Sept. 12, 2006
COACH Charlie Weis: Obviously Lloyd has been there for 26 years, 12 years ?? last 12 as a head coach, over .750, I think it’s .754 winning percentage, which I believe is ranked fifth over current active Division I coaches, and they’ve gone to 11 straight Bowl appearances.
Let’s start with Mike DeBord. This is his 11th season at Michigan. He went there back in 1992. As a matter of fact he became the coordinator, he was the coordinator in ’97 when they won the National Championship. He left to go to Central Michigan, then he came back in 2004, then as special teams coach and recruiting coordinator for the last couple years and has taken over as the offensive coordinator again.
You could see some marked improvements already this year with Mike as the coordinator. Last year they averaged 28.8 points a game, now it’s 34 points a game. Last year they averaged ?? it wasn’t just 161 yards per game they averaged, it was 3.9 per carry. This year it’s 249 yards and 4 per carry, so that’s a yard more per carry.
The time of possession is over 35 minutes. They’ve played two games, only given up a couple sacks. This is a team stat, not just an offensive stat, but Michigan has outscored its opponents in the first quarter and the third quarter, so coming out of the gate in both halves, 24?0 and 17?0 in the first and third quarter. I think that’s a pretty telling team stat.
Everyone knows about Chad Henne, their starting quarterback for three years, 26 consecutive. He passed for 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 yards faster than anyone in school history. They haven’t had him throwing too much this year, but the two games he hasn’t thrown an interception yet, so they’re going a good job on ball possession.
Speaking of ball possession, I can talk about Mike Hart. He started 18 games in his career and ironically he happens to have 18 touchdowns. When he rushes for over 100 yards, Michigan’s record is 11?1. He’s gone 469 consecutive touches without losing a fumble. Now, last week for the first time in ?? I think he had 450 straight carries without having a ball out of his hands, and early in the game last week they had one out of his hands that they recovered, but he hadn’t lost one in an eternity. Now he’s got 262 yards rushing this year, that’s 5.2 per carry and three touchdowns.
Now, I have to mention three other running backs in the order that they play. Obviously Kevin Grady is the next guy. He’s dropping some weight. I think he’s dropped about ten pounds from last year. He looks like he’s in great shape. 17 carries for 76 yards, averaging four and a half per carry, a couple touchdowns. Brandon Minor, a true freshman, we’ve seen a few times in the first two games, he’s got a six?yard average, and Carlos Brown, I tracked him last spring when he enrolled, he was getting a lot of air time. I wouldn’t be surprised if along the way he ended up getting into this mix, as well.
At the fullback/tight end position they have six guys that are all kind of intertwined and interchangeable the way they play. At the fullback position, for example, Brian Thompson was the guy that started at fullback last year. Now I see him playing some tight end, where Oluigbo and Paul are really the guys who are showing up the most at the fullback position. Just like the tight end position where you have three guys at fullback, Ecker and Butler and Massey that all show up at tight end in different capacities. But these six guys give some versatility to their offense because they’re interchangeable in what their assignments are and what they do.
Wide receiver you’ve got Steve Breaston, might as well talk about him for a little while. They have Steve Breaston as a punt returner, kickoff returner and Steve Breaston as a wide receiver. He holds Michigan career records at punt return yardage, and he’s second in kickoff return yardage, second in Big Ten history in punt return yardage. He’s got five games in his career where he’s had over 200 all?purpose yards.
Their other starting receiver Manningham, we got indoctrinated by him last year. He made his first year catch against us last year, which happened to be a 25?yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Arrington shows up as their third receiver, and Carl Tabb is their fourth receiver, but I’ve seen him more ?? I’ve seen him also show up as a kick returner. He had one return for them.
The offensive line, obviously Jake Long anchors their line, their left tackle, offensive captain, so he’s up for about every award known to mankind. He’s also a guy who looks like he’s dropped some weight in the off season, looks like ?? I know last year they had him listed in the 330?ish range and this year they had him listed in the 310 ?? I think 313 was the number we had down there.
It’s a veteran offensive line, four starting seniors. Kraus at left guard, Bihl at center and Riley at right tackle, and then Al Mitchell is the only one not a senior, he’s a junior, and then you have backup veteran guys behind those guys, too. It’s a perfect veteran offensive line.
On defense Ron English now takes over as the coordinator. He’s been there for four years serving as their DB coach. They’ve given up 12 points a game, 1.2 yards per rush, 187 and a half yards a game converting ?? 3rd down conversions is 25 percent. Like I said before, they haven’t given up a point in the first or third quarters.
Part of the reason for that starts with their defensive ends. Their two defensive ends are ranked in the top ?? top five nationally in tackles. They have ten between the two of them. Everyone knows about Woodley but we shouldn’t forget about Biggs. While we’re on that subject I’ll mention Jamison and Val Alstyne, as well.
Woodley, their defensive captain, he’s got five tackles for losses and four sacks already. By the way, those four sacks is first in the country. Biggs, he’s not far behind; he’s got five tackles for loss and three sacks. I mean, they’re obviously causing a lot of havoc inside. Branch and Taylor, Branch is the bigger of the two. He’s 6’6″, 330, a big man, and Taylor is a player who’s all over the field. Jamison shows up, and Van Alstyne, he played against us last year.
At linebacker, first of all David Harris in the middle who leads the Michigan tackles this year