Oct. 9, 2007
COACH WEIS: Good afternoon. There’s obviously a lot to talk about with Boston College. When you’re coming in 6-0 and ranked 4th in the country, obviously they’re very excited in New England about the rise of Boston College to high in the top 10 and with a legitimate chance of playing for it all if they just keep going the way they’re going.
They returned 18 starters on their team because they’ve got seven on offense, nine or defense and two specialists. I think this is the best start they’ve had since 1942 when they started 8-0.
BC has beaten us four times in a row, and the obvious rivalry comes from being the two Catholic universities in America that play Division I football.
(Head) Coach (Jeff) Jagodzinski obviously had been in the NFL for a while, but he had been a coordinator for Boston College, takes over as the head coach and hired Steve Logan as offensive coordinator. They worked together at East Carolina. As a matter of fact, Coach Jag was Steve’s offensive line coach and they both worked under (Notre Dame assistant head coach – defense/defensive backs coach) Bill Lewis at East Carolina as well. Steve was in NFL Europe for the last three years or so.
Their offense has really got it rockin’ and rollin’. They’re averaging just under 36 points a game, and their season averages, and last week was kind of a microcosm of their season averages. They’re averaging just about 141 yards rushing a game and 314 passing, and that’s 455 all together. And they’re converting 46 percent on 3rd down.
When they’ve gone for it on 4th down, which has been five times this year, they’ve made it every time. They’ve only given up six sacks in the first half, and they’ve outscored the opponents 23-48. Last week, just to show you the parallel, they rushed for 146, they threw for 325, for 471, they converted 55 percent on 3rd down, when they went for it once on 4th down, they converted and they didn’t allow a sack.
Their offense starts with (Matt) Ryan. Ryan is a heck of a quarterback. He’s not just their captain. He went all ACC last year and Offensive Player of the Week last week in the ACC with a 24-for-32 effort. He’s poised, he’s tough, he’s efficient, he’s accurate. He’ll stay in the pocket when he feels the pressure. He’s a very, very, very good player.
At running back (Andre) Callender has been their starter this year. (L.V.) Whitworth has started 31 games in his career, but he’s kind of been banged up with a hamstring. He’s missed a lot of time this year. He’s only played in four of the games, so Callender has kind of taken over as the lead guy. He’s the team’s leading rusher, averaging over five yards a carry.
At fullback, they play three different guys. The first guy I want to mention is a true freshman by the game of Brad Newman, mainly because he went to Manasquan High School, which is my home turf, so I have to give him a plug right off the bat. (James) McCluskey, he’s been kind of banged up some. He had a knee, and he was a little questionable, but he did see a little time in the Bowling Green game. And then Ryan Thompson played both tight end and fullback for them, so all three of those guys show up at the fullback position.
You know, at tight end, (Ryan) Purvis is their fourth-leading receiver on the team, and when they go to two tight ends they bring (Jon) Loyte in. He transferred a while ago from Vandy, but he’s a big guy.
At receiver, their leading receiver is Brandon Robinson. He’s their Z. (Kevin) Challenger, he’s their second-leading receiver, he’s their X, and when they go to a third receiver, usually it’s (Rich) Gunnell. He usually plays their slot when they go to three receivers. And if they want to get a bigger guy in there, they put (Justin) Jarvis in there because he’s 6’5″ and 195 and he can add size to the receiving corps.
Offensive line, (Gosder) Cherilus, he’s their captain, he’s started 43 straight games now. He’d been a right tackle until this year, they moved him over to left tackle. When you look at those high draft choices on the offensive line, at offensive tackle you always look for those guys that are powerful and strong and have long arms and are tough when they get their hands on you. Well, he fits that description.
The other guy who started a whole bunch of games obviously is their left guard, (Ryan) Poles. He started 19 in a row at left guard. (Matt) Tennant, he’s a tough center; (Clif) Ramsey or (Ty) Hall will handle the right guard position; and a true freshman, Anthony Castonzo, he starts over on the right side.
