Oct. 31, 2006
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. Last time North Carolina came here was in 1971. It happened to be Coach Bunting’s senior year. As a matter of fact, in that game he had 20 tackles. And at one time it was mentioned as saying it was probably the best game he ever played. He played in the NFL for ten years. So I don’t know about that.
He graduated from North Carolina in ’72 and been the head coach there for the last six years. He’s been around for a long time. We’ve crossed paths a few times in the NFL. He was there from ’93 to 2000 with the Chiefs, the Rams and the Saints. After a long career, both in the NFL and USFL.
As offensive coordinator, Frank Cignetti came from Pat Hill’s squad with Fresno State, where it was his first year with North Carolina. But their powerhouse offense, they were running at Fresno State, they had a couple of back?to?back top?10 national ranked offenses.
Last week they did something a little different. They started rotating their two quarterbacks relatively equally, both Dailey and Sexton, and they went really just two series at a time. Dailey went two series and then Sexton went two series. So it was a little different than what you normally have when teams are playing two quarterbacks.
Dailey is the junior. He transferred from Nebraska. He had been a starter at Nebraska. And last week against Wake where they played probably one of the best games they played this year. He was 13 for 19 for 156 yards and a touchdown. He’s completed over 60% of his passes of the year. He’s 61.3. And he’s also got some pretty good feet.
Where as Sexton, who is the red shirt freshman. He got a red shirt last year because he broke his ankle, but last week he also played against Wake and completed 60% of his passes as well.
They have nine captains on their team, three on offense, three on defense, and three on special teams. McGill, the start running back, is one of their offensive captains. He started 24 games in his career, all 8 of them this year.
Last week against Wake, which is, once again, the best frame of reference I have, he had 29 attempts for 117 yards from a four?yard average, and a touchdown along 19. And as a matter of fact for a year, he’s averaging 4.1. So he’s been pretty consistent all year long, as well as having another 100 yards or 95 yards in catches.
Barrington Edwards, we might see some of him too. He is a transfer from LSU. He didn’t play last week against Wake Forest, but he shows some speed and wouldn’t be surprised to see him in there, as well as both fullbacks, both Starcevic and Rome, I expect to see both of them in there, even though Starcevic on 3rd down, you’ll see sometimes they actually take him from fullback and they use him as another tight end.
Speaking of tight ends, Hamlett is their starter. Last week they did something a little different. They took an offensive tackle by the name of Andre Barbour, and they moved him so they could use two tight end sets and get a big, powerful guy in there. They even switched his number from 78 to 94 so he would have an eligible number. He caught a pass and it was for a touchdown. Any time a converted lineman scores a touchdown pass, I think a lot of people get pretty fired up about that, even though Ryan Taylor is actually listed as their back up tight end.
Wide receiver, the big 3 are really Holley, Foster, and Hicks. Holley is another one of their offensive captains. He started 23 games. He’s gone 26 games in a row with at least a catch. He’s second on the team in catches. He has got 24 for 358 and an average 4.9 per catch. He seems like their go?to guy. And the reason why I say that is because when they go to single wide receiver sets, he’s the guy they leave on the field, which is indicative of the guy who is the go?to guy.
Brooks Foster, who happened to walk on for that national championship basketball team as well in 2005, he got some playing time with their team that won it all in hoops. Well, he entered 2006 with no receptions and all he’s done has become their leading receiver this year. His biggest game was against Rucker where he had 11 catches.
And the third guy who sees the most time at wide receiver is freshman Hicks. He’s a third?leading receiver, and is there as a part?time kick returner, although Brandon Tate, who is another receiver for them, really handles most of their kickoff returns and punt returns.
And the other guy we could possibly see, and I mention him because of his size, there is a freshman by the name of Thornton, who is 6’5″, 225, and any time you have a size like that at wide receiver, it gets my attention.
On the offensive line, the third offensive captain is Chacos. He’s their left tackle. He’s actually in his sixth year of eligibility. He started 31 games over his career and is one of their most experienced player.
You’ve got Gray at left guard. He’s got 26 games, Lenahan at center. He started all eight this year.
Darity, right guard, he started all eight this year.
