Oct. 21, 2008
COACH WEIS: A couple things before I get to Washington, a couple personnel issues. Paul Duncan this morning had his hip — he had cartilage repaired in his hip. He’ll be gone for the year. We had that done this morning. We had several questions about this over the last bunch of weeks, and we decided over the last week to go ahead and have that done, so we had that done this morning. He’s fine, and everything went well. But he’ll miss the remainder of the season.
David Grimes, you’ll have him tomorrow. He’s had this nagging back injury for a while, and I would list him as doubtful in this game, so when you get him tomorrow, I’m sure his status will probably still be in that same situation.
And then Luke Schmidt is still out indefinitely. That’s still the case.
I know one of the things you guys need to do a lot of times when we have practice is who’s around, who’s not around, so I’m trying to save you from having to do that. I’m not anticipating anyone else not being out there and being full go and ready to go.
So on to Washington. Obviously Coach Willingham is in his fourth year there at Washington, and let’s talk about their offense first. Tim Lappano, who’s their coordinator, was also their quarterback coach, I know he coached for a little while with the 49ers with Dennis (Erickson) in 2003 and 2004.
They’re throwing the ball very well, even after they lost a main guy. They’re throwing the ball for over 215 yards a game, and they’re doing a nice job on 3rd down. I’d like to say better than us. They’re converting about 50 percent on 3rd down, so they’ve done some nice things there.
(Ronnie) Fouch had to take over. He’s a redshirt freshman, had to take over at quarterback when (Jake) Locker went down with that thumb injury. He started the last couple games now, and in the last game he started, he threw for 276. One thing from watching him, because you don’t have as much information — even though he did play games last year that we had a chance to go back and see, he does move and slide in the pocket well, and he’s tough and will hang in the pocket, and obviously he’s got some production, especially this last game.
Running backs are in a little bit of a state of flux. The freshman Terrance Dailey had a big week last week, really — there’s been so many guys banged up, I really hadn’t been that familiar with him, but he had a really good game here. He had 16 carries for 102 yards and one for 59 yards.
But there’s been a bunch of guys banged up. For example, (David) Freeman had a high ankle sprain and he didn’t play last week; he might play. (Willie) Griffin was getting a lot of time but he didn’t get much time last week, but part of the reason why was because Dailey was having such a big game.
Homer will be the fullback. He also plays a lot on teams, and we’ll see (Michael) Gottlieb and (Kavario) Middleton both at tight end.
Now, at wide receiver, they play about five or six guys at wide receiver. (D’Andre) Goodwin, he’s definitely the go to guy. Last week he had five catches for 136 yards. He’s got 32 catches for the year for over 450 and averaging over 14 yards a catch. He has good hands; he goes up and gets the ball. He adjusts well to the ball in the air. He’s a nice receiver.
(Devin) Aguilar will play over there at his position. He’s tough, and he catches the ball in traffic, so you’ll see him in there, too.
Over at Z, (Alvin) Logan, (Jermaine) Kearse, (Tony) Chidiac, they’ll all play. Chidiac is more of a slot player when he goes in. Logan will probably start at the Z, another red shirt freshman. A lot of freshman playing, because Kearse, he’s a freshman who plays, too. Chidiac plays in the slot more than anything else. He has good hands, and he’s tough.
And when they put (Jordan) Polk in the game, 82, he’s their fastest wide receiver, but he’s also their gadget guy. They do a lot of stuff, and they run fakes with him and fake sweeps with him and reverses, and he’s got good speed and he’s got make you miss ability. He’s 161 pounds, but he’s got that jitterbug mentality where he can make some guys miss. He’s tough to bring down.
One thing about their offensive line, and you’ll all see it as you’re looking at it, they’re very, very large people. They’re very, very big. As a matter of fact, they average just under 330 pounds per guy. Their left tackle is (Ben) Ossai, he’s 332, he’s a big body with long arms. (Jordan) White Frisbee, he plays left guard, he’s 368, okay. And anytime somebody is 368, you know they’re about two pounds under four bills because that’s usually — having been a heavy guy my whole life, that 368 probably doesn’t do him justice. He’s a very large man. But the thing about him, he plays with good strength, he’s big, he’s massive, and he tries to play physical.