On defense, where they’re ranked third in the country on rushing defense, they’re only giving up 18 points a game and only giving under 50 yards rushing a game and under two yards a carry a game and under 31 percent conversion rate on 3rd down. They have Coach (Frank) Spaziani, who’s been there 11 years, nine years as defensive coordinator, who I have a lot of respect for. I think he’s a heck of a coach, his defense is playing really well. Last week they intercepted six balls and returned two of them for touchdowns and had four sacks.
On the defensive line, (Nick) Larkin is one of their team captains at defensive end. Him or (Austin) Giles handles the right side and (Alex) Albright usually handles the left side, and then inside they have both (Brady) Smith and (Ron) Brace. Brace is a big man. He’s 325 and he plays to that 325. He’s a big, powerful, strong guy.
At the linebacker position it all starts with (Jolonn) Dunbar at the Mike, but they play two deep at linebacker, so when I mention these linebackers you can talk about the starter or the second guy because they both show up. Sometimes the backup might have more tackles than him in the game last week. But Dunbar is one of the leaders of the defense. He’s their captain. He’s a two year captain. He’s second on the team in tackles. When he’s not in there, (Mike) McLaughlin comes in there, and last week he was third on the team in tackles for the game.
Their field linebacker, (Tyronne) Pruitt — (Kevin) Akins handled that position. Akins also comes in the game, they have a personnel group where they play with four linebackers, so he’s on the field, so they play both of those guys.
Both the Will linebackers are weak side linebackers. (Mark) Herzlich has been starting as of late, but (Robert) FranÃƒÂ§ois, last week he led the team in tackles and he’s listed as the backup. So all six of those guys play and they’re all productive.
Taji Morris, he’ll handle the boundary corner, DeJuan Tribble will handle the field corner, he was all ACC second team last year, and he’s made 32 starts, so he’s another guy with experience, of which they have a lot on this team.
(Jamie) Silva is their weak safety. Silva, besides being the ACC Player of the Week last week — he had three interceptions and one of them returned for a touchdown — he also leads the team with tackles. Here’s a weak safety who leads the team in tackles and they get him involved in the mix a whole bunch of times. And then Paul Anderson, he’s second on the team in tackles, he’s their other safety. He’ll play the strong safety.
Their special teams coordinator, Don Yanowsky, this is his first year at Boston College, but he’s reunited with Coach Logan who he worked with at East Carolina in the early 2000s.
You’ve got Billy Bennett, who’s a true freshman kicker. I’m going to try this one time here and see if I can get it right the first time. Their placekicker, (Steve) Aponavicius, here’s a guy they took out of the student body last year when they were having some problems placekicking, and he’s done a heck of a job manning down this placekicking job for them for now over a year. (Johnny) Ayers handles the punting, (Jack) Geiser handles the long snapping.
Unfortunately for us, Jeff Smith returned to action last week as a kickoff returner. He hadn’t been playing. He’s been sitting out with a concussion for the first five games, but he showed up against Bowling Green — three kick returns for a 39 yard average. There’s a guy who, as a true freshman, was first in the ACC and eighth in the nation on kickoff returns. So he could have stayed out for a couple more weeks; that would have lifted my spirits.
Looks like Robinson will probably be back with him — Callender was back there with him, but I don’t think they need him back there now, and DeJuan Tribble, that’s the starting corner, will also handle their punt returns.
Q. Does Matt Ryan remind you of anybody?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, he’s kind of reminds me a little bit about Tommy (Brady) and Brady (Quinn) to tell you the truth, not Tommy Brady, but I think he’s got a little bit of both. Brady (Quinn) is a little bigger than him. Tommy (Brady), when he was in college, was a little thinner then. But he (Matt Ryan) reminds me a little bit of those two guys, both in his physique and his style of play.
Q. No doubt he plays on the next level?
COACH WEIS: Early, early pick, high pick.
Q. You talked about the approach that you took last week — conservative and “letting the defense.” Is that difficult for you as a play caller?