Right tackle is a little different. They have a little bit of flux. Reynolds was the starter in the last three games. Lemming has gone and started. So they both, between the two of them, have started all eight games.
Bishop is the swing guard, if they end up playing a third guard in there for Gray and Darity.
On defense, Marvin Sanders, who also coaches the defensive backs, this is his third season as a defensive coordinator and DB coach, their defensive line, they have an interesting group of guys here. Rackley, he’s the guy who starts at their left defensive end. He’s 6’5″, 270, good size. He has 21 starts in his career, and started every game this year.
At defensive tackle, at the left defensive tackle, Bynam is their stall worth defensive tackle. He’s one of their defensive captains. He started 19 games in his career. And the other guy is either going to be Guy, no pun intended, or Palmer, both of those guys we’ll see inside. And over at the right end we’ll see Taylor.
And Taylor is kind of interesting, because earlier in his career he was used as a pass rusher and a special teams guy, and now he has become a full?time player.
The other three guys on the defensive line, we’ll see Thomas, Wilson, and Brown. And Brown interests me a little bit too because he’s one of the three special teams captains.
At linebacker, they suffered a fairly substantial blow when Larry Edwards went down and broke his collarbone against South Florida. He’s a really good player. He plays by Thatch, who started the last two games for him. And Worsley, he’ll man the middle in regular situations, along with Mapp. And then when they go to Nicks, Rice will come in. Rice will come in and be the middle linebacker. Paschal is the other guy we’ll see in there at linebacker.
DBs, Watkins has been considered their best covered corner over the last couple of years. Opposite him we’ll see either Strong or Person. Person is another one of their special teams captains. Strong, red shirted last year. And he saw more time last week than he has been seeing.
At safety they have got their two leading tacklers, their strong safety, Taylor, who is one of their defensive captains, he’s leading the team. And then at the other safety, they either have Arnold, who is their second leading tackler on their team, or Walker, who is another one of their special teams captains. The other guy worth noting is Bethea, because when they go to Nicks, Bethea comes in the game.
Last but not least, on special teams, Andre Powell, their running back coach, coordinates their special teams and they have some pretty telling stats in a couple of areas.
First of all, they’re only allowing 14.6 per kickoff return, which is 3rd in the nation regarding kickoff coverage. And they’re only allowing 5.6 yards for a punt return. And while we’re at it, Barth, who is their place kicker, hasn’t missed a kick this year. He’s made every field goal and every extra point, in addition to having nine touchbacks.
Wooldridge handles the punting. He’s had 13 inside the 20 already this year. They have two snappers, Murphy and Marsh. Murphy will handle the short napping. Marsh will handle the long snapping. I already mentioned Tate and Nicks, but the other guy worth noting is Williams, although he’s also been used as a kickoff returner, he’s very dynamic punt rusher.
Q. You mentioned their kickoff coverage, punt coverage place kicking, is that how a team like North Carolina can make up the deficit between them and a team like Wake Forest?
COACH WEIS: Special teams is definitely one of the easiest ways to make a difference in a game. I think it’s probably one of the greatest equalizers because you can make plays on special teams and a lot of times there’s that term that I’ve used before called hidden yardage. Now all of a sudden, an offense is starting on their 20?yard line or inside their own 20?yard line and having the full length of the field to go, it’s much more difficult to sustain a long drive. Same thing with a punt return, you’re only getting five or six yards every time they punt. I always like to try to shoot for at least getting ten yards on a punt return, because it’s one less first down that the offense has to make.
And in addition, they’re not afraid to do things. They’ve run fakes. They’ve done all things on special teams this year. So it definitely has my attention.
Q. How do you feel about your special teams at this point?
COACH WEIS: I think we’ve settled in as far as who is doing what. I’ve been generally pleased by our coverage units, but I haven’t been too fired up about our return units. Once again we’re going to continue seeing if we can’t get that improved this week.
Q. When you have a coach on the opposing sideline that it’s already known he is the not coming back next year, does that change the way you approach your team? Do you make your team aware of it, do you talk to your team about it?
COACH WEIS: Two things, No. 1, the only game of reference that we have since this change took place was last week against Wake Forest. So they have this agreement for him to leave at the end of the year, and then they go on to play Wake Forest. Wake Forest is 7?1, and Wake Forest, I promise you if you talk to anyone from Wake Forest today they feel very fortunate to have won that game last week.