(Juan) Garcia, their center, is one of the smallest guys at 305. Now, he was granted a six year eligibility, so this is his third straight year where he’s starting every game at center, so he’s been obviously the experienced guy out of the group.
Now, I think (Ryan) Tolar will end up being at right guard. When (Casey) Bulyca went down, who had been the starting right guy — he had season ending surgery last week — Tolar came in, and he ended up starting for him at right guard. He’s only 321 so he’s one of the smaller guys.
And at right tackle, (Cody) Habben, another 6’6″, 316 guy. So one thing with them against us, we have some definite issues to be dealing with with an offensive line that is this big.
Now, on defense, Ed Donatell, who I’ve known for quite some time, is their defensive coordinator. Let’s start with their defensive line.
I think the first person you really have to talk about is (Daniel) Te’o-Nesheim, because he is a guy who will play defensive end. They’ll list him as a defensive end, but when they go to nickel they put him inside as a three technique. He’s a very disruptive player; they’ll slide him inside and out, and he plays hard.
Their nose is (Cameron) Elisara. Their three technique is (Senio) Kelemete, and their weak side defensive end is a little smaller guy in Darrion Jones.
Now, at linebacker before this past week against Oregon State they had been playing a whole bunch of different guys at linebacker, but this week it looks to me like they settled in because (Donald) Butler had been moving all over the place, but he’s settled in at the Sam linebacker in the last game. He tries to play very physical. (Trenton) Tuiasosopo settled in at Mike linebacker, and (Mason) Foster settled in at Will linebacker. He’s as productive as anyone they have right there. He will make a whole bunch of plays.
But those three guys before had been part of a rotation, but this last game against Oregon State, they played most of the way, the three of them.
In the secondary, the two corners are Richardson and Forrester. Both of these guys were former safeties that they converted to corner, so they’re rough you up type of guys. They’re very physical. The third corner that will show up in the game is (Vonzell) McDowell. They usually play him inside as the nickel when they do go to nickel.
Nate Williams is their strong safety, one of their best players. Like last week he led the team in tackles. I think he had 11 tackles in the game.
And I’ve seen three different guys at free safety, (Victor) Aiyewa started last week, but I’ve also seen (Tripper) Johnson play in there, and (Johri) Fogerson I’ve seen, too. Fogerson I believe last week had a virus, but I’m expecting him to be back here this week.
On special teams, Brian White is their special teams coach. He also coaches tight ends. You’ve got (Jared) Ballman who place kicks. He really does everything. He punts, kicks off and kicks. Every once in a while they’ll put (Ryan) Perkins in there. I think he tried like three field goals as another field goal kicker.
(Danny) Morovick is their long snapper, and when it comes to returner, Polk and (Quinton) Richardson are their primary guys on kickoff return. Aguilar or Goodwin will probably be back, one of those two guys will probably be back as their punt returners.
Q. With Rudolph, just because of obviously the lack of numbers at tight end, do you treat him and Joseph (Fauria) any differently during the week in practice? Do you maybe not use him as much because of lack of numbers?
COACH WEIS: No. I mean, they rep — Kyle gets almost all of them, and Joseph gets the leftovers. You always have to be concerned with guys in practice wearing out and things like that. So we make sure that he doesn’t get too much to get worn out in practice. But other than that, we need to get him ready to go, especially to build chemistry, both in the blocking game and as a receiver.
Q. He seems like a real quiet kid, too. Is he like (John) Carlson in that respect?
COACH WEIS: Well, they’re quiet personas, but they’re very intense football players. He’s got a lot of John in him, which is a good quality to have. I mean, football is really important to him, and he doesn’t have a quiet persona as a player.
Q. I know you guys are coming off of a loss, but this is the first time you’re playing a team that’s 0 and 6. Do you kind of have to stress certain things to make sure they don’t necessarily look to Pittsburgh?
COACH WEIS: Well, for us, Pittsburgh is way down the road for us, because really having the break when we’ve had it, having it at this time right now, you really have time to kind of, okay, we’ve raised the bar from where we were two months ago. Two months ago we were here. Now at the halfway mark of the year, we’ve raised the bar to here. So now that’s where we’re starting from now. We’re not starting from back down here again.
So now you’ve raised the bar to here, so really, Washington is the first opportunity you have to take a step forward from where you’ve raised that bar.
