Oct. 22, 2007
COACH WEIS: Follow up on the USC game. I’d like to start with special teams today. There were some significantly good things, and some things that weren’t so good. First of all, we had no penalties on special teams. Obviously the best play, my favorite play of the team was David Bruton’s blocked punt.
(UND.com broadcaster) Jack (Nolan) and I were talking about it the other day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy block a punt and actually take the ball off the punter’s foot. I don’t think I’ve seen that in all my years of coaching. I’ve seen him block it on his foot, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him take it right off his foot.
(Geoff) Price had a decent day punting. He averaged 45 yards a punt. He punted a lot, punted 10 times. And then that was 39.6, so that was good. And our punt coverage team was also good. They held them to 4.9 for a punt return.
We got pressure on them on the punt rush, and they only netted 29.9. And I think if I had to pick one player on the special team that’s really stood out for me, it was Mike Anello. I thought he had a really good day on the punt team. He was down there, and if he wasn’t causing or making a play, he was either getting a penalty called or should have had a penalty called.
I think the first couple, I had gone on pretty good about holding it the first couple of times. Might have helped us the next couple times, too. But I thought he had a really good day as a gunner.
We only kicked off once, obviously. He had a 36 yard return, so that’s no good. Our kickoff return, we had a couple of opportunities to make a couple big plays that we didn’t take advantage of. And we had the one field goal that was blocked, and that’s no good. I have to list it as a negative, but obviously the ball hitting him and bouncing away, and bouncing 20 yards to the 10 yard line where they recover and go and score in the next play, was unfortunate.
Offensively, did a much better job as far as mentally not committing penalties. We had one false start, unfortunately, that was in the red zone in the fourth quarter. One of the few times we got down there.
I think the guy that stood out for me in this game was Armando Allen. I thought he ran well, he ran hard. He got 11 carries for just under 60 yards, and he looked like the player that I’ve been envisioning. The negative being we had eight three and outs in the game. We had the fumble early in the third quarter that set up and they score on the late interception.
We’re on third down, 24 percent, and probably of all the things besides not getting any production on and points on the board, I was more disappointed with how we started the second half than how we started the first half. Mainly because we thought we had a good plan in place, and to come out and go sack, followed by a fumble on the first two plays really set the tempo for a down second half.
Defensively in the first half, we said in the press conference the other day that we were good on third down in the first half. We were 2 and 9 on third down. And they punted six times in the first half, and then we had three drives that gained over 20 yards and we had seven pass break ups.
You know, (Pat) Kuntz seems to be one of those guys that regularly gets his hands on balls. The biggest negative on defense for the day was the fact that we were giving up way too many yards on first and second down. And the second one, I think we gave up too much field position.
I think in that game there were a lot of times, with the exception of the two turnovers, okay, one on special teams, and one on offense, I mean, the field was a fairly long field, and we just gave too much yards as far as field position.
We did another negative in addition to that where we had two penalties. One a face mask on John (Ryan). And then the dead ball personal foul on Toryan (Smith).
Q. So far this year out of your young guys what have you seen to kind of make you optimistic for the future that you alluded to on Saturday?
COACH WEIS: Well, look at all the production we had on offense in the game. The leading running back was a freshman. The leading receiver was a freshman. I mean, the guys that are getting the most pressure on pass rush were freshmen.
Between freshmen and sophomores, they’ve accounted for about all the yards on offense, almost all of them, and not including the quarterback who didn’t play. I mean, I think there were a number of guys that are showing us some serious promise that their futures are bright.
Q. Two guys on your offensive line, Taylor (Dever) and (Matt) Romine. How do they look this year?
COACH WEIS: You can throw Andrew Nuss in there, too. He’s right in there. We’re really optimistic on that trio of guys. All three of those guys look to me like they’re players.
Q. What is it right now that has them be more priceless players for you?
COACH WEIS: Well, right now, they would be — they would be 9, 10 and 11, you know, as far as your numbers go. They’d be 9, 10, and 11. So we’re where we are right now. I think that until we need to get to 9, 10, and 11, I think that’s where they’ll stay.
Q. As far as them being physical football players, are they what you’re looking for?
COACH WEIS: I think they’re going from their transition from high school to college. But they all look like they have potential, that they look the part.
Q. Are any of them working at tackle and guard?
COACH WEIS: All three of them have worked at tackle and guard. So we’re cross training all those guys so we can start getting ourselves ready. And they’ll get a significant amount of work this week.
