Oct. 2, 2007
COACH WEIS: UCLA has 10 starters back on offense and defense, and one of the specialists. They’re outscoring their opponents in every quarter. It’s interesting, Notre Dame has only been to the Rose Bowl two times. I guess the last time was in 1925. Karl Dorrell, I have a lot of respect for him as a head coach; I like him as a person as well. Fifth year there at his alma mater, but there are two telling stats.
When they score 30 points, he’s 20-1. They’ve won 15 straight when they’ve scored 30 or more. They’re 19-2 when they hold teams under 20 points, so those are glaring statistics. Jay Norvell came to UCLA this year from Nebraska, where he had been the offensive coordinator and coach to take over that position here at UCLA. Their offense has firepower; they’re averaging over 32 points a game, rushing for a couple hundred yards a game.
They’re averaging, I think, a little over 4 1/2 yards a carry. They’re throwing for another 2 1/4 a game. That’s 4 1/4 total. They were giving up 12 sacks so far this year. Last week stays right in tune with those statistics, because they rushed for 3 touchdowns and threw for 220 with two passing touchdowns.
The quarterback situation, (Pat) Cowan, partially tore his ACL with Washington. Some have him out for three to four weeks, some not that long. Ben Olson will be the starter; he’s a lefty. He went for two touchdowns last week. We got ready for him last year because we were going through a similar situation with the two of them last year, not knowing for sure who we’re going to end up seeing, so we had some familiarity researchwise on both guys.
They list two guys as their starting running backs, (Chris) Markey, who — both of these guys have been banged up, Markey and (Kahlil) Bell, but they’re listed as key starters, and they’re both good running backs, and (Trevor) Theriot as a full back. They use a lot of 21 people, so he shows up a lot. They also have, you know, (Michael) Pitre, who has been out since training camp, who is supposed to be a big factor in this position.
I think last week was the first time I think I saw him in some limited action. Last week is the first time I have seen him get back on the field. Tight end, (Logan) Paulsen, he started every game this year at tight end, and when they go to their two tight end sets, which they utilize, we’ll see them both out there.
The receivers, it all starts with (Brandon) Breazell. He’s the starting — he’s their big playmaker. He catches the ball with his hands well. He’s got some wiggle, he can make you miss, he’s dangerous, good acceleration.
And then you’ve got the bigger guy, (Joe) Cowan, who is the brother of the quarterback, 6 4, 220, so he uses his size to his advantage. Several other receivers see the field, 19, (Dominique) Johnson, he’s showed up. (Marcus) Everett has been banged up. (Terrence) Austin, I did a lot of work on him; he’s the punt returner, but I did work on him coming out of Poly. He shows up, too, so there is a lot of guys they use at wide receiver. So they have versatility.
Offensive line, (Micah) Kia and (P.J.) Irvin, they handle left tackle, left guard, (Shannon) Tevaga partially tore his ACL in the Utah game, and I think he might be out. (Chris) Joseph is at center, (Noah) Sutherland is the right guard, (Brian) Abraham is the right tackle.
Defensive coordinator, DeWayne Walker, he’s a friend of mine, did a very good job against us. They’re allowing 2.8 yards per carry, 16th in the country on defense, and they have 16 sacks. I’ll give you an example of how they’re playing.
Last week they gave up 248 yards; they only gave up one third down conversation in 14 attempts. They held Oregon State to one score in the red zone, had three sacks, and in the final three quarters they only allowed 101 yards in six first downs, and Oregon State gained more than 7 yards just three times in the final 12 possessions.
So obviously they D’d up pretty good in the Oregon State game after the first quarter, where they trailed 14-0, only to go on to win 40-14. They have a lot of speed at defense.
As we go to the line, they have a lot of speed at the defensive end position. When they have (Korey) Bosworth, when they use him and (Bruce) Davis — Davis was a second-team all-Pac 10. He’s that disruptive edge rusher who gave us headaches last year. Bosworth is starting at end, (Nikola) Dragovic is the other guy who has played end. He’s been banged up some, so we haven’t seen him as much. Of course, inside they have (Kevin) Brown and (Jess) Ward at the 1-3 technique.