Q. And just with Will (Yeatman), obviously his status his changed since the last time you’ve talked to us. If you want to take us through that.
COACH WEIS: There’s nothing I can say. I mean, he’s not here for the rest of the semester, and we’ll look forward to having him back in January.
Q. The comparisons between the programs between Ty and you are out there. Does any of that ever reach you? Especially last year, it seems to almost reach national obsession levels during the year.
COACH WEIS: I think the only time that that really, in my case, came into play is when we were playing them back in 2005, because it was so soon after the change over. But I think that once we got past that game, I think that both he and I were happy to get past that game.
As far as analogies, we’ve gone our separate ways from there. I think that that was probably the one hurdle that we both had to get through, just so we could get through it. But I’ve gone my way, he’s gone his way, our programs have, as well. I think that was a bigger hurdle to go through than any analogy that’s taken place after that.
Q. Even deep down there’s no feeling on your part when you go out there this week, because it’s there with your fans, I have to win this —
COACH WEIS: In 2005 it was definitely there. You could act like it wasn’t there because you felt like — like this dog and pony show that we always talk about, that’s how I felt at the time. I don’t feel that way now.
Now I feel like, hey, it’s the second half of the season, we need to get off to a good start, we’ve just had a nice long weekend off. We’ve got to get off to a good start, and Washington happens to be the team we’re playing.
Q. And do you feel for a fellow coach then when you can just see their program get off to an 0 and 6 start? You were there a year ago.
COACH WEIS: Was anyone asking that question last year (laughing)? I never wish bad on anyone. It’s kind of funny because my wife and I were talking about Mike Nolan last week, and we were just talking about it, I like Mike Nolan, I respect him, we have the same agent, and I was talking about it’s important as you get involved in coaching to never wish bad on another coach. I mean, that’s really a bad thing, because when you do that, you’re wishing bad on him and his family and his assistant coaches and their families, before you even get to the players that are in the program. So I always wish goodwill on everyone.
Q. When you got into college coaching four seasons ago now, fourth season, three years ago, did you realize, you knew how important recruiting was. Did you understand how closely it was followed by fans, by media now and so forth? I mean, your recruiting is mainstream now.
COACH WEIS: No, I didn’t realize — first of all, I knew that I was going to like recruiting, so that wasn’t going to be the issue. Okay, what I didn’t realize is the magnitude of the Internet. I mean, you can’t do anything without it being on the Internet, and recruiting is just one of the subjects.
Now, that’s only — recruiting happens to be the subject we’re talking about, but it’s no different than if I go to the movies, to the multi cinema on Friday night, I mean, your personal life is — the Internet is part of that, too.
But as far as recruiting goes, no matter where you go, no matter what you do, there’s multiple people that know about it.
Q. Following up on that a little bit, do you take advantage of a coach on a hot seat? Does it make you a little uncomfortable taking a people into that situation where I know you’re coming off a loss, but complacency could be an issue under the circumstances?
COACH WEIS: Complacency on our part?
COACH WEIS: I think that would be the first — we have already addressed that issue right off the bat this morning, about Washington — we can’t worry about Washington because we’ve got more problems worrying about us. We’ve had time to go ahead and analyze us and see where we are and get well rested and all those other things, and we’re just dialing up the schedule, and Washington is up first.
So I think that in a normal case, if this were like in the normal flow of things where you had just finished a game and now you’re, boom, going into the next game, that could have been the case. But because of how the framework worked out where you ended up having a bye before that took place, I think it kind of alleviates — kind of downplays the possibility of that coming to fruition.
Q. What about the atmosphere that you’re going in? Usually you go into an us against the world situation. I’m not sure that is physically the atmosphere this time around.
COACH WEIS: But at the same time we’re going away from home and we have to go win. So there’s always — in the next four weeks we’re playing three times on the road, so this happens to be one of them. So I think that it also gives you a good opportunity to set a tone for the second half of the season by going somewhere and beating somebody on the road.
Q. Shifting gears to Michael Floyd, everybody has talked about all the positives that he brings to the field. You said you didn’t think that he would adapt as quickly as he has, and I’m sure he showed that he was very, very good right from the beginning. But what have been some of the things that he has had to adapt to, that he has had to learn?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that physically you’re never as concerned about a guy physically as you are concerned about them mentally. Let’s not confuse mentally with intellectually because they’re two different subjects.