Q. Then one more from me. Did Romine come in maybe a little light for this level and that was something he had to…
COACH WEIS: I’d say he’s a little light. That’s true. But you get a year with the offensive linemen, and the transition from your freshman year to the sophomore year is just an unbelievable transition. Because you come in here in late June, you know, you have a five week period before training camp starts, and then your weightlifting goes to in season lifting instead of off season lifting. So now what happens when your season ends after the Stanford game and now all of a sudden you have December, January, February, March, April, May, June, July. Now you’ve got a long, extended period of time where you have a chance to gain both weight and muscle and strength. And I think that we’re going to find some guys that are growing before our eyes.
Q. Getting back to the positives with the special teams, it looks like you made a couple personnel changes on the wedge for the kick return by the biggest wedge. Every one was a couple of 300 pounders.
COACH WEIS: That’s exactly right. I have not been happy. I talked to the coaches and said that I felt we needed to get some big bodies back there, so when we get that wedge and get the return behind the wedge, at least you know the wedge is going to be moving forward when the contact is made. Then from there they’re going to have to square through and find the opening.
But think that’s what we did last week and got a couple. We got Eric (Olsen) and Aaron (Nagel), and we got Danny (Wenger) in there, too. And we got a couple of bigger bodies.
Q. Your evaluation of how they did?
COACH WEIS: Actually, the wedge was — wedge was halfway decent. I think that most of our problems on the kickoff return came from getting to the wedge or somebody getting beat up front that got around them.
Q. How do you use this off week? Can you evaluate further and motivate further? How do you use it to get better?
COACH WEIS: Well, that’s a good question. I finally came up with a plan by this morning. It’s taken me a little time because I’m like everyone else, I have to do some thinking and make sure I’ve got things in order.
What we’re going to do is use half of this week to introduce Navy. Then about halfway through practice I’m going to send in everyone whose eligibility is up. They’re all going in. And then the other half of the week, it’s going to almost be like you’re practicing with the guys that you’re going to have here in spring.
Now in that group, anyone that is in that gray area that has another year of eligibility back that may be here or not be here, they’ll all be out there at that time. So we’re going to kind of, you know, make sure we get an introduction so we don’t completely use and waste a week Navy wise, especially with their offense. With it being a different type of offense and being that our offense hasn’t moved the ball.
We’re going to make sure that we utilize this week to get going on Navy. But I think it’s just as important to start developing the team as if those guys were gone, too.
Q. You heard the preseason talk about the possibility of you guys starting 2-6, 1-7, and you heard that prior to this year as well. Now that it is a reality of 1-7, did you ever think that was possible? That that could happen?
COACH WEIS: I would have not figured that to be the case. No, I would not have figured that to be the case. And I can go through a litany of excuses, but I’d rather pass on that and just say no. I’d rather not make any and say no, the answer would be no.
Q. And you have never shied away from taking blame or responsibility for it. But as you look back on it, are there a couple things that you would pinpoint where you would say I made a mistake on that? I should have done this?
COACH WEIS: That litany would be probably just as long, you know there’s things that it’s easy to second guess yourself, you know, in retrospect. But you do that on a weekly basis. You don’t wait until the eight game mark to sit there and say, `God, I wish I would have done this.’ That’s why you start changing.
And I probably adapted more this year than I have in my whole coaching career, you know. But I haven’t waited until the eight game mark to start trying to fix problems. Every week I keep on working on it to try to get those fixed. I haven’t waited until the eight game mark. Every week I’ve tried to do something different.
If you had asked me would I ever have deferred in a game, I would have said there’s not a chance. And it there it was, I’m siting there Friday night saying if we win the toss, you know, we’re going to defer. And I said it to (John) Carlson and he looked at me like `you’re going to do what?’ Because I’ve told him the same thing I’ve told you. But I thought that gave us the best chance of winning.
So even though it may have gone against some prior, preexisting belief, if you believe it will help give your team the best chance of winning, I think you have to be willing to do that.
Q. So in the future you could defer again?
COACH WEIS: If I felt that it would give us the best chance of winning, I’d have to say, yes, because I’ve done it this time. I obviously thought it through. It wasn’t like on a whim I thought no, let’s do this. I mean, it was Friday night.