COACH WEIS: Yes, it’s difficult for me personally, but I think that if you truly want to follow your philosophy of playing each game to win that game, then as the offensive player caller it’s difficult for me. As the head coach it’s easy for me. Fortunately or unfortunately, I wear both hats and the head coach wins over the play caller. I think that my job is to put us in the best position in the to win the game, and I think that’s exactly what we did.
Q. You talked about (Jimmy) Clausen managing the game. Does the opponent dictate when you change that, or is it strictly upon when Jimmy is ready?
COACH WEIS: The opponent has a lot to do with how the game plan changes. You know, he obviously has to — as he continues his progression allows you to do more, but really the style of the defense you play against dictates what you end up doing.
Q. As far as your two minute offense, (Evan) Sharpley was that guy early in the year. Now that Jimmy is five starts into it, has he taken that over?
COACH WEIS: He would stay in there if we were in two minute right now. He wouldn’t come out. At that time of the year, early in the year, Jimmy wasn’t even throwing the ball during two minute, it was all Evan. Now, whoever would be in the game as the starter, if Evan ended up in the game for some reason and two minute came up, Evan would run it. But Jimmy is the starter and Jimmy will be brought in when that time comes out.
Q. And (Anthony) Vernaglia, you moved him inside?
COACH WEIS: Well, we moved him inside out of need last week. I think this week he’s going to practice at both inside and outside. He’ll be listed at one (position on the depth chart). I think I put him as the backup Sam behind John Ryan. I think that’s where I put him, as the best backup left outside linebacker, but he’ll practice at both inside and outside this week.
Q. If someone told you before the game you’d win with 140 yards of total offense, would you have believed that?
COACH WEIS: If you win with a +7 (turnover) ratio, I’d say yes. I think there’s more to it. You’re throwing one stat at me and one stat doesn’t make the game. I think that if you told me you were going to be +7 and you had 140 yards of offense and didn’t turn the ball over, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance you won the game. Normally the answer to that would be an emphatic no.
Q. After the game you talked about talking to the team about not celebrating too much after the touchdown. Is that something you talked more about on Sunday?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, I did talk to them because they were so delirious on the sideline, and at the time we’re up 13-6. I think what I was trying to do … I want them to enjoy touchdowns, I want them to be happy and be fired up and everything. But at the same time, we’ve got almost a half a game to go. We had just taken the lead. There’s a lot of football yet to be played.
I think that the (Maurice) Crum/(John) Ryan strip-sack-fumble return for a touchdown really took some of the pressure off the rest of the game because the way the game was going, I think that as long as we didn’t turn the ball over, there was a good chance we were going to end up winning that game.
But I think that it was a very good learning experience, and I think it allowed you a very good teaching lesson. I wouldn’t even call it constructive criticism because you want the kids to be excited. But they need to understand that, “okay, now, remember that feeling. You’ve got to make sure that you can bottle that energy because you’ve got to be able to finish the rest of the game because one of our points in the game was to make sure you went for 60 minutes. You don’t want to be going for 35, all of a sudden you’re leading and you’re feeling real good about yourself and somebody comes back and next thing you know it could be a big deflating type of situation.”
Q. Since this is such a young team, you talked more about being a teacher. Have you had more moments like that this year, just teaching the team the approach, mental attitude?
COACH WEIS: More than I ever have in my life. I’ve spent more time mentally and psychologically this year than I ever have before. I think that I’ve had to make sure — I wouldn’t say you temper your comments, but you be more instructive. You don’t take things for granted. You have a veteran team you sit there and tell them, you know they get it. You have a younger team and they might be shaking their heads, “I get it,” but they have no idea what you’re talking about. I think you have to make sure you spend the time to make sure they understand what you’re talking about.
Q. Could you give me an example of one of those?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, you might say — well, let’s take one from the game the other day. Let’s use the example that you brought up with scoring a touchdown and we go up 13-6. When you come over to the sideline and say to Mo Crum and Joe Brockington, “okay, let’s go, get off your feet, get off your feet, relax, because everyone is jumping up and down, you’re going to be out there in a couple seconds,” the younger guys might say, “well, why is he telling us to get off our feet?” An older guy knows all you’re trying to do is telling them to get some rest. A younger guy might not understand. All you’re trying to do is getting him to conserve some energy because before you know it you’re going to be out there again. Those little things that you just take for granted as common sense things, sometimes you need to address them.