The number of — the volume of stuff that you’re given in this offense at the wide receiver position, especially when we’re running no huddle and they have to be able to play both outside positions that are different positions based off of the formation. One time he’s one position, and the next time he’s another position based off whether we’re in right formation or left formation or three by one or two by two. So to have a kid at a young age without having been exposed to all your terminology and all the idiosyncrasies, to be able to play at this level this quickly, you know, is a pretty positive statement.
Q. You’ve talked about his personality before. I mean, he’s the kind of kid that doesn’t say a whole lot, or in the heat of battle is he a little bit more conversive?
COACH WEIS: I think he’s not afraid to talk if that’s what you’re saying. I think a lot of these guys come across very professional, but I think that he’s got some of that in him.
Q. With David (Grimes) out, is it a (Duval) Kamara/(Robby) Parris kind of combo coming up?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, both those guys will get a lot more action this week, and we’re working them both in those roles, as well.
Q. With your tight ends, situation kind of at least you got some finality to the situation, first of all, do you feel compelled that Joseph (Fauria) needs to play? And secondly, do you need a guy like (Mike) Ragone to come out and help them in practice or talk to them in meetings and so forth?
COACH WEIS: No, we don’t need a player to come out and help coach them. That we don’t need. And we believe — we’re confident that if Joseph had to play in the game, we’d be just fine.
We’re still in the same boat, though. Do you play him just to play him, to get him some time? Do you play him in case when you do need him, when that time comes, you’re not just throwing him to the wolves. So we’re going to keep finessing that situation until we’re forced to make a decision.
Q. You wanted to take a look at some of your young guys during the open week, and I wondered if somebody jumped to the forefront to the point you might use them or consider using them.
COACH WEIS: I’d say there’s about three or four guys that we believe if we had to get them into the mix, we could get them into the mix. But at this point of the year we’re going to try our best to not go in that direction unless we have to.
Q. Anybody jump out at you that you said, wow?
COACH WEIS: Well, let’s just throw an example on offense and an example on defense. Let’s do that. Let me group two guys on offense and talk about one on defense, because — let’s talk about both the young wide receivers.
Okay, now, both the young wide receivers, meaning John (Goodman) and Deion (Walker), have made significant strides from when they first got here, to the point where if I had to play them in a game, I believe they would do just fine. Okay, if I had to play them in a game, I believe — now, I would not have said that at the beginning of the year. But at this point right now, if I had to play them in a game, I think they would do just fine.
Now, because I’ve got some big bodies on the defensive line, and let me take Kapron Lewis-Moore. He’s a very athletic guy who athletically we could get on the field right now. But is he going to be as good or better than the guys that are already out there playing? It’s not a question of whether he’d be good enough to play. The question is do we gain anything from that being the case.
But they’re three guys that if we had to play them this week in a game, I’m convinced that all three of them could play in a game and do just fine.
Q. My obligatory Tyrone Willingham question. Do you guys know each other really other than just saying hello, and have you talked at all since the last Washington game?
COACH WEIS: No, we don’t know each other very well, but we’re cordial when we see each other. But no, I don’t call him and he doesn’t call me.
The last time I saw him, I think, was last January at the (AFCA) coaches’ convention. But other than that, we don’t call and ask how the families are doing or anything like that.
Q. Is “pass right” still in the play book?
COACH WEIS: It’s still in the play book, but it’s still a vivid and sad memory.
Q. In your self analysis or your team’s self analysis that you’ve done during this bye week, talk about red zone offense and some of the things you’ve tried to do there.
COACH WEIS: What I want to do — in case I had this question about self scout. I’ve kind of put Michael (Haywood) and Corwin (Brown) on call for the self scout questions, because I made the staffs do due diligence and all I did was reap the benefits of being able to read the summary. I would prefer if you don’t mind if you guys would direct those questions today towards Michael and tomorrow towards Corwin because you might get into that a little bit more particular. I would be more general and they would be more specific. Fair enough?
Q. In terms of the running game and talking about that, you mentioned Washington’s size, but they’ve had the same problems running the football consistently as you have. What areas have you tried to tweak during the two weeks?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, they had two issues. Number one, okay, they’ve had a whole bunch of running backs get hurt. But number two, their best runner — one of their best runners was their quarterback who got hurt.