It would be one thing after that happened you saw the team throw in the towel, because it would be a little more difficult to say to your guys, hey, they haven’t cast it in. But it’s pretty obvious by watching the Wake Forest game, that this team wasn’t only playing hard, I think they were trying all they could to try to win the game for the coach.
Q. What has John Sullivan brought to you guys this year?
COACH WEIS: He’s manned the middle for the entire year, this entire year. Your center is kind of the de facto quarterback of the offensive line. He coordinates the calls. He’s just as important to the offensive line as the quarterback is to all the skill guys. He’s the guy who kind of is the passer, the guy who passes the information on to everyone so that we’re doing the right thing.
Q. I know he’s got another potential year left, but where do you see him projecting to the next level?
COACH WEIS: I see him projecting to be at Notre Dame for another year. That’s where I would like to see him projecting. We’ll talk about that when the time comes. We’re not going to talk about that until the first week of December. We’re just going to worry about North Carolina right now.
Q. When you see a guy ??
COACH WEIS: He’ll play on Sunday. We would like to see him play on Sundays another year later.
Q. Following up on Mike’s question about Coach Bunting. Do you show your team more of Wake Forest than anything else to just drive that point home?
COACH WEIS: I think the first thing you do is emphasis Wake Forest, because once again that is the point of reference you have. If you went the other way and sat there and tried to find all the worst games a team has in a year, I know they can take a couple of our worst games and look at us and say, “This team can be beat real easy.” You have to look at the most recent stuff to see how the team is playing now, not how they were playing six weeks ago, now how they were playing three weeks ago, but how are they playing right when you’re getting ready to play them. Wake Forest is the point we use for emphasis.
Q. Your players are smart, you said this before, so they know what’s going on down there. Do you tell them to block it out? Do you tell them it’s irrelevant?
COACH WEIS: You tell them it’s a very dangerous opponent because they have nothing to lose. What do you have to lose? Seriously, you go out to play ?? you go out there and it’s 4th and 10 on the 40 yard line, if you want to go for it, you go for it. What’s going to happen? You’re going to let him go? That’s already taken place.
I think it’s a very dangerous situation to be in our spot right now. A team that the coach got let go, they played one of their best games for the entire year, very easily could have won the game. So obviously they played hard and they’re coming up here trying to validate their season. It’s a very dangerous game.
Q. I don’t know how relevant this would be to the situation, but in 2004 with the Patriots when you went down to Miami at the end of the year, the coach had been let go already at that point ??
COACH WEIS: We proceeded to turn the ball over four times and lose, a Monday night game. I recall.
Q. Is there anything to be taken away from that, or is that just apples and oranges?
COACH WEIS: I think every time you go out, every time you’re playing against a team in this situation, not to be redundant, but it’s a dangerous game. It’s a dangerous game.
Q. We’ve seen a lot this year that John Carlson has been making big catches. What about his physique or hands that makes him so effective on those routes?
COACH WEIS: I think the basketball background he had. I think that really helps at the tight end position. We always said in the NFL that a lot of the best tight ends are those power forwards you see playing in the NBA, a lot that have those hands. He already had potential to be a receiving tight end, it’s just that he hadn’t been put in that position yet and he’s making the most of this opportunity.
Q. What did you do last year to help John come into this year as the starter and be so effective?
COACH WEIS: Just the way Marcus is used a lot in our two tight end sets now as a starter, John was that guy last year. More people knew about Anthony, but John got his feet wet last year so that when Anthony left, John was able to step up into that role.
Q. It came up Sunday about adjustments on defense in the second half and teams are getting off to good starts and then you guys are slamming the door in the second half. Somebody asked you why teams are getting off to a good start. You said that was a good question and you were going to find out the answer.
COACH WEIS: We’ll have to see what happens on Saturday first. That’s not to be sarcastic. I think we came up with what we feel is a plan. And when we talk on Sunday we’ll see. I would rather follow?up with it then to see if it works then.
Q. As your career as an assistant coach, were you ever in a situation where John’s assistants had to be looking for a job in the middle of the season and you knew you were going to be let go?