Q. Is the whole practice — you’ve changed your practices along the way. Has part of that been teaching the mentality — you’ve been more physical, just trying to teach them this is how you have to practice?
COACH WEIS: That’s why we’ve had to go in that direction, because I think that there was sometimes — I wouldn’t say they don’t practice hard, but I think that we had to teach them how to practice, and that’s really not something that I’ve had to spend much energy on in the past, teaching them how to practice.
When you go full speed and you’re taking them to the ground, that really alleviates any of the — what’s the tempo going to be because there’s only one tempo it could be when you’re going full speed, and that’s full speed.
Q. Looking at the depth chart, there’s quite a bit of shuffling this week it looks like. I guess in general terms, how much of a true blueprint is the depth chart when it comes to coaches and players, or is it just kind of something to put out there?
COACH WEIS: Well, sometimes when I’m putting guys down — for example, you’ve got two outside linebacker positions, so because I — when we did this last night for — when we use a guy like Brian Smith, Brian Smith, I don’t know, I probably have him listed as the second right outside linebacker with Morrice Richardson. But he could be in the game at the left outside linebacker, as well.
But what I do is I try to put them down in the position where I think that they’ll probably get on the field the fastest because there’s flexibility. For example, Justin Brown could be in the game for either Dwight Stephenson or Trevor Laws. I don’t know which spot he’ll get in the game first, but he’ll be in the game for one of those two guys. But I’ll list him probably behind Dwight on one side and I’ll probably put Derrell (Hand) and Paddy (Mullen) on the other side. But Justin would go in first.
I’m using that as an example. When you’re doing that, I’m trying to place them so that you guys get the closest idea without having to list one guy in two spots.
Q. On a specific note, when you look at (Matt) Carufel, is it still a case of (Dan) Wenger being injured or has he (Carufel) done something to play himself into there?
COACH WEIS: Well, actually Danny hasn’t practiced that many reps full speed yet. We’re finally getting him back on a more full speed basis this week. He’s not going to just automatically get thrown in there. I’ve got Danny and Eric (Olsen) who have been out there a lot. (Danny’s) going to have to get his — earn his way back out there.
Q. Kerry Neal, are you starting to see some things that he can play both run and pass?
COACH WEIS: Well, he’s a bigger body than some of those other guys, and he’s more of a — he’s not as tall as John — but he’s more of a John Ryan type of player. So it kind of gives you — when those two guys are out there — it gives you more of a mirrored look on the right side and the left side.
Q. I noticed Barry Gallup now ahead of Golden Tate. I thought that was kind of interesting.
COACH WEIS: Well, that’s because Golden got dinged a little bit in the game. He got knocked in the head a little bit. Golden will be involved in this mix right here. But it’s also BC week. How could I not have Barry Gallup in the depth chart for BC week? By the way, his mother is rooting for Barry Gallup. I know that question will come up. That’s who she’s rooting for.
Q. It’s halfway through the season here. What’s your biggest sense of accomplishment with this team and maybe what’s the one thing that you really want to get a handle on?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think the greatest sense of accomplishment in a team that’s 1-5 is it doesn’t act like a team, doesn’t practice like a team that’s 1-5. I only can credit the players. I’d like to sit there and pat myself on the back, but it’s really the character of our team because most teams when they’re 0-5 don’t act like a team that still thinks they can win. They don’t practice that way, they don’t act that way, and it says a lot for the character of our players.
I’d have to say that’s probably the team’s biggest accomplishment, that despite the fact that we have had a very down year to this point, but there’s no indication by the mannerisms of our players that that’s the case we’re at.
The flipside, obviously, is the lack of production, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I think that the defense has shown spurts of getting better. I think the offense has been up and down and has only shown flashes. The biggest thing I’m encouraged at is I think our best ball is yet to come. You’d like to sit there and say you’re playing your best ball early in the year, but I think with this team, from where we are, I can’t do anything about games 1 through 6. All I can do is do stuff for games 7 through 12, and I’d have to feel very strongly in all three aspects the arrow is pointing up.