At linebacker, strong side they are going to have (Aaron) Whittington or (Kyle) Bosworth, (Christian) Taylor mans the middle and (Reggie) Carter is the — one thing about all these linebackers and defensive ends, all three linebackers and defensive ends, they can all run and run fast! It provides quite a challenge of speed because speed is the name of their game.
Now in the secondary, you know, Trey Brown is turning the right corner, he’s got a bunch of picks, solid corner, returning starter. Their safety — they have strong safety with (Chris) Horton and free safety with (Dennis) Keyes, both returning starters, and left corner, I’ve seen (Rodney) Van and (Alterraun) Verner in there.
So they’ve — I don’t know if they’ve alternated them or how it’s gone, but I’ve seen both of them over there at the left corner. They don’t list the special teams coordinator, but they are very explosive in the return game.
They’re averaging 25 — just under 26 yards a kickoff return, and you really have to be concerned with those returners, especially (Terrence) Austin on punt return and (Matthew) Slater/(Kahlil) Bell on kickoff return. (Aaron) Perez, he is in his third year as a punter, and (Kai) Forbath is doing a nice job in his first year place kicking, and (Jimmy) Rotstein is their kickoff guy, so Kai just has to kick field goals, (Christian) Yount is the long snapper.
Q. With regard to the quarterback situation, if you have two quarterbacks that are equal — is there such a thing? Do you go with the younger guy or how would you do that?
COACH WEIS: I don’t think there’s ever such a thing where there are two guys that are equal. They might play like that in a game, but I think when it’s all said and done, you have to evaluate just not — not just solely by game day. Sometimes game day — like in last week’s case, both quarterbacks did a lot of good things, neither one of them were perfect, but I think the evaluation is based on a whole bunch of things, not just one game.
Q. Is there a time where you can split reps in practice equally or do you not want to do that?
COACH WEIS: Regardless of the circumstances, I think both guys are going to get reps. I don’t know if it will be equal. First of all I’m not 100% sure what Jimmy (Clausen) is going to look like. He’s supposed to be set and ready to go. I have to see that, you know? Some guys are set and ready to go, and they don’t play for another two weeks. Other guys that are set and ready to go, they’re ready to go that day. I’m going to have to see visually on the field how it goes right there, because (quarterbacks coach) Ron (Powlus) and I met today, and we didn’t even script who was in for what plays because we figured we will go by what we see when they’re out there.
Q. Are there things that one quarterback does over the other that are distinctly better? Can you say that about both players?
COACH WEIS: No. The one thing we talked about last week — I don’t remember when, but we just talked about, you know, accuracy is the one physical attribute, because they’ve done a good job progressing and running the team, both of them. Last week was almost like a turning point, with them going from running plays to — calling plays to running plays. I mean, they did a lot better job of running the offense in practice last week, and I thought there was carryover in the game. I think that one of the things — I talk to all of these guys all the time about the pro’s and con’s, always make sure I start with the pro’s before I get to the con’s, but I think that’s the point of emphasis that you worry about beside running the team. The biggest physical attribute is accuracy.
Q. You took the wrist bands off of them in practice last week. Did that help?
COACH WEIS: Yeah. I put pressure on them for me to take it to them and them to have to go over there, and now they didn’t have a security blanket, where they read No. 3, and they just read it; so they’re not calling the play, they’re just reading off the play. So I don’t think that makes you go through mental concentration when you’re actually, “okay, you got the play, now I’m giving it to you, now I’m thinking about what’s going to happen on the play”; whereas, you read it off, and sometimes they would go to the line of scrimmage, and they would still be looking at it again to see, “okay, what’s the play again?”
Q. Have you done that in the past — or is that something…
COACH WEIS: I’ve always done that, but certain guys like, for example, Brady (Quinn) the last two years, I don’t know if he in practice other than maybe on a move the field day, which is like on Thursday, the drive that you’re going in you’re no longer giving them a play, you’re signaling in a play, he would never look at the wristband. You would start to tell him, and he would remember. Like if you had one play that was only in one formation, as soon as he heard the play he would say, “I got it.” Because he would have the formation memorized. If he had a play that was in three different formations, as soon as he heard the first three words, he wouldn’t have to hear the rest of the formation because he would say, “Okay. I got it.” So I think that’s the direction we got to move toward.