COACH WEIS: Not very often, but I’ve been in that position before. It’s a very frustrating feeling because what people forget about the sports world, as far as from the coaching goes, there’s a lot of families involved. People always look at the players and coaches but they forget about the families. There’s wives and kids and there’s schools, and there’s disruption and selling houses and buying houses and moving trucks.
I moved 12 times in 14 years or something like that, sometimes within the same town, several times. I always feel for the families because they know there is a chance of disruption. I’ve been in that position before. Fortunately not too often, but I’ve certainly been in that position.
Q. (Inaudible question about going for it on fourth down.)
COACH WEIS: Not that many times, but the guys who ?? I think statistically, two of the top three last year going for it on 4th down were Belichick and Parcells, so I think part of my mentality came from how they think. I don’t know who was 1 and who was 3, but they were both in the top 3.
I think a lot of times you are who you are groomed under. And maybe I’ve said often that I’m kind of a copy cat guy. I figure those guys are really good. And if they made those decisions and you understood why they made those decisions, when you’re forced to be the decision maker, it makes it a little easier because you have no one to answer to but yourself.
Q. Can you talk about Joe Brockington’s play, it’s been his best play this season?
COACH WEIS: He’s been solid since Travis’s injury. He’s really helped solidify the linebacker core. And it’s really put us in a much better situation as he’s stepped up his play.
Q. You mentioned last week regarding you were a little puzzled as to how the top 10, top 20 poles were derived. My thought is, and you’ve also said on many occasions, and I admire you for it, you don’t like to run up the score. The question is, if you were in a position to run up the score especially against a team in the top 10, would that help in the ratings?
COACH WEIS: Would it help in the ratings? Probably, but that’s so far from ?? it’s so far from my mind to think like that. It’s so far from my mind. I’m just trying to do the best I can to have our team ready to beat North Carolina, and that’s what my job is. My job isn’t to worry about playing some top 10 team and worrying about scores of the game, it’s just to get them ready to go. That’s what my job is. I understand everything that goes with the territory, but really that’s all I’m concerned with, the only thing right at this point.
Q. The voting you do every week, is that considered private or can you share that with us, your top 10?
COACH WEIS: It’s private until the last vote when it is considered public. Whenever they want to consider it public every week, I’m happy to do that, but I’m just following the rules. The last week when it’s public, mine will be public along with everybody else’s.
Q. You looked great on 60 Minutes on Sunday. What’s your reaction to that? Were you treated fairly?
COACH WEIS: I think that with every person there is good and bad. I’m far from perfect, as we all know, but I think that ?? I thought it was fairly realistic. Do I have some detriments or some flaws? Absolutely. But I think realistically it’s tough to be in the coaching profession and simultaneously be a loving husband and father and be the molder of young men, where at the same time your job is to win football games. There are a lot of conflicting things going on at the same time, and it’s just how each person in that role can establish within their own personality to try to get all those things done at the same time.
I can tell you this, that some of the things that you might have said or heard, you know, on the football field, are not tolerated in the Weis house by Maura Weis. That’s a fair answer.
Q. The other day you talked about playing hard ball on the offense. Is that something you look to do more often in the next few weeks?
COACH WEIS: I think it builds a mentality, lineman know they can come to the line of scrimmage and tee off on people and not have to think so much or not wait for them to react. Now there are negatives that come with that. Sometimes you have people stunting and slanting and blitzing all over the place. When you come off at somebody, that somebody might not be there when you go to hit them. It’s easier when they line up in more of a two?gap mode, which is more like what we were getting last week, especially when they were lining up at an odd defense, where they are lining up and trying to knock you back and you’re trying to knock them back. A lot of it has to do with schematics, as well.
Q. Joe Brockington said last week about finally getting to play he was excited about it. He said one of the things that the coach might have been worried about is he wouldn’t be able to stand up to it this year?
COACH WEIS: Remember, he’s lot looking at it as objectively as we are. The players always believe that they’re fully healthy and everything is ready to go. I have no favorite for anyone. Whoever I see moving around the best making plays, that’s who I’m going to put in there. I think what’s happened is he’s gotten progressively better as the year has gone on, where that doesn’t work that way with everyone. There are people who level off or who start going in the opposite direction, but he’s continued to get better as the year has gone on.