Q. What did Geoff Price show you last week that got him back in the lineup?
COACH WEIS: Well, the thing is, and you saw in the games, the biggest problem he’s had this year is inconsistency. We all know that he’s got the leg that can hit the ball 70 yards. But when you go out in the game and hit two or three crummy ones and then drop a snap on top of it, at that position you can’t hide.
I never call a player out, but there’s certain positions, the quarterback throws three interceptions, everybody in the stands sees it. An offensive lineman misses three blocks, you might not see it, depending on what happened on the play. But when a punter is out there and the ball goes 25 or 30 yards, it’s tough to hide that.
But I think that he’s really working on his consistency. I think that last week with the exception of one kick that he didn’t hit very well, I think that he kicked — he punted nine times and I think he had a very, very good day.
Q. (James) Aldridge, his numbers aren’t showing up in terms of production yet. How would you evaluate his year?
COACH WEIS: Actually last week, he ran about as hard as you could possibly run. You go back and look at that, I knew that they were going to get an eighth or ninth guy up there and they were going to get you outnumbered, but we already said that this is the way we’re going to play that game. That doesn’t mean that’s the way we’re going to play this game, but what he’s done is he’s shown to be the most consistent of the runners. That’s why he’s listed one now. I mean, they’re all different. Every one of them is different. But he’s shown to be the most consistent with all the things we do.
I mean, he’s not as fast as Armando (Allen) and he might not catch the ball as well as Robert (Hughes) or he might not pick up the blitz as well as Junior (Jabbie) or he might not be as good on the goal line as Travis (Thomas), which is kind of different roles that all those guys have. But if you put them all together, he’s been the most consistent of all of them.
Q. Are you starting to notice that teams are giving Darrin Walls a lot of respect? What do you sense about any reputation he might be getting?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that one thing is I don’t think this guy is going to be worrying too much about Darrin because what this guy does is what really good quarterbacks do, he just throws it to the open guy. So I think that you can game plan — when you’re playing with like a less experienced quarterback, you can game plan to stay away from a certain corner if you want to. But I think Darrin is going to be just like one of the rest of the guys this week because they’re all going to have to be heads up this week because this quarterback will find it if you make a mistake.
Q. In the preseason, a lot of people thought Pat Kuntz was going to be a little too small to play nose tackle, and that hasn’t been the case. What are your thoughts on what he’s done out there?
COACH WEIS: I was really, really comfortable with Pat Kuntz and I was really comfortable with Trevor (Laws). I wanted to find out what was going to happen with Dwight (Stephenson Jr.) and Justin (Brown) and Derrell (Hand) wasn’t back yet and Ian (Williams) was new and Paddy (Mullen) and those guys. But as far as front line players, all year long the two guys that have been very consistent for us — everyone knows Trevor, but the guy after Trevor who’s easily been the most consistent every game so far has been Kuntz.
Q. You just alluded to this talking to (South Bend Tribune reporter) Eric (Hansen) in answering his question. With how efficient and productive Boston College’s offense is, how much of that close to the vest stuff you did last week has to change this week?
COACH WEIS: Say that one more time.
Q. With how efficient and productive the Boston College is in terms of not only putting points on the board but minimizing mistakes, how much of your conservative plan from last week has to change this week?
COACH WEIS: Our offense? It has to change significantly. You can’t stay conservative. They know that, too. This isn’t like I’m giving away any big secret. It’s not like we’re going to go in with three tight ends and run the ball inside the whole game. We’re going to have to score some points to win.
Last week especially after (UCLA QB Ben) Olson got knocked down, you knew you weren’t going to need to score a whole bunch of points to win the game. This week, you’re going to have to score some points to win.