Q. How unusual is it to have your leading tackler be a defensive end (Trevor Laws) in this scheme you guys are running?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that it tells you that that defensive end is playing very disruptive football. I think that usually the guys who — in a 3-4 defense that are making the majority of tackles are the linebackers, so I would say it’s quite unusual to tell you the truth. You look at almost every 3-4 defense you go around, it’s usually the inside linebackers/outside linebackers.
Q. Does it say more about Trevor (Laws), the limitations the linebackers are having, or a little bit of both?
COACH WEIS: It’s probably a little bit of both, but he’s having just a banner year. I had more scouts last year not notice him, and almost everyone that comes in says, “he’s playing very well.” That’s one of the reasons why Trevor came back was to make sure he did it — was part of an upgrade in his stock. That was one of the reasons why he came back, and I think he’s certainly doing that by his performance on the field.
Q. If Jimmy (Clausen) is healthy enough, he’s the starter?
COACH WEIS: That’s what it would be. If he’s healthy enough, he’ll start.
Q. To the quarterbacks. You’ve said since before the season started that you wouldn’t rule out using two. Could you see a benefit from a learning standpoint to using two in a game?
COACH WEIS: Not really, to tell you the truth. I think that we have two — these two guys have kind of fallen into fairly similar patterns, their style of play. They’re not the exact same player, but they’re fairly similar in their style of play, so I think, you know, one has got to be one and one has got to be two.
Q. As far as the progress the younger guys have made since the season started, how much of that is playing as opposed to being a freshman or a sophomore, inexperienced and thinking too much?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s a combination of both things. I think playing experience is invaluable. Anytime you have a guy that’s been playing, all of the sudden it’s three games, then it’s five games, then it’s a season, then it’s two seasons, you’re going to see that a lot of things that you take for granted with a junior or senior, you gotta spoon-feed a freshman. That being said, I think there is a lot to the maturity process of coming in from a high school kid that you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and now you’re just one of the guys when you walk in there. I think you go through a maturation process that — when we went to college. It’s no different for them, just they haven’t been playing — they’re playing football with a lot more scrutiny.
Q. In the year and a half that (UCLA defensive coordinator DeWayne) Walker has been there, what’s the biggest thing that you’ve been able to see that he brings to the defense?
COACH WEIS: DeWayne, when he got there last year the thing he did is he got them to play fast, and they must have had athletes there already, because he didn’t all of the sudden in five seconds get those guys to come there, a lot of them had to be there. The year before I didn’t see them play fast. Last year, they did. Not only in our game, but in each game, and this year they’re playing fast. So I think there’s a lot to that. Sometimes you’ll give up size at positions for guys that can giddyup and go. That’s probably one of the things that’s been the toughest thing about their defense is that they play fast.
Q. Have you ever been to the Rose Bowl?
COACH WEIS: I’ve been to the Rose Bowl; I haven’t coached in a game in the Rose Bowl.
Q. Anything you would tell your players?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s a fabulous venue. Pasadena is a beautiful city/town, and I think that our players are going to be excited, because really it’s a nice place to go.
Q. What is it that (UCLA’s) Trey Brown brings to the table that makes him a guy that’s becoming one of the better corners in the country?
COACH WEIS: I think one of the reasons that people don’t want to throw at him very often is because he’s always — sometimes corners are around the ball but don’t make plays. You look at this guy; he has three interceptions, I think, I don’t know off the top of my head, but interceptions, pass break ups, hand on the ball, drives on a three step drop. These are things that are more typical of a pro corner than a college corner. He has very good ball skills and awareness, and he always seems to be around the ball.
Q. As far as (David) Grimes, where is he at right now?
COACH WEIS: He was in much better condition than we were anticipating. He probably won’t go today, I would say — I can give you my day to day answer, but I would say he’s probably 50/50 for the game. So if I went to my background — I would call him questionable, not doubtful, but not probable, either. I would say he’s questionable.
Q. With your punting situation, is Geoff Price healthy?
COACH WEIS: He is.
Q. So it’s performance-based?
COACH WEIS: Eric (Maust) punted last week, and Eric will be punting again this week.