For them to be able to make an analysis of their running game, a lot of it had to do with when No. 10 (Jake Locker) went down. So that is a whole separate set of circumstances.
As far as us, one thing that we’ve had to do is as we’ve evolved over the last month is put our team in the best position to win, and that’s what we will continue to do. And whatever puts us in the best position to win, okay, running or throwing, that’s what we’re going to do, because ultimately our No. 1 goal is making sure we win the game. And we need to do better than we did the last game, because the last game it wasn’t good enough.
Q. Finally, might as well build on the Ty Willingham questions, when you encounter him or you’re going to encounter Bob Davie this weekend who’s doing the game, is there any kind of bond there because they’re two of the few people who know what it’s like to stand on that Notre Dame sideline and go through the pressures, or whatever the experience is?
COACH WEIS: You know, when I call people up, I usually like to talk to the guys who left here with a good taste in their mouth. And when guys leave here before they’re ready to leave, they’re not the people that would be the best people for me to talk to.
It’s not that we’re not cordial; it’s just not the best situation. I don’t want them to feel they have to say something, and I really don’t want to ask them. When I have a question to ask somebody who’s been in that boat, I call Ara (Parseghian) and Lou (Holtz), because they were here over a decade, and I just feel those are the guys that can kind of guide me the best.
I feel bad for other people, but the bottom line is when people leave before they want to leave, it’s never a good conversation.
Q. You talked about raising the bar. Can you talk about what you addressed with the team, like what type of goals in the second half you may have set or what particular areas you want to raise the most?
COACH WEIS: Well, there’s two obvious ones that you could state, but without getting too specific, the two obvious ones are the fact that unlike the first half of the season where you played four games at home and two games on the road, the second half of the season you’re going to have four games on the road and two games at home.
So I think that the first thing you’re going to have to do, and it starts this week against Washington, is go away from the can you win on the road question mark and start making the statement that you can. In other words, I want to eliminate the question mark and start doing something about it. And I think that this week’s game gives you an opportunity to start in the right direction.
Secondly, I think that it’s really important in the composition of the schedule to realize there’s no more byes here now. This is six weeks here, not like let’s play to that four day weekend off, and I think what they need to realize is we’ve gotten to the point we are now to put us in a position where we can make this season into a pretty solid season, you’d better get off to a quick start, or else you could find yourself wallowing around just like we were at different times last year.
So we want to make sure that the second half of the year start is just as important as the first half of the year start was.
Q. Speaking of where you’re going, have you mentioned a Bowl yet at all?
COACH WEIS: Not at this point. I think that right now the most important thing you have to worry about is quick start against Washington on the road. And I think that that’s enough to fill their plate.
Q. One more question about Rudolph. I assume when the season began in August, you never thought he would play as much as he did. Talk about what he’s developed the most and what you’ve been impressed by and what he’s developed.
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, he moved up the depth charts in a hurry. He moved up the depth charts in a hurry around here similar to Michael Floyd that we were talking about before. He was handling this stuff at a much faster pace than we thought was actually going to take place. So we’ve always been a staff — we go by what we see. I mean, it was pretty obvious in practice that this guy was going to be in the mix, and he wasn’t going to wait long before he was going to be in it.
That being said, what I really like with the kid, and I forget who said it, Michael might have brought it up, he has a lot of John Carlson in him, and I couldn’t think of a better person to emulate or to replicate than John Carlson. You know, that quiet, intelligent kid that comes across just as a very humble person, who as a football player is a fierce competitor. And I think that you can’t give any more glowing analogy than comparing him to a guy like John.
Q. You guys had a nice stretch of a couple games going where you hadn’t turned the football over until North Carolina. Are there things in particular, and if so, what are they, that you tell Jimmy (Clausen) and the skill players just about the importance of retaining possession?
COACH WEIS: Well, I mean, each guy is their own separate entity, but between myself and Ron (Powlus) and Michael (Haywood), Jimmy has probably heard more than he wants to hear at this point, okay. But Jimmy is a very prideful person. He wasn’t too fired up about how that last game went.
You know, you’ve just got to, across the board, do a better job of taking care of the football, but it starts with the quarterback because he has the ball in his hands on every single play.