Q. Getting back to the young offensive linemen, in an ideal world, would you be able to hold them out this year?
COACH WEIS: See, we’re going to have to make that decision probably by about Wednesday of this week because we’re going Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday pretty good. And I think at that time you’re going to practice them this week as if they were going to play in this game. That’s how you’re going to practice them.
And I think that because you have that fifth year of eligibility here, the fifth year is always, I wouldn’t say a sore subject, it’s just more of a subjective thing than a lot of other places. It’s one as a coaching staff, continues like a lot of other places where you say let’s redshirt this kid. We don’t talk about redshirts. It’s something we have to discuss as a staff to just to have that available to them or not. And it is probably the more practical way for us to say it is whether or not we should keep the possibility of that availability for an extra year of eligibility.
Q. With Romine, that’s available just based on his injury?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he banged up that elbow a while ago. One of the reasons I think he’s got, you know, to be honest with you, both Taylor and Andrew look bigger to me right now, because he hasn’t been full go in the weight room. And I think that one of the ways that these guys start to develop, especially with Ruben (Mendoza)’s program, I think you see major strides with offensive linemen, and I think you’ll see that with Matt as well.
Q. Could you talk a little about Duval (Kamara)’s progress? You mentioned him leading the team in receptions over the week?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that Duval is one of those guys where once again, we talk about the young guys from before, you know, the arrow’s pointing straight up on Duval. You’re going from being a small high school in New Jersey, to playing against USC.
I mean, he came from a very good program in New Jersey that won a lot of games. But now you’re playing against the big boys on a weekly basis. And he doesn’t look out of place. You know, he looks like he belongs. And if you can be that way now, okay, it’s just going to continue to be better, and better, and better.
Q. The adaptations you’ve made as a coach, how comfortable are you doing that as a guy that’s cut from the (Bill) Parcells, (Bill) Belichick cloth where everything’s kind of done the same way?
COACH WEIS: I had to make sure that I wasn’t dogmatic. I think I had to make sure that I wasn’t closed minded about my approach to football. Because if I think I would, and not be willing to make changes, I think that would set us further, and further, and further behind. That’s why you keep on tweaking it to go try to find the right formula. I always think that I’ve tried to be insightful, but I don’t think I could be just, this is the way we’re going to do it, and just set it etched in stone, because you might end up losing the team if you do.
I think the important thing when you’re not winning football games is to make sure you don’t lose the team. And I think that’s one thing that we have been able to do. Even in times of, you know, when, you know, you’re down because you lose, I think the team has stayed intact. And I don’t mean just physically, I mean emotionally and psychologically.
Q. And the young guys making so many contributions as it relates to the roster at large, do you feel like this is probably going to be a rare situation? The way you’re recruiting right now, I would think you’re not going to run into a junior or senior class as small as you have at the moment?
COACH WEIS: Obviously that’s one recruiting edge we have at this point. In the very near future you’re not going to have that same opportunity to walk into a young man’s home and sit there and say, `Hey, look, fellas, this is what we’ve got. You know. You see it. You tell me.’
I’ve never been one to do anything other than to tell them just call it the way it is. I think a lot of these guys are coming on board because they see an opportunity to get involved in the mix at a young age.
And they know in the near future let’s say Duval Kamara. Two years from now, I’m not going to be able to walk into Pete’s house or Kevin’s house or Larry’s house or Joe’s house, and say, okay, sit there and say, `Hey, you can come in here and you can get on the field.’ Because you’re hoping you have guys that are playing front line players that are starting.
At that point you’re trying to say you’re trying to supplement. And that is the plan. That is the big difference in recruiting. You’re looking to bring the guys to supplement, not supplant. There are some guys that are looking at skipping that level and going right into stepping in and playing.
Q. I guess the dynamics of your roster right now being somewhat unique and you’re probably not going to have that again. Does that effect your perspective on how this team is doing, how this season is going?
COACH WEIS: I think that in the development of the program, and the building of the program, I think that, you know, you’re getting very close to the stage in recruiting, and let’s go back to the recruiting, you’re getting close to the stage in recruiting where now your classes are going to go from 25-ish to 15-ish. So it’s going to be — there’s going to be a totally different transformation.
Because now it’s going to be a one for one tradeoff. You’re losing offensive linemen, you go get offensive linemen. It’s not going to be we can bring in offensive linemen, five defensive linemen. It’s going to be we’re losing three, can you get three?