Q. Can you be aggressive and not risky, or is it just inherently both?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, you just don’t try to throw the ball — last week we were either dinking and dunking or taking play action shots. Really there wasn’t a prescribed intermediate passing game last week because it was kind of an all or nothing approach, which goes with a conservative nature approach that we were playing last week. When you’re playing against a team like Boston College that is so good against the run, they might give up some extra yardage in the passing game because they’re going to play a bend but don’t break game. In that way they are very similar in mentality, not scheme wise, but mentality to Penn State. When Penn State plays, they just count on you not to have the patience and you mess it up.
I think that we’re going to have to do a very good job and be consistent to put some drives together because if not all of a sudden it’s 1st and 10, 2nd and 7, then it’s 3rd and 7, and you’re off the field and you’re punting again.
Q. What are some of your thoughts on this rivalry and this game?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that growing up on the East Coast, a Catholic kid on the East Coast, and you were looking at universities, the two universities that were involved in Division I football that you knew very much about were Notre Dame and Boston College. I think the stereotype or the chemistry of the kids are very similar type of kids.
I think that a better person to ask about their kids might be Barry (Gallup Jr.). I know a couple (reporters) guys have asked to talk to him today. I think they’re the same type of kids that go to both schools, that academics are important to them and they’re high character kids and there’s an obvious rivalry between the two schools because they’re very similar in nature.
Q. Can you talk also about the football aspect of it? It seems like there’s a history of one team ruining another season.
COACH WEIS: Well, they’re not going to ruin our season. (laughter)
Q. I’m talking about more on the other end of it.
COACH WEIS: We’d love very much to put a damper on their season. But I think that we understand that they’re playing very, very good football and they deserve a high ranking based off of their production. We’re going to have to play a very good game to be able to win.
Q. If this is the first of what’s usually the last four games in this series, would you like to see this series continue, considering the similarities between the schools?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s a very good natural rivalry, but the problem is they’re in the ACC and we’re an independent, so they’re tied into a whole bunch of ACC games, and that isn’t really our deal. When (Athletics Director) Kevin (White) and (Senior Associate Athletics Director) John (Heisler) try to get games scheduled for 10 years out, it’s usually a little bit easier to get BIG EAST scheduled teams than it is to get ACC scheduled teams. It was a little easier when they were in the BIG EAST, but when they left the BIG EAST to go to the ACC, it wasn’t as natural of a fit (for our scheduling purposes).
Q. Last question about the defensive line — I realize passes broken up are not really a glamour stat for defensive linemen, but it seems like Trevor (Laws) and Pat (Kuntz) have been pretty efficient in that regard.
COACH WEIS: I think we had our hands last week on seven balls in a game. I think that not all of them were defensive linemen, but I think we had seven pass breakups in the game that we recorded. Not what the official stats are, but I think that those two guys, and there’s been some times where you wondered how did they know to get their hand up at that point, but there’s several times where the easiest way to cover them is one of these defensive linemen knock that ball down and the ball never even get there. So I think they’ve both done a very nice job on that aspect right there.
Q. Is that an instinctual thing or how much are you…
COACH WEIS: I think yes because there’s been a couple times where how did he know to put his hand up just at that time? It isn’t like you’re rushing at him like this right here, you’re spinning at a moment and all of a sudden you put your hand up and there’s where the ball is. I think that you have to be a pretty good athlete, but you have to have some instinct, as well.
Q. You mentioned earlier about the testament to the players that you practice like a team who had not lost five in a row. I know that’s a collective effort but could you talk about Mo Crum’s role in that?
COACH WEIS: I love guys like Mo Crum because I feel like he gets it when I’m talking. Mo Crum takes losses as personal as anyone else. Every time we lose, he blames the loss on himself, and I personally like to think that way. There isn’t one time when he comes in there and said, “oh, I played well but we lost.” He takes every loss personal, like “what could I have done more to help us win the game.” If it isn’t a play physically how could I have led the team better, what could I have done better. I mean, he takes this personal. Not everyone knows all the players personally, but you’d want 100 Mo Crum’s.
Q. Not every guy is naturally like that?
COACH WEIS: No, not every guy is naturally like that. There’s a lot of guys that are much more insecure, and they don’t want to be blamed for the loss, whereas he wants to take the blame for the loss. He doesn’t even care if you blame him. He’s already taken the blame for the loss long before you start divvying it out yourself.