Q. Is there something in practice you can do to work on that, because —
COACH WEIS: Well, depends on the subject. If you talk about strip sacks, we do work on that almost daily. We work on strip sacks almost daily. So that was one issue. That was one of the turnovers. Another turnover was just a misread and the other one was a miscommunication, so all three things were separate issues.
Q. In terms of setting the tone for the second half of the season, does it all come down to the start you get off to at Washington, or are there certain other things that you’re looking for to see can this team make a jump from being a decent football team to a good football team?
COACH WEIS: I’m looking for the same thing you’re looking for, to tell you the truth. But the difference is I don’t want to count on hope. I’m counting on it happening. I’m counting on us going from decent to good. So it’s my responsibility, along with the assistant coaches, to kind of guide these guys to help make that happen.
Q. Some of these mistakes, does he almost have to make them and learn from them to move past them as opposed to just working on it in practice?
COACH WEIS: Well, you never want to make mistakes. I mean, it isn’t like you’re rooting to make a mistake. But probably the most telling thing, Jimmy in that last game, not to go back to the last game, was after throwing that interception for a touchdown, shortly thereafter leading us down the field and going back and getting a touchdown back. And only really good players can do that, because usually they’d be shell shocked, like oh, no, here we go. Your eight point lead just went down to one, but shortly thereafter it’s up to eight points again.
So that’s the signs of a guy who has a chance of being very, very good. It isn’t like I’m going to go out and practice him throwing interceptions or getting strip sacked. But at the same time, it’s how they respond — the bigger question is how they respond when it happens than it actually happening.
Q. You talked a couple thematic things about winning on the road, fast starts. Were those Xs and Os, or are there a couple things that stand out, we need to be better here, here and here?
COACH WEIS: That is a definite yes is the answer to that question. We’ll talk Saturday afternoon about — well, let’s see, Saturday evening, we’ll talk about it then.
Q. As far as Duval (Kamara) goes, it seemed like North Carolina could be a big moment for him in terms of how he plays. Do you feel like he got out of a funk or a slump or whatever you want to call it a couple weeks ago?
COACH WEIS: Well, he obviously had an opportunity to make plays, and he made them, okay, which now his confidence arrow is pointing up, where it might have been flat lined or even going down some. So with a guy like that who’s got a world of ability, when his confidence arrow is pointing up, that’s a good thing. It’s another weapon we can get on the field and get him the ball.
Q. And lastly, aside from getting some younger guys some reps, what are you feel like you got out of last week? Obviously you got out on the road and recruited a little bit. Where do you feel like you guys are right now heading into this week?
COACH WEIS: Well, there are really three main things that you were trying to get done last week, okay. Number one is you wanted to analyze where you were. Number two, you wanted to practice a couple practices really hard and physical practices where some of the guys who don’t get as many reps would get significantly more reps at what we do so you could go and evaluate where we are at this point right here.
For example, Dayne Crist. I mean, Dayne Crist, I said that (last week) sarcastically about his arm being sore; his arm might have been sore by the end of the week with how many balls he ended up throwing, which is a good thing, because other than that, he’s not — he’s really running third. Evan (Sharpley) is running second, he’s running third. There’s not many reps for the third quarterback, and there’s not many reps for the second quarterback.
And last but not least, I think the players needed some time off. They needed some time physically and mentally to get away from the place. The coaches utilized it to go out there and go recruiting. They at least got Sunday off anyway, and got back because we used last Wednesday as Monday — they got to use Monday as a preparation day, and thankfully everyone had to be back here for breakfast by 8:30 this morning, and everyone was in attendance, thank you for asking. So I didn’t have any mystery people that I had to worry about disciplining after a four day weekend.
Q. Real quick, with David’s injury, is it structural? Is it just sort of a muscle spasm type thing he’s not getting over? Is there any detail you can get us about that?
COACH WEIS: You know, what they do is sometimes when you have these spasms, they do things to try to get the spasms to go away, and the problem is they haven’t gone away. The only thing that really helps at this point is rest. So you’re in a catch 22. If he goes out there, he’s not full speed. So I told him today I decided I’m going to rest him until they go away.