So the whole game is going to change, and you’re going to feel good about the guys you have already. So now you’re going to have to be a little more selective about the guys you’re going after. Because you’re not going to have nearly as many openings to fill those spots.
Q. Just lastly, I think you said you met with a potential fifth year guy over the weekend. How did that go? How do you feel sitting in that position?
COACH WEIS: It went very well.
Q. Talking about using this week to get some of the young guys more game. Is that going to translate on to the field on Saturdays, do you think?
COACH WEIS: Well, that kind of goes back to the question that they’re asking about the offensive linemen. I think we go through this week as if you’re going to play this week. But you don’t play this week. So then you get a chance to pull back after that happens.
Remember, we’re covering the country in recruiting this week, too. So we’ve got a bunch of things going on, because it’s going to be a fire drill all over the country this week because we’re all over the place. As the players get a little time off, you only get six days during the football season where you can go out recruiting.
But to answer that question and piggy back on the offensive line situation — I think for guys that haven’t played at this point, okay. This is kind of the make or break time where if you’re going to play, you might as well play them now.
I mean, you’re no longer bowl eligible. Not that that was an abstract for everyone else. But until the finality exists, you have to wait until that point comes. Well, that finality has already come and passed. So now what you’re doing is do you think I’m not going to play John Carlson? Do you think I’m not going to play John Sullivan? You think I’m not going to play Trevor Laws? Those guys are all going to play. It’s not like all of a sudden you say I’m going to take those guys and put them away.
But at the same time you better start worrying about developing your team. Because as everyone knows, we’re 1-7, we’re not playing very well. So we need to see evidence. I need to see evidence, just the way you want to see evidence that things are going to be headed in the right direction. And that’s what these next five weeks — I’m looking at it as five weeks, I’m not looking at it as one. I’m looking at it as this is the first of the five weeks that kind of set the table.
Q. Looking at you guys with Georgia Tech and where you’re at now, where do you think you’ve made good progress, and where do you think you haven’t made the progress you’d like?
COACH WEIS: I think there are a lot of negatives I could point out. I’ll give you one thing off the top of my head. Now I’m not positive, but I’m probably pretty close. I think in this game the other day, I think we played 51 players, and I think 25 were freshmen or sophomores. So to me, if you’re getting that many people indoctrinated into your program where they’re actually playing meaningful playing time, I think you’re setting yourself up for some bright things to happen.
Q. You talked a little about Kamara. How has Golden Tate’s transformation as wide receiver evolving?
COACH WEIS: He’s made good progress. He’s still not as polished as Duval. He’s still, he’s a guy that’s being transformed into a wide receiver. But what he is, he’s still the fastest guy on the team.
So you saw the third offensive play or maybe not the third offensive play, but the one go we let go ran up the right sideline. He ran right by 28 like he was standing still. I mean, we don’t have too many guys that can run right by him.
Q. Can you talk about how (Brian) Smith and (Kerry) Neal have kind of grown this year, too?
COACH WEIS: I’ve liked them the whole time. I liked them in training camp. But sometimes with a young guy you’re afraid when they start getting out there with the big boys, the speed of the game slows them down because they start thinking too much. And they went through a little of that, too. And they start looking around instead of just playing. But both of them have one thing, the same thing, they both have mad speed. And they’re also high motors, too. So I like both those guys a lot.
Q. Another guy that seems to have a high motor is Pat Kuntz. Can you talk about the enthusiasm? The guy just never stops.
COACH WEIS: Pat Kuntz is probably one of my favorite guys. Now he’s, you know, he’s not perfect all the time, but he shows up every day. He whines and complains all practice long. It gives me somebody to complain back to at practice. But one thing you do know, he’s going to show up every day and practice, and he’s going to show up every day on game day. And he always makes some plays. There isn’t one game you go out there that the kid doesn’t make some plays. He always makes some plays.
Q. What is it about the way he plays that allows him to get to the passes he gets to?
COACH WEIS: Well, most tackles I think are in position, you’re getting massacred often. You’re getting cut, you’re getting double-teamed, you know, you’re getting cut from the right, you’re getting cut from the left. It isn’t like I’m counting on him to be a dynamic pass rusher.
But the one thing he has, he’s come up with this skill and it’s an uncanny ability to find the right time to get his hands up and knock some balls down.
