Oct. 6, 2005
How did the off week go?
Coach Weis: Did you miss me? How did it go for you guys? You got the coaching staff. I threw you a couple of bones there. You got to throw all your questions at them.
The week has gone well. Of the exact things I talked about, I think I feel pretty good that is what has happened. Going into the next game, which we will talk about next Tuesday, the only injury entering the game is Dwight Stephenson (Jr.). He will be out for a little while. A couple of the guys who have not been playing, it looks like they have a good chance of playing, which is what you hope for when you have some extra time.
There are never any sure things, but I think our health has gotten significantly better. Some of the guys who have been playing hurt have had a chance to get better. It has been a good thing. In addition, we have had a lot of practice reps with our second and thirds. Physically, that has helped us get an insight on who we can count on and who we would be reluctant to play. It also has given us plenty of time as a coaching staff to zero in on two things in particular – one is getting ready for our next opponent, two is getting ready to wind down recruiting. We have really spent a lot of time on both those facets this week. Everything is going to come to an end next weekend in terms of the focus of this week’s energy.
What will you do this weekend?
Coach Weis: I will be in tomorrow like every other day. Early. I have a bunch of stuff dialed up tomorrow. Saturday, at 2:30, I will be sitting on my coach watching Fox Sports Net national television coverage of the USC – Arizona football game on Direct TV Channel 620 or 636 through 638. (Laughter) I have been anticipating that question. That is what I will be doing.
First, I will get Charlie a hair cut Saturday morning and then I will videotape Maura riding her horse, one of her two horses, or both, before that. Then I will be home watching that game on TV. We will be in Sunday morning to game plan USC.
Can you pick up anything from watching it on TV?
Coach Weis: I will just watch it. You can’t really see the same things when you watch the game on TV. But you can hear things sometimes. Sometimes you can hear snap counts, sometimes you can hear audibles. It is kind of funny, when I watch a Patriots game I hear every call. Our players, because we use a lot of the same verbiage at the line of scrimmage, they start laughing because they say “Oh, they use the same stuff.’
I like to watch because I like to listen to what the commentators have to say. Sometimes the coaches give them insight. You know me, how liberal I am with giving out information, sometimes coaches are a bit more liberal and they will give them a lot of information going into the game. I like to listen to that. Another thing I am going to do later today, I am going to watch a TV copy of the USC – Arizona State game. I watched the regular copy, but I am going to watch the TV copy to see if there is anything I can pick up from that.
Did you have Rhema (McKnight) work with the twos and threes?
Coach Weis: No, I would not have Rhema work with the twos and threes. I am just trying to get Rhema 100 percent and ready to go. You don’t do that. Even if a guy is a little rusty, the one thing you want to do is get him as healthy as you can. Any time you can get one of your playmakers back into the mix – the more weapons you have, the better chance you have of causing some personnel problems for your opponent.
On the Purdue telecast they talked about your conversations with parents of the players. You said that you discuss anything but playing time…
Coach Weis: That is exactly right. I don’t mind talking to parents about a health issue or a school issue. I am on the same page with them. I want them to be healthy and I want them to do well in school. Just don’t call me up and ask, `Why is my kid second team.’ Because he deserves to be second team, that is why he is second team. That is as far as I get. I get very testy when that happens.
And I think you said that it was the wives calling you in the NFL?
Coach Weis: (It was) wives and agents. Who were looking for the same thing – `Is he going to get cut?’ Remember now, when you are talking about dollars things change. When it was an agent I would say `Hey, talk to Bill (Belichick).’ When it was the wives, you have to handle it a little differently. They try to give you some insight so you can do back and deal with it. I always got a little antsy when agents called. That is why we have Belichick and (Scott) Pioli. I could refer those questions to them.
With the way the offense is running, do you find it difficult to have patience and not take a shot down field?
Coach Weis: No. For me personally, it is very easy to be patient. The most important thing is to get the quarterback thinking along with you. Many, many defenses you go against beg you to be patient. They figure you don’t have the discipline to do that. They say, `Sooner or later they are going to mess it up.’ The really good teams are the teams that don’t take the bait.
What is the difference between being lucky and being skilled in red zone defense?
Coach Weis:Sometimes there is a fine line. But (our) turnovers have been caused. Even the quarterback from Michigan, when (Chad) Henne fumbles the ball, the reason he loses the snap is because those two guys inside are knocking the center back. Even though no one touches (the quarterback), the center is being pushed back. The quarterback/center exchange is affected when he has two guys pushing him back. Look at the play from last week, the fumble from last week. That ball wasn’t coming out – it was stripped. That was a caused fumble, that wasn’t a fumble that happened by chance. So I would not say it was lucky, it was caused.
