities, it allows them to pick their poison and decide which way they want to go ahead and attack us.
Previous to this game, it had been much more heavily pass oriented, and I would have said no. But with the foundation that they laid last week against Colorado State, that is certainly an option.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about (Chinedum) Ndukwe. He came in as a wide receiver. You have had him as a safety. As far as the instincts go, is that something you’ve had to teach him? He’s become one of the hardest hitters on your team. Is that sort of intrinsic that he had and you had to bring it out?
COACH WEIS: Any time you convert from one side of the ball to the other side of the ball, there’s a continual learning process that goes on. I think you’re going to find Nedu continue to get better. It’s not always as instinctive to play the other side of the ball. Sometimes it has to be a more learned experience. And I think that’s what’s happening with Nedu. The more he plays, the more comfortable he feels out there on the defensive side.
It isn’t whether or not he has the capability, because we’ve seen him do that. It’s just that he’s a lot more comfortable than he was last year when we played Pittsburgh.
Q. After Saturday’s game, he’s been involved in seven takeaways this season. Again, is that instinctive? He really does seem to manage to almost always be in the right place at the right time.
COACH WEIS: Why don’t you sign me up for another half dozen of those this week where we’re in the right place at the right time to take the ball away. It would lift my spirits.
Q. Now that you have taken a look at Matt Leinart, can you give me your evaluation? What did you see appreciate now that you didn’t see on film?
COACH WEIS: I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m not talking about USC.
Q. In terms of the NFL defenses versus college defenses, what is your opinion now after one whole season?
COACH WEIS: The coverages are much simpler. There’s certainly not the same type of double coverages within a single call that you see. One of the things with a high tech nature of professional football, you could have zone on one side and man on the other side. You could have a call that’s adjusted from a two deep to a three deep based off of a three by one versus a two by two. You could have them bait you into thinking it’s going to be one thing and then doing another thing.
All defenses disguise coverages now. I’m not talking about the disguising of coverage averages. I’m talking about the multiplicity of coverages you see are far fewer than what I’ve been dealing with.
Now, conversely, most teams, they play on that level front wise, they play an under, over, even, odd, or bear defense. They narrow it down to five. You don’t see things like we’re going to see this week. You don’t see those things. So that forces you. It depends on whether you’re talking about the front seven versus the back seven. The front seven, you see a lot of wild stuff that you don’t normally see. The back seven, you don’t see nearly as complex coverage schemes as you do on the next level.
Q. Now that the BCS standings are out, do you have an opinion?
COACH WEIS: I think we’re going to have to beat BYU this week to see if we can’t get in the mix. That’s what I think. I think we better beat them because if we don’t respect BYU, they’re definitely a good enough team to come in here and beat us.