Q. How will you split the reps with the quarterbacks this week and next?
COACH WEIS: I’ll still be heavy. This week for sure I’ll be heavy, Evan (Sharpley) because I want to give them — you know, Jim (Clausen) has had so many of the first reps for so long that I don’t think — I don’t think it would be fair to Evan, to be honest with you to after one game to all of a sudden, okay, we didn’t win that one, so we’re going back the other way. I don’t think that’s fair. So he’ll still be heavy, Evan, for this week. I’ll worry about next week after we get back off the road, but first things first.
Q. In terms of as you’re looking at Navy and Air Force coming up, are these some of the teams where having that 3-4 flexibility, actually playing a true 3-4 plays into your advantage?
COACH WEIS: Well, it happens, it helps us against Navy in two ways. First of all, it’s one thing you’re going to have to do to help defense them. Second of all, they have 3-4 personnel themselves. So the fact that you practice it a bunch helps your offense as well as anything else, because even though they don’t always lineup in odd spacing, that is one of the things they end up doing with that personnel they put out there a whole bunch.
Q. In terms of redshirting here at Notre Dame, we’ve been through a few coaches and they all have their different ways. Some of them wouldn’t even say the word, some sprinkled it in every day. Is it something that you feel like you have a directive or is this your own philosophy?
COACH WEIS: I’m just trying to follow. Notre Dame’s a little unique whether it comes to redshirt. The reason they don’t talk about it is we’re one of the few schools where everyone graduates in four. That is why it’s unique. Most schools in the country would raise their hand right now. Give me five years of eligibility, but our kids all graduate in four.
I talked to all our pure seniors yesterday. All afternoon, that’s all I did. I interviewed all those guys. Remember, every one of them is graduating in May or graduating at the semester. Okay, so it’s a unique situation, because there comes a time in your life where you move on to the next stage of your career. In some cases it’s the NFL. In other cases it’s just go get a job. That’s what you go to college for.
So one of the reasons why I’m not being politically correct or playing with semantics with redshirt fifth year of eligibility, because they all graduate. It is a unique situation, unlike most any other in the country. I’m sure there are a couple that are similar to that, where now these guys have decisions to make about moving forward with their lives now.
Q. In terms of, I don’t know if you’ve thought this far yet because it just happened, that the bowl isn’t going to happen. But what is December going to look like for your team in terms of getting ready for next year?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that the schedule’s a little screwy this year with exams being so late. School started a week later this year because of some conference that was going on. So I think exams don’t get over until I don’t know, like 16th. It’s really, really late this year in comparison to every other year. Next year it’s back to that week earlier again. I think that’s something, to be honest with you, that we just started discussing it yesterday.
Q. Last thing for me is when you came in, you talked about kind of looking at different templates. Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, Al (Groh), did you look at them and see a lot of differences in them? Or did you see things where you said I want to do this a little differently?
COACH WEIS: I think that different schools and different schools do it different ways. It isn’t just the different coaches. I mean, some of it has to do with the make up of the school. And I think that at our place because everyone stays in school, very few people leave early. We’ve had a come of guys transfer. It’s been well documented.
But most of the kids all stay. They stay and they graduate. So there are very few kids looking to get out of here early as a matter of fact, when a recruit comes and says what are your feelings about being three and out, and my answer to that is go somewhere else. That’s what my feeling is on three and out. Go somewhere easier than Notre Dame.
If you want to go to school for two and a half years, don’t come here. Go somewhere else, okay? My whole feeling is I want kids to come here and graduate. Not just because of the APR, but because I think that’s what we stand for. We stand for kids that are student-athletes that come to graduate.
So I think when you look at these different guys that I respect how they’ve done things, a lot of the way they’ve done things have had a lot to do with the mentality of the program and the school and our place is more along the lines that you want to come here to graduate, not just to play in the NFL, but you want to come here and graduate.
I think that I’ve had to tweak our system based off of making sure the guys came here with the mentality. They weren’t just coming here to get themselves ready to go to the NFL. They were getting themselves coming here to graduate from college.
Q. You mentioned a minute or two ago about the blame and the mistakes. Just wondering if what you have looked at this year caused you to change any philosophy you have about coaching?
COACH WEIS: More specifically?
Q. Well, like the deferring, that is a subtle change. But just anything that causes you to think next year, this is how I do things totally different.
COACH WEIS: I think there’s things that I never thought that I would do that I probably will do. You know, it’s funny because Mike had asked a question one day when we started hitting in practice, hitting in practice after Michigan. I’ve never been a part of a program that hit full speed during the season. Never. And to be honest with you, I think it made us better.