Q. You talked about UCLA’s defense playing fast. What do you have to do to get your defense to play that fast?
COACH WEIS: Sometimes playing fast is a big part of a team that’s turning — that’s turning them loose. 3-4 defense is a little bit different philosophy when you have guys that are aligned on tackles rather than getting on edge, so it’s two totally different schemes.
Q. Special teams. What adjustments can you make now to make things better and what adjustments have to wait until the season is over?
COACH WEIS: First of all, I think we can do a much better job in the return units. You always can do that. For example, on kickoff return last week, although our field position was good, especially on the sky kicks that I thought we converted very well, I thought Robert (Hughes) and Junior (Jabbie) did a nice job on the pooch kicks over to our left. The ones I was more disappointed in were the deep ones, because it seemed like the separation between the wedge and the returners was too much, and when the ball was kicked deep, we were starting on the — on the 25 versus when the ball was pooched, we were starting around the 40. Every 10 yards it’s not a first down the offense has to get. I think in the return units, if you do a better job of holding up your guys, the field position is going to be better. As far as last week, I thought Eric (Maust) did a nice job on punting. There were no returns in the game, so there was nothing I could say critically about that. On kickoff, we were trying to pooch it or squib it, to not let No. 9 (Purdue’s Dorien Bryant) get that play. We were willing to give up field position to not have a game changing play. It’s worth that because we didn’t kick the ball deep.
Q. Extra points?
COACH WEIS: We’ll be out there, kicking full speed. I think the only way of fixing it is doing it full speed. You know that first individual where normally we’re just waiting for you guys to go before we get going, we’ll be kicking field goals. You’ll probably be reporting about it on the news or writing it in the paper tomorrow. (chuckles)
Q. Can you talk about Golden Tate’s development and where you see yourself expanding his role?
COACH WEIS: I used Golden Tate this morning as an example to the entire team as what you can do by running full speed on the show team. We had this conversation on Sunday with the team. Sometimes when people are running the “look squad” to simulate the opponent’s offense or defense, they look at that like it’s a penalty. Other guys use it as a way to get themselves down the other end of the field, and that’s what he’s done. He’s just gone down — for the last two or three weeks he’s easily been the best player on the field going against our defense. And when you watch the tape, and you see him make these plays, then you want to get him on the field on offense.
Q. How has Evan (Sharpley) handled not be the starter?
COACH WEIS: Evan is probably one of the most prepared people on the team, so he knows whether or not he starts or not that he’s going to be ready as if he is starting. Right now I can’t tell you for sure exactly how this is going to go down. I don’t know what Jimmy’s health is for sure, I don’t know how it’s going to happen in a game, but I do know that Evan will be ready to play when his number is called.
Q. You talked about getting the running game going. How important is it to have a two dimensional game against a defense like UCLA’s?
COACH WEIS: I think if you try to get into a passing game on every play with their edge speed and the fact that (UCLA defensive coordinator) DeWayne (Walker), if he thinks he can go for the jugular, he will by blitzing the house. I think you better be able to slow them down some by being able to run the ball; if not, you could be in for a long evening.
Q. Were you able to figure out why you weren’t able to get it going against Purdue?
COACH WEIS: There were things across the board. I would like to blame it on one position, but it seemed as we looked at it and analyzed, especially the first half, because after the first half we were sprinkling in runs just to keep them honest, as we were trying to play catch up, but we didn’t block well, and I don’t think we ran real well. And we didn’t — we had the ball out of our hands on one of those runs as well. Fortunately we didn’t lose it. I think we have a plan to try to address that starting today. I think we’re going to see if we can’t fix some of those problems.
Q. You talked about special teams. You thought that would be a strength going into the season, and in a lot of the stats you’re in the middle to the lower end. Can you tell us why you haven’t done as well as you thought you might have?