Q. A couple of personnel questions — Matt Romine with his elbow, do you expect him back any time soon?
COACH WEIS: No, I don’t think — he’s a little ways away. I don’t expect to see him any time soon.
Q. And then Robert Hughes had been giving you some good production the last couple weeks. I don’t think he played against UCLA. Is he injured or just a coaches’ decision?
COACH WEIS: No, we didn’t have a string of longer drives. It wasn’t like we had a bunch of 13 play drives in there. He was listed right behind James (Aldridge) in all the pounding packages, we just weren’t on the field that many consecutive plays to warrant James being that tired to have to go out. Robert is very much in the mix. I really think that the sky is the limit for Robert.
Q. Speaking of Mo Crum, any chance he comes back next year?
COACH WEIS: Let’s hope so. I’m going to start addressing that issue the week of the bye. I never talk about things like that with the players when there are games going on. I think that’s a distraction. But that will be the week where I talk to the guys that are outgoing and a handful of guys who are — there’s some decision to be made on that. There’s not very many that are in that mix, but there’s a few.
Q. Obviously, you were counting on Trevor Laws to be a mainstay on your D line this year, but did you envision him being the playmaker that he has become?
COACH WEIS: I told him that’s why he should come back here. You can ask him. I told him that that’s what he was capable of doing, he just hadn’t done it yet. I really thought that he would have a banner year because the kid is on a mission, and he’s playing that way.
Q. His conditioning must be tremendous because he looks like he’s going 100 percent every play.
COACH WEIS: Well, the one thing he’s done this year that’s really helped him out is he’s practiced that way. You know, he’s practiced to play like that. The really great players on defense practice like it’s a game. Other players that are good players, they just practice to get through practice, but he’s practiced like he’s playing in a game, and I think that helps you on game day.
Q. And that’s new this year for him?
COACH WEIS: I think it’s added this year for him. I don’t think it’s new, I think he’s taken his practice tempo to a different level than he’s taken it in the past. That doesn’t mean he’s ever dogged it at practice. The one thing I always admired when I was a young, ignorant, immature coach in the NFL, the first year I was there I was standing watching Lawrence Taylor in practice. Every play of practice you would have thought it was the biggest play in the game. Every play of practice, you know, he practiced as hard as anyone I’ve ever seen before, and I think that that’s what made him great.
So when I watch players practice like that, like Brady Quinn, when he would throw an incomplete pass in practice, you would think he just missed a touchdown pass to lose the game. When guys practice like that, you usually know that some good things are usually going to happen on game day.
Q. The one fifth-year senior who doesn’t get a lot of note right is Joe Brockington. What does he bring to your defense?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, if Mo Crum is not on the field, Joe runs the defense, so there’s really two guys that run the defense the best, and right after Mo would be Joe, and he can play both inside positions. He gives you versatility where he can play both, and at Mike linebacker he’s got himself big enough where he can play the Mike linebacker, but he also is good enough at pass coverage where if he plays the Jack linebacker who gets exposed to more coverage, he’s showing a holdup there. And I think as far as production, I think we’d be a lot worse team if he weren’t back here last year.
Q. It seems like last year he didn’t start off the year as a starter. He was third string, I know there were some injuries, and this year Toryan Smith is pushing him, but he always seems to hang onto that job and has a lot of playing time. Does he do enough good things to do so?
COACH WEIS: I think that’s a very fair analysis. I think you just can’t get him out of there. He’s one of those guys you wish you could take the younger guy and get him out of there and then you’d have him for the next couple years, but he gives you no reason to take him off the field. They have to give you a reason to move the other guy ahead. He’s more than hanging on, he’s holding his own.
Q. David Grimes this week, is he available?
COACH WEIS: He’s practicing today, so he looks like he should be a go, but I’ll just have to wait and go by what I see.