So I think it’s something that is starting at training camp this year, and starting in spring ball this year then going to training camp, I think we might have to do it more. And the other thing, with the number of pressure sacks that we’ve given up this year, you might have to make the quarterbacks live even. And that’s almost like a cardinal sin.
You don’t make the quarterbacks live because you have so few of them, that if you end up losing one, you have that catch-22. But that is an example of something that I think I never thought that I would entertain, but I think it’s made us better. So it is something I definitely would entertain.
Q. Along the same line, one of the things that you did successfully the past two seasons is being a game-planning coach, changing game to game. So how much do you think you have a base so that, you know, every game you can try to impose it on the other team?
COACH WEIS: I think that the game plan deal was the way we do it is not just an offense or defensive feel game, it’s a team game plan. Unfortunately it hasn’t played out the way we’d like to. What we were saying the other day is we were hope to go play this game as a ball possession, punt it a whole bunch of times. Similar to UCLA, not UCLA, because obviously USC has more firepower.
But we figured if we’re going to win a game against their defense which we thought was pretty stout, that we’re going to have to play a fairly low-scoring game, so you play it much more conservative.
Offensively, conservative is not my nature. I’m not a conservative guy by nature. If I had my way, I’m spreading it out all over the place and trying to come up with a 50-50 ratio. But by multiple personnel groups and multiple formation, it isn’t by playing conservative by nature. But if you think that gives your team the best chance of winning, in the grand scheme of things that’s what you’re trying to do. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t played out that way.
Q. So when you have the team that you want to have here, your identity that you want is 50 50, and being able to manipulate a little bit depending on the competition?
COACH WEIS: Absolutely, that is me. That’s a description. You know, we want to use multiple personnel groups and multiple formations. At the end of the season, it’s going to be very close to 50-50 run/pass.
Q. Getting back to the quarterback situation. Were you saying that Evan will definitely be the starter the next game or are you going to wait until after this week?
COACH WEIS: I anticipate Evan being the guy again for this game, being the starter for this game. I anticipate that. I just don’t think that it would be fair to do it the other way. Just say, okay, he’s got his one shot.
You know, Jimmy’s been starting for a while. And, you know, we can say when everything, talk about being banged up, talk about all the other things. But the bottom line is Evan’s only had one opportunity. So I think that’s a little premature to sit there and say, well, we didn’t beat USC, so we’re going to yank Evan. A lot of people don’t beat USC.
Q. You talked a little about him needing to go adjust to the speed of the game. Is that his biggest problem out here? And also, is it hard for freshmen to understand the game? Because when he first met with us, he thought after a few practices that he understood the game. Is that the hardest thing for a person to understand is how different the game is?
COACH WEIS: Are we talking about Evan? Okay. I think that he saw yesterday. I think probably the first time he saw it clearly was actually standing on the sideline the other day. Armando said the same thing to (Assistant) Coach (Mike) Haywood just the other day. He said, `Coach, that that’s the first time it’s starting to slow down for me.’ That is an abstract people don’t understand. But when things start slowing down, when the players can start seeing things happening, that is usually when good things start to happen.
Q. The last one for me is you mention a few minutes ago about Armando, you thought he was one of the bright spots and you thought he played better. What exactly did you see improvement in that game?
COACH WEIS: What’s happened in the last couple games and I had talked to Coach Haywood about it a few weeks ago. In practice I felt that Armando was playing at a much faster speed than he was playing at in the games. In practice, you know, he was playing at a fast speed, because the pace of practice is a little bit slower than the pace of the game.
So Coach Haywood had some serious talks about it, and they started working on it. The last come of games he seems now to be playing with that same type of speed and quickness on game day that I see out of him in practice.
Q. You kind of touched on this, but if you could elaborate a little more just this final portion of the schedule. These freshman have played the game better, building a foundation, you know, identity, all those things kind of heading into next year confident, learning how to win some games. How important are all of those things over the next four games?
COACH WEIS: Well, you know, to be honest with you, if those things don’t progress, why on what basis would you go into the spring thinking that everything’s going to be okay? I mean, I know it sound rhetorical. But I’m no different than the rest of you guys I have to see evidence that we’re making progress.
And it isn’t just the freshmen, it’s the freshmen those guys will be sophomores. We’re playing a bunch of sophomores. Sometimes you take a guy like Robby Parris and forget he’s only been playing really for a year. And there are a lot of guys that fit into that group.