Q. The 60 Minute piece, what was your reaction to Brady Quinn saying he can definitely be a jerk?
COACH WEIS: He’s right. That’s my reaction. You know what they say about pay back, Tom. As a matter of fact, he’s already been paid back, I think. I don’t think we have to wait on that one. He’s gotten the worst end of that deal.
Q. Can you give us an idea what the pay back is?
COACH WEIS: You ask him. He has his own press conference.
Q. You had mentioned earlier in the year that once these freshman running backs emerged it would be the end of Travis playing both ways. Yet if you look at how he performed on Saturday, will you keep it alive?
COACH WEIS: I’ll keep it alive, even with James and Munir really improving on a daily basis, I think Travis will stay alive. I just need him to get healthy again. But I don’t see taking his role completely away on offense.
Q. Can you talk about his strengths and his upside on both sides of the ball?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that he’s ?? even when he was playing running back full time, there are very few guys that play with, as I said at training camp, a defensive mentality. That’s how he plays running back. Some people like to make people miss, some people like to run into them. He likes contact. He likes playing that style of game. He is a rugged, tough football player. And he just enjoys ?? contact is part of the game, and I think that’s why he’s so good on special teams. That’s why he’s been able, despite his experience on defense, to perform at a high level. And that’s why when he gets on offense, usually something good happens.
Q. As you project him as a linebacker in the future, do you see continued improvement from him. Do you project that?
COACH WEIS: He’s definitely on the rise. He’s definitely on the rise. This kid is a really good athlete and really good football player. The real interesting thing will be after he ends up leaving here, where they will play him. Because I don’t know the answer to that. When people ask me, I say, it depends on what you want to do with him.
Q. Is Munir deserving of being in the rotation this week?
COACH WEIS: I think he will he have an opportunity to get some time this week.
Q. We had talked around the bye week about looking at younger guys and the whole fifth?year option dilemma. Are you kind of to the point where you don’t really want to cross that bridge with anybody new?
COACH WEIS: Here is the problem I have. The problem is twofold. No. 1 is, fifth year/red shirt is not something we really talk about here, it’s something that happens when you get to your fifth year. No. 2, there’s proposed legislation right now in college football where there is a possibility, not that I’m supporting it, but there is a possibility of everyone having five years of eligibility. There’s legislation out there. There is that fine line. If I knew right now that everyone had five years of eligibility, just load up the kitchen sink, let’s go, get them all in there. But you have to always been considerate of the future of your program and think accordingly.
Q. Eight games into the season, do you think this team has established its identity?
COACH WEIS: I would say we have a chance to be on the rise on this subject right here. I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s starting to happen. I’m cautiously optimistic. Like I said Sunday, I think that before you can make that statement as valid, you have to see a level of consistency that I still at this point have not been totally pleased with yet.
Q. Is that because of UCLA two weeks ago, do you think?
COACH WEIS: You have to tie all the games together. You can’t just take one game. You can talk about UCLA two weeks ago, you can talk about Navy this week and go back to the game before that. It’s going to be a different set of circumstances every week. There are certain expectations I have and I think last week moved in the right direction. I’m hoping this week continues in that direction.
Q. When you look at the top teams in the country, they have a swagger or a definite feel about their success. Do you notice that or do you have it on certain sides of the ball? Where do you have it and where don’t you have it?
COACH WEIS: Swagger to me is a team thing, not on a certain side of the ball. One thing I think our team believes, even though one time this year this did not happen, our team does have a swagger to believe that they’re going to win when they go out to play. I think that’s half the battle. I think your team has to believe they’re going to win. I don’t think our team ever goes into a game hoping to win, I think they believe they can win. And most of the time that bodes well for how things are going to work on other elements of the game.
Q. Just talking about the fifth year earlier, why wouldn’t you support that?
COACH WEIS: Our guys all graduate in four years. What that does is helps promote a four?year institution being a five?year deal. Between having four years of college and having summer school that the NCAA two years ago started letting kids start summer school even before their freshman year, if you’re taking six hours, well, that’s six, 12, that’s 24 hours right there. 24 hours plus four years of school, I’m all in favor of guys graduating in four years. And that’s what we stand for.