Q. And John Carlson’s six catches last week — is there a point of emphasis to get him involved?
COACH WEIS: No, it’s just where the balls went. I think that we — every week we go in there, I’d say there’s 10 of the passes we throw, he’s a primary receiver. But when you go in there on those 10 passes, six of them the guy is sitting inside of him, a guy is sitting outside of him. I’m not saying they designed their coverages to double team John Carlson, but if the rotation or the coverage dictates not throwing it to him, we just don’t throw it to him. I’ve never really believed in saying — you design plays that he’s the primary receiver, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to get the ball.
Q. You mentioned Brady (Quinn) getting upset when he missed passes in practice. You also mentioned Mo Crum taking everything personally as hard losses. Are those attitudes you can teach or is that something the players have to come in with?
COACH WEIS: You can address those issues and you can make a guy more cognizant of those issues, but the true, natural leaders — like Mo Crum is a natural leader, okay. He might have been introverted when he was younger, but he’s even become a vocal leader. And I think that that’s part of the makeup of somebody who really already has that innate ability to take it to a different level. I think that you can address it and you can improve it with people, but I think that leadership is something that just rises. Those natural leaders just show up.
Q. It may be easier when you have Mo Crum because you can say to a player, this is how you should feel when something goes wrong?
COACH WEIS: I cite him weekly.
Q. Could you talk about the special teams’ overall field position, running was solid, return yardage was solid? It had to do with an injury on the other team’s part, but the special teams really seemed to play well and consistent the whole game.
COACH WEIS: We got better field position on the kickoff return. Our average drive start was the 30 yard line, which was an improvement. Our punter had a good day. You know, usually your punt team and kickoff team, a lot of how the production goes on those teams are directly related to the kicks. Obviously when the punter has a good day and they overage two yards a punt return, it usually means that the punter had a good day.
Kickoff return, they only average 18 yards a kickoff return, but most of our kicks were to the 10 yard line, so their drives starts like the 20 yard line even though they were only getting 18 yards a kickoff return, so we need to do a better job of kicking the ball.
Obviously I was happy with our field goal production. I think the kid (Brandon Walker) had a good day at the office. And punt return — we could have had a really good day, but we got called for two penalties right there that cost us yardage. I think that’s one of the things that we’re going to emphasize again this week, although I think that one of them was a bit of a myth. He still got called for two and it cost us significant yardage in the return game.
Q. Was there a point before the Michigan State game where the light kind of went on for James (Aldridge), or was it kind of a gradual process for how he became the featured back?
COACH WEIS: No, James has always been right there in the mix. It’s just to take all those different elements we talked about, taking all those different guys and having one guy who’s — I wouldn’t call him a “jack of all trades, master of none,” but you’d said the one guy who can handle all those jobs together so you didn’t have to substitute in every situation. I think James has just done the best job of being that guy.
Q. Is there another guy that’s close to that?
COACH WEIS: I’d say the guy who has the best chance of being like that would probably be Robert (Hughes) because Robert is a big back, he’s physical enough to pick up the blitz, he’s got really soft hands, he’s a power runner. I mean, you need to have all sorts of elements.
Like Armando (Allen) is a different style of player. Armando is a guy who can pick up the blitz, he can catch the ball, he can run with the ball. I just don’t think that you’d want him to run the ball inside 22 times in a game like you were doing with James Saturday.
Q. Obviously every year you’re kind of presented a new coaching challenge and I wonder if at the halfway point you could compare this year to past challenges you’ve had as a coach.
COACH WEIS: I wouldn’t compare it to either of the first two years we had here because the first two years we had here we got off to good starts. I think that that’s a question that’s better to ask me in December because at the halfway mark, I wouldn’t be very happy with where we are, but I don’t know — I’d have to say that I’d have to reserve judgment to see how this all ends up.
Q. How important is that second half when you look at the bigger picture? And I know you don’t do that much during the season, but as this program kind of continues to go forward, these younger players are going to get some experience, some lights are going to go on and this team will be peaking later in the season and continue to get better.
COACH WEIS: I’m not going to deny the positive residual effect of playing a bunch of young guys as far as experience goes, but I think you’ve still got to play for today, you can’t play for next year. I think that, right now, playing a bunch of young guys is a great thing as long as it helps you beat Boston College.
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