COACH WEIS: First of all, Zibby (Tom Zbikowski) hasn’t gotten many chances at punt returning to get going. There have been a lot of plus 50 punts that have been down close and really haven’t given us a chance to get going. Field position, sometimes the yards on the kickoff return are not nearly as important as the drive start. I think last week in the game, for the most part, the drive start was more than satisfactory, because a lot of their kicks, especially when it was going against wind, were more of the pooch variety. So the yards aren’t nearly as important as where the yardage is. I think that the coverage units have had, you know, some halfway decent success, but I think for the most part the thing that’s bugged me the most on a kicking game, which is more than anything else, which is really the tail of where we’ve been in several factions of the team; we’ve been inconsistent. Once again, like last week — and we’re going to do it again this week, we’re going to dedicate time on special teams. Although we dedicate a half hour to special teams anyway, when you’re dedicating a half hour of your practice to special teams, that’s a significant portion of time that you’re giving it.
Q. You brought up the stats about UCLA’s record when they hold — score more than 30 and hold an opponent under 20. Did you bring that up to the team, and how worrisome is that just because of the fact that you’ve given up 30 points every game and scored less than 20?
COACH WEIS: I won’t bring that up to anyone on the team. I just bring it up to you guys that I’m aware of that, if you play in a game where you’ve giving up 30 or playing a game where you’re scoring less than 20, then it doesn’t bode well for your chances of winning the game. I’m just trying to be a realist here.
Q. You focus on the week to week. At some point, like this week, is there attention paid to the fact that you could match the longest losing streak in Notre Dame history?
COACH WEIS: Thanks, (AP writer) Tom (Coyne). But, as a matter of fact, that’s not foremost in my mind. I don’t lose sleep over those stats. Tom, I’ll be honest if I lose sleep over that. What I lose sleep over is what I’m going to be doing on a day to day basis. I’m just trying to get the team in the best position to beat UCLA; I promise you that’s all I think about.
Q. Do you worry about the team worrying about it?
COACH WEIS: I think the team knows they’re 0 5. I don’t think they’re worrying about history; they’re trying to get their first win. That’s what they’re worrying about. I don’t think they’re worrying about any games from last year or 1960. I think they’re just trying to get one win, trying to beat UCLA.
Q. You do know history, because you knew what year it was.
COACH WEIS: I know the history. I know the history, and it isn’t because I’m reading the media. It’s probably because my wife or son told me; that’s probably where I heard it. I have to be honest with you, that’s probably where I heard it from.
Q. Getting back to Trevor Laws, how do you project him on the next level? Can he play outside in the 3 4? Is he going to be a tackle in a 4 3?
COACH WEIS: I think he’ll be a pain in the butt as a 3 technique inside, or he could play a 3-4 as long as they’re playing on the edge and he doesn’t get lost in it as a two gapper. We call that a 5-technique. He could play a 3- or a 5-technique and be a pain in the butt.
Q. As far as us having access to your kickers kicking live today, is that what you want? Did you want them to have the pressure of knowing that it’s…
COACH WEIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. They are going to know every one of their kicks are going to be videotaped today, and I’m going to tell them that here in just not too long from now.
Q. You mentioned Sunday about fast tracking Golden (Tate). Could you talk about what that process entails? How you fast forward a guy’s development coming out of last week?
COACH WEIS: Well, we all found out the other day that he can run go routes and catch the ball in traffic. That’s what he’s done in practice every single day. Now we have to make sure he can run a handful of other routes and run them with some type of precision, so you’re not guessing where he’s going to be on different routes. That’s what we’re going to work on this week.
Q. The freshman class as a whole — 11 of those guys have played in meaningful situations already. I’m sure you expected a lot of them to play by the end of year. Are you surprised how quickly they’ve gotten into your system and been able to be relied upon?
COACH WEIS: Maybe at the volume that they’ve played, not that they’ve played. You know, some of these guys are playing significant number of reps. You know, there’s a couple of other guys that aren’t far away, to be honest with you. It’s a very good, talented class and, they’re obviously in some cases going through culture shock or growing pains or whatever you say, but they’re helping the team get better.
Q. Short yardage situation, third and one, fourth and one, how much of that is schemes, X’s and O’s, something you can do differently, and how much of it is you need guys to take a different attitude there?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s a combination of both. You have to be able to sooner or later line up and run the ball straight ahead for a yard. They know you’re doing it, you know they’re doing it. Hey, you can go play action and try to take shots or try to grab bag and come up with a few more plays. You know, I’m more than willing to do whatever works, but the team knows and everyone knows that sooner or later, you know, you’ve got to run for a yard. And they’re going to try to stop the run and there will be a bunch of guys up there, and you can block most of them; you might not be able to block the safeties that are standing 6 yards behind them, but you’ve got to be able to run it for a yard.