Can you talk about your relationship with Pete Carroll? You were never on the same staff together, right?
Coach Weis: No. Pete and I do go back a ways. Back to when he was a defensive coordinator with the Jets, then the head coach for the Jets, then the head coach of the Patriots. Because we were in that northeast corridor together, we had a chance to compete. I think he is a really good coach. He has been good for college football. He came in there when that program was a little down. Obviously, they are the bar now. They are the level of performance that every one is trying to get to.
What happened during the period between the Patriots and the Jets?
Coach Weis: I was on the staff that just left from the Patriots. We had just gone to the Super Bowl in 1996 and Bill (Parcells) left. It is all well documented. I talked to Pete briefly during that limbo period when Bill was going down to the Jets. It took about a week or two to get the whole thing ironed out. Bill was going down to the Jets and most of us were counting on that happening.
Was there a possibility to stay in New England?
Coach Weis: I think a lot of us liked being with the Patriots. We had just gone to the Super Bowl. Bill (Parcells), it wasn’t a slam dunk that he was at the Jets yet. As a matter of fact, one of the things that Mr. Kraft said, was that he had Belichick now, and we all thought that Belichick was going to get the Patriots job. So there was a possibility that I might never have left New England. When Pete came in, usually when you come in – especially on that level – you try to surround yourself with guys you are familiar with. It is a grueling task. Familiarity is a comfort level when you go into that. We really didn’t know each other personally at the time, we just knew each other professionally and I think it is a very respectful relationship.
No hard feelings not getting the New England job then?
Coach Weis: No. Not at all. I was in New York in two weeks. It was not like I had this long limbo period. Pete came in, he hired his guys, Belichick took over the Jets job for about three days and then Parcells took it over from him once the league got it all worked out. Then we were down in Long Island.
What do you see as the influence of the former NFL coaches in the college ranks?
Coach Weis: This often gets overlooked. The recruiting picked up immediately in those programs. Every one of these young men you are recruiting has aspirations of playing in the NFL. Every one of them. (Pete) Carroll, (Al) Groh, (Nick) Saban, (Kirk) Ferentz, throw them all in there. All the sudden you have a head coach in your program who has just been coaching in the NFL for a bunch of years and you aspire to play in the NFL – it is just one more selling point when you are trying to recruit a prospect. When you can sit there and tell a guy about your experiences in the NFL, I think it really can have a very positive effect on many kids you end up recruiting.
So, doing what they do well coaching-wise, you will see that the programs recruiting picked up significantly once they got there.
You used that statistics from the 2004 Purdue game to motivate your team last week. Do you have any plans for the number 31?
Coach Weis: You mean the point differentials? I am going to be worried about #5, #11, #21 – those are the numbers I am going to be worried about. Thirty-one is not the number I am going to worry about. I am worrying about those other guys. They are the numbers I am concerned with.
Chase Anastasio, for example, has turned into a solid contributor on special teams. Is it an asset to have players who can become special teams performers?
Coach Weis: I think it is significant to have guys who turn into special teams performers. Guys that you can count on, like starters on offense and defense. Guys that are going to know what to do and can play with a high level of knowledge and toughness. That is what you get out of Chase, among a whole niche of guys who are involved on multiple special teams.
Is that something different from the NFL because of the roster size?
Coach Weis: No, you did have them but they were also starting. Go watch the Patriots play the Falcons this week you will see Mike Vrabel on a bunch of special teams even though he is the starting outstide linebacker. You used to see Teddy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison out there playing on a bunch of special teams. They also played offense and defense. One of the luxuries you have in college, if you have a guy who is right on the cusp of playing on offense or defense, but are not starting or are not heavily into the mix, they can create a niche for themselves on special teams. It is just like having another group of starters. There are 30 reps a game that they can be on the field for.
What are the characteristics of a Pete Carroll defense?
Coach Weis: They are very sound. He won’t blitz all day long unless he has to. But he always has it in his package. He always has safeties who will come up and make plays. He always has guys who can rush the passer. He always has linebackers who can run. It is pretty easy. You sit there and watch them it is the same. Now, it isn’t the exact same defense, mind you. I am not saying that Pete hasn’t evolved over the years, but they are going to be sound fundamentally. He always has been and always will be. He is just doing it with pretty good players.
What do you think about the wide open offense that is being used in college football?