So then why have five years eligibility? It’s not to set them up for graduate school. Our whole thing is we try ?? there are some institutions that think the way we do, to graduate everyone in four. They call it a four?year institution, not a five.
Q. Do you think it would hurt you in recruiting if that happened?
COACH WEIS: You just play by the rules. I don’t think ?? Mike, I don’t think it’s about hurting you or helping you, it’s whatever the rules are, that’s what you play by. We’re one of the institutions that strongly believes, and everyone does, graduates in four years. We graduate them all in four. It isn’t like the guys are in their fifth year and they’re still 18 hours away from graduating. They’re in graduate school or they’re getting another major.
The kids that stay here for a fifth year, none of them are staying here to graduate, they’ve already graduated. They’re either working on another major or actually taking graduate classes.
Q. Given the way that Tom has to deal with injuries and things this year, how important was it for him to have a game like he did on Saturday?
COACH WEIS: I think it was good for his health, that he could go out there and start playing full speed. You could see ?? just when you’re starting to get into the flow, though, you can see just as the game went on, he got better as the game went on, which shows you even how very good football players have some rust. You have to knock off rust. And as the game went on he actually played better.
Q. I was wondering the main reason why you’ve been able to turn five, six?win program into one that’s now on the verge of being (inaudible.)
COACH WEIS: I think players got, later on in their career, and they started gaining some confidence and started taking the leadership role on themselves. These guys are all playing. Most of these guys that are playing were here before I got here, so it isn’t like I brought them here, it’s just that they have matured and have gotten better, and you have to give credit to the players. I’m not taking credit for that.
Q. North Carolina is obviously looking for a coach, and Nick said they want someone with head coaching experience. As a guy who came from an assistant position, how would you lobby for your fellow assistants out there that they don’t necessarily need to be a head coach to get this job?
COACH WEIS: I heard that for a whole bunch of years. When jobs would come, they would say they want someone with head coaching experience. It’s a tough dilemma people have when they’re hiring because you have the known versus the unknown. That’s always the issue you’re dealing with. There’s a whole bunch of great assistants out there. There’s also some head coaches out there that would jump at the opportunity to take that program.
It’s definitely a Catch 22. I can speak from experience. I think there are a lot guys that are assistants that have been groomed and paid their dues that would do an excellent job given that opportunity.
Q. (Inaudible question about Anthony Vernaglia.)
COACH WEIS: He did not need surgery, so that means he would be back sooner. I don’t know how soon that’s going to be. But after his MRI, I thought he was going to get scoped on Tuesday, but that didn’t have to take place. Therefore, he becomes more of a day?to?day than he’s gone for four weeks.
Q. He’s probably out this week but not for the season?
COACH WEIS: I don’t think he’ll play this week, but I don’t think it will be anywhere near as long as I thought it was going to be.
Q. Could you talk about your role as a mentor/teacher and two?year assistant coaches?
COACH WEIS: In regard to what subject?
Q. In developing their coaching ability.
COACH WEIS: I think that one of the things you have to try to do as the head coach is make sure you give them enough latitude to do their jobs, because I think that if I allow them to do their jobs, you’re also in a position where you can hold them accountable for how things happen while they’re doing their jobs. I think that sometimes you can be overbearing on a day?to?day basis and not allow people to be creative or be involved in game plans, coach their players. But I think that, fortunately, the coaches that I’ve worked under always hired guys and let them do their jobs. Were they always domineering as head coaches, yes, but they always let us do our jobs and with our experience that’s what we do with our guys, which helps progress you a lot quicker, I think.
Q. I could be wrong here, two touchdowns out of the 32 you scored this year have come from defense or special teams. Is that something you can try to get your team to improve on through practice or is that something that just happens?
COACH WEIS: I think the defensive staff would love some interceptions for touchdowns, and so would the head coach. Last year we had touchdowns on the punt return game that we haven’t gotten. The one we got this year was called back. There are game changing plays and just as we were talking early in this press conference today about special teams touchdowns, a kickoff return or punt return for a touchdown are things that can change the tempo of a game in a hurry. It would lift my spirits to see one here by the good guys this week.