I think it’s very, very critical further to make progress over the next five weeks to set, for those guys to set the tone for an off season where, you’re moving in the right direction. Because if you continue the way you are right now, you’re not moving in the right direction.
Q. Just wondered, there are a lot of recruits on the field for the USC game, and I know you talked about the commitment working both ways and you’ve shown plays like Robby Parris and how important that is. But is there any concern there after a game like that that some of those guys might begin to have some second thoughts. I know you talk about the plays more, but just curious about your feedback with them and how that went?
COACH WEIS: Not based on the evidence that we have at this time. We talk to all our guys on a regular basis. Hey, look, they go to the high schools and they get abused just like we all do. And everyone says, `you’re going there?’ That’s the way people are. They’re cynical by nature.
I can’t tell you how many of these young men have said `don’t worry about me, Coach, I’m all in.’ That is a repeated comment. Hey, do I feel bad for them? Sure. But I feel worse for the guys I’ve got here right now, okay. They’re going to have their — they’re watching it from afar. I feel worse for the guys that are here right now. Especially the guys that are going out the door. But I think almost to a man, these guys are saying `don’t worry about me, Coach. I’m all Notre Dame. Go worry about the next guy, don’t worry about me.’
Q. You talked about being satisfied with the conversations with the fourth-year guys. Mo (Maurice Crum Jr.) would be the highest profile. Did he indicate he’s coming back and coming to a decision on that?
COACH WEIS: I think you have to ask him, because the way it works at Notre Dame is I talk about it, I’m overstepping my bounds, because what they have to do is here they technically have to apply for a fifth year. Which almost all of them get, but there is a process. And I think they would get mad at me if I sit there and gave you the answer to that. I would like you to ask him that question though.
Q. Do you think your opinion and the feedback that you give to NFL teams about guys that are going into the draft, do you think your opinion holds a different kind of weight than guys who have just, perhaps, been college coaches their entire career? Or do you think teams listen to every coach equally no matter what?
COACH WEIS: I think that with certain teams it would hold more weight. I think there are some teams that they would take the reciprocal. But I think there are certain teams that would call up and if I said something, it would carry more weight. There are some guys that probably would never call and never ask. For example, in Chicago, Jerry (Angelo) and Lovie (Smith), they ask me a question, because I have personal relationships with both of them. When I said something that I think would carry some weight.
Q. When you and Jimmy specifically more extensively talk about, like you said the experience he had on the sideline Saturday, has he indicated that more, I guess, than just that little postgame conversation that it really helped him out in any way?
COACH WEIS: Well, I do this with Evan, too. Somebody brought it up. With the quarterbacks, I always try to give them lessons on development. And after the easiest time to do some teaching is right after a game is over. Because that’s the easiest time to sit there and say, `did you see this, did you see this? Did you see this? Did you see this?’ Because especially when you’re not playing, okay, it’s easier to see things when you’re not playing. It really helps in a quarterback’s case, it really helps in their development.
Q. I want to follow up on Tom’s question about maybe hitting more in practice, and making the quarterback see the adaptations that you’re going through. Are some of these inherent pro to college differences that you’ve had to learn by experiencing yourself?
COACH WEIS: No, I was in college for four or five years there, and we never did that. It was a long time ago in the mid to late ’80s. But we never took the quarterback to the ground. Those things didn’t happen. But I think if it helps in blitz pick up, I think that there are some things that are going to come into play. I might have a quick whistle, but I think you’re going to have to let them play.
I think that there are some things that, you know, especially until you get some reinforcements at the position. If you go into the spring and only have a couple of guys here, you know, which is looking like what the number’s going to be, you’re dealing with your first two guys, and everyone else is not around anymore. I think that it’s important to make sure you don’t lose one of them.
Q. You said it wouldn’t be fair to put Evan in a one and done situation. How is that different than opening the season with Demetrius (Jones)? Was that more of a game plan?
COACH WEIS: In that game we were just trying to win that game, okay. And that doesn’t mean that Demetrius wouldn’t play either. We played all three quarterbacks in that first game, if you recall. It wasn’t just — we had different things for different people within the same game plan. The only guy that wasn’t playing in that game plan was Jimmy. Evan was in that game plan, and he was going to come in and we were going to come in and start throwing it. So within that same game, it wasn’t like we only had one guy playing as part of that game plan. We were trying to win that game.
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