Coach Weis: That is a tough one for me because I am such a novice in college ball. I am really new to it. I just know that you don’t see as many things in college as you do in the pros. The college game on offense is far more wide open than the pro game. Not us, we are not as wide open as other people. I watch tape of some of these teams that are in shotgun every play. I watched Oregon against USC. The first play of the game they were shot gun, four open. I have done that sometimes, but that has very seldom been the whole game plan. There is another team that never takes a snap from under center. I think in that Oregon game there were maybe two or three – every other one was a shotgun snap. That is a little different for me. It more comes into play looking at it from a defensive perspective than an offensive perspective when you start to see teams that are wide open throwing it every down. There are very few teams that will do that.
Earlier in the year you said that you would go to Rick Minter and say – `If you do that on defense I would do this,’ how much of that are you still doing now?
Coach Weis: I only tell them things like that when they start to game plan. I don’t want to be sticking my nose in everyone else’s business. For example, we are going to game plan for USC on Sunday. Sunday morning I will go in with the defensive staff and say – `Here are the three, four or five things that I noticed.’ But I have an experienced defensive staff. I am not going to tell them what to do. I will tell them what I see, what I perceive as the problems. I will throw my two cents in and usually they try to appease me and stick in a couple defensive calls to make me feel like they were listening. (Laughter).
What do you want the players to do this weekend?
Coach Weis: I hope they get away from here. Getting away from football can be a good thing. Just as long as they are in study hall at 8:00 p.m.
Do you have any feelings on the outdoor pep rally?
Coach Weis: Well, what happened, I talked to Doug (Walker) and John (Heisler) about it. It was kind of my idea. At the Michigan State pep rally, about five or six thousand people got turned away from the pep rally. If that many people got turned away from that game, I could be oblivious to the magnitude of this game, but I think the fans want to be going to the pep rally – they should have a venue to be able to go to the pep rally. So, in anticipation of more people being antsy before this game, by going outside, weather permitting, we get more people an opportunity to be part of that experience. We thought it would be the best thing for our fans. If the weather is bad, we are not going to risk what happened last time when they had to go in the concourse area. We would go back indoors, but now there is just 11,500 (capacity) and now you have a ton of people getting turned away and they are upset because they wanted to be a part of that experience. We just felt the best thing for the fans was to give them an opportunity to be a part of the experience.
I know one thing, I am not going to MC this one because I am 0-1 when I have MC’d. I have a plan for this one, as you would expect I would.
You spoke about being at the Notre Dame – USC game as a student and the team came out in green jerseys. Would you consider doing that?
Coach Weis: I wouldn’t count on seeing that. I also told you that emotional stuff doesn’t last too long. We are going to have to play our best game to have a chance to win. We all know that. You know it and I know it. That is what I am hoping we do.
Would I ever consider it, I should say, `Yes, I would consider it,’ so you guys can write it. (Laughter) Yeah, I would consider it. (Laughter). But don’t count on it for this one. I will give you a little insight on that.
Do you have any concern about instant replay not being used in the USC game?
Coach Weis: For the most part, most of the replays I have agreed with what has happened. Some of them benefited us so obviously, I am a proponent of instant replay and I would much rather have it. I can’t worry about it. Those are what the rules are. When I talk to the officials before the game, I will remind them that the security blanket is gone. Like I told you earlier, what their reaction was `Well, we were told there was instant replay and we are to err on the side of this.’ There is no replay in this game. I am just going to emphasize that, obviously, your call stands so let’s make sure we are not using the same kind of temperament than when you know there is replay to make up for any mistakes.
You talked about the Michigan State game and the distractions that were involved. What will you do different for this game?
Coach Weis: We will have practiced for it. This is where we are going to be for the next five games. These distractions are going to become part of our week’s practice. I know have to incorporate them into what we do because this is the way it is going to be until Stanford.
What are your feelings about this game and if it comes at the right time – the ability it test your team’s performance against the top team in the country?
Coach Weis: I am excited about this game. But, I think that we try to talk about staying on an even keel, if I get too wired, then the players get too wired and you are setting yourself up for a huge fall. You really do. Am I anxious for this opportunity to go against the best team in the country? Yes. I would be lying if I said otherwise.
But you will see me, like I have told you, on game days you will see me yell at officials. Which I always do. That will never change. You will see me coaching some guys pretty sternly when something happens that I don’t like, but you will never see me lose my cool when it comes to the operation of the game. In a game like this, if you get too excited… I am not a jump around type of guy. First of all, I am not physically capable of it. (Laughter) But on top of everything else that is not how I operate. I make sure I got to every kid before the game, shake their hand and wish them well and say some words of encouragement before we go, because that is the approach I like to take. That is what you will see against USC.
Are you going to focus on Arizona State’s performance in the first half against USC last week as a model for your game plan?
Coach Weis: I have a lot more games than that to use. I have gone back three years now. It isn’t just Arizona State.