Now, the sooner they go away, the faster we’ll play him. He knows this is not about holding him, and he knows as soon as he’s healthy we’re going to put him in there. But at this point until they go away, I think that he’d be a lesser player than the guys that are behind him.
Q. I wonder if you could describe a little bit about the environment of coaching Notre Dame, especially the contrast between the first and second years.
COACH WEIS: Well, the one thing as the head coach at Notre Dame, you have to understand that you’re a national figure, whether you like it or not. Okay, you are. And that there’s good and bad that comes with that. You’re the head coach of one of the finest universities in the country, and whatever you do is going to be scrutinized, positively or negatively, and it comes with the territory.
Probably one of the more disheartening things about it is the fact that you no longer have any personal life because with that job comes — every time you’re in public, you’re like a marked man. And I’m not saying that that’s all negative. That’s just the facts of life.
So I think that that brings an added set of circumstances that most other people don’t have to deal with, because most times you’re scrutinized for how your players play or how they do in the classroom or do they get in trouble. You’re scrutinized for those.
But in addition here, you just have — there’s so many people that follow Notre Dame to either root for us or root against us that you have to realize that you’re a public figure, and that’s the way it goes.
Q. With this game being in Seattle and Coach Willingham’s history in both programs, can you talk a little bit about how these programs are going in completely opposite directions, and especially from the Notre Dame side and how you’ve been able to kind of turn that around?
COACH WEIS: I’m not going to speak for him or his program, other than the fact of me getting ready to play them this week. I really don’t know any of the idiosyncrasies that are involved there. I can just talk about us.
We’re 4 and 2. We’ve had some bright spots; we’ve had some negative spots. I think that we have a bunch of players that are getting better across the board. I feel very good about the development of our players right now, and I think that the expectations internally have grown exponentially from where they were, because no matter how many times you tell the kids and set goals for them, until they get a little taste of success, it’s tough for them to actually see the same vision that you have.
But I think that that’s the direction we’re heading, and as far as I’m concerned, we can’t get there fast enough.
Q. With Jimmy Clausen, I’m sure a lot of it has to do with experience, but what’s the biggest change you see in him from last year to this year?
COACH WEIS: Well, it’s been a composition. The biggest thing that I’m going to talk about to your question is going to be mentally. But I think that physically he’s so much a different specimen physically than he was at any time last year. When he walked off the field last year against Stanford, he weighed 194 pounds, and he’s — well, I don’t know, after this weekend he might be over 220, I don’t know. But he’s been between 215 and 220 this year, been able to withstand a totally different game physically from where he was at any time last year. He’s got zip on the ball. So all the physical attributes are much improved from where they were at this time last year.
But probably, without a doubt, the two things that I see the most significant progress, okay, are his mental pickup of our offense and his leadership. Because his leadership is something that really has grown more this year as the year has gone on and at a faster pace than even I might have expected. You know, he’s really turned into a guy that the offense turns to. Before he just happened to be the guy playing quarterback.
Q. And with that mental pickup, how much more does that allow you to kind of open up the play book this year than last year?
COACH WEIS: A whole bunch. And every week there’s more. We added a package last week, and we’ll add more this week and we’ll add more the next week. Every week — we won’t throw away any of the stuff we have, but it will just be a continuous add on because the more we can handle, the more flexibility, the more problems you can present to those guys calling the defense.
Q. I was just wondering if you could talk in general about what the biggest differences are between your team this year and last year and what enabled you to get over that hump after what happened last season?
COACH WEIS: Well, the first thing is, I want to be careful when I answer this question because when I say it — when I answer the question, I don’t want to be making excuses for us having a dismal year, because it was dismal.
The one thing I can say is that there’s a bunch of guys on this team that last year really got their first year of true playing experience. Some of them were freshmen that are now sophomores, some of them were sophomores that are now juniors, some of them were juniors that are now seniors. I’ve got this guy Mike Turkovich playing left tackle that is really playing very well for us that played some last year that has been one of the most pleasant surprises on our team.
But I think that what usually happens is those guys — after their first year of playing, regardless of what grade they’re in, usually their second year of playing is when there’s the most significant progress, and I think that fortunately for us, a lot of those guys that are playing for the second year have really stepped up.
Before you talk about the freshmen that have complemented us, I think the most significant thing is those guys that are now in their second year playing. A lot of them have made significant progress.
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