Q. Could you talk about the offensive line has progressed and developed?
COACH WEIS: We started off really slow in the year and now in the last couple weeks we’ve seen evidence — unfortunately in different games, okay, we’ve seen evidence that you can get the run game going, and we’ve seen evidence that they can protect. That’s basically in the last two games we’ve seen — the problem is they have not been in the same game. Against Michigan State you would have to say there was evidence that we can run the football. This (past) week you would have to say there is evidence that we can pick up the blitz and throw the ball, and now we have to tie those things together.
Q. (Dan) Wenger and Justin Brown, would you anticipate them being available?
COACH WEIS: Justin is probable, not questionable, and Wenger, I would probably put him more with Grimes in that he’s questionable. Neither Grimes or Wenger would I put them as doubtful, but I’ll have to see more by the end of the week to say they’re going to play in a game.
Q. Is Golden (Tate) off the show team then?
COACH WEIS: I don’t think he’ll be down to show team this week.
Q. In terms of getting and keeping Duval (Kamara) and Golden (Tate) more involved, how are they progressing because they’re young? How much of the plays are they capable of playing?
COACH WEIS: As we talked about the other day, Duval has been up the whole time because Duval was a more polished receiver. Golden just might be one of the best athletes on the team, and he’s certainly one of, if not the fastest one on the team. So it’s one of the things that we felt we needed. We need more straight-line speed to stretch this field right here, and he certainly does that. I think Duval is ahead in route running, but you can’t coach speed. Either you have it or you don’t.
Q. When you see these guys making big catches in games and another one and another one, are there situations where maybe you will put them in on plays that they haven’t practiced and say the play before, “Hey, this is what you’re going to do, now go do it”?
COACH WEIS: Well, we sort of did that the other day, grabbed them and said, “Come in here and run a go,” and they said, “What?” I said, “Run right by that guy,” and the (defensive) guy is sitting there listening to you, and he’s looking at you like you’re a liar, and he runs right by him. You can’t do that with all the routes, now, because sooner or later they figure that out.
Q. Do you feel like you have a game breaker in him (Golden Tate)?
COACH WEIS: We have a guy who can run fast down the field and catch the ball, can go up and get the ball. We see that in practice every day, and if you go back to — what game was it, the Penn State game where we threw it up the left sideline and it got called back for holding. He was in the game for one play — no, for a couple plays, but one that we threw to, he goes up there and gets it, but it’s not his fault it was called back. He’s in a jump ball situation and he comes down with it. He has an uncanny ability to do that.
Q. Looking at UCLA, they had a close game two weeks ago with Washington, and Utah gave them problems. When you were looking at the tapes, what did you see those teams do that they had success in?
COACH WEIS: Those games were totally different, because Utah used gadgets to come up with big plays. They hit them and they gadgeted them and they worked. When you put those gadgets in, it’s definitely hit or miss, but they hit, and they hit on a whole bunch of them. I think for the most part this defense is pretty sound.
Q. Not that there are the feelings or emotions that a team gets when you win a football game, but second half being in a game pressure situation with the guys and seeing how they responded, is there something to be said about the importance of that going forward, being there in the second half like they were?
COACH WEIS: I would say yes. And I hope the answer is yes, by the way. Because for the first time you could feel it on the sideline, you could feel the difference on the sideline. Now, that doesn’t do you any good if they left it there. They’ve got to bring it with them here this week, and we have a couple of ways we’re trying to help manifest that situation.
Q. Did you tap into something, though? Even yourself, in your postgame press conference you seemed more animated and juiced. I know the guys take a loss no matter what, competing or not…
COACH WEIS: I felt that way because there were many more positives to talk about. There have been several weeks I’ve come up here and there’s not too many positives to talk about. But the bottom line is we lost a game. The bottom line is it’s a 60 minute game, and we have to go about working at staying in it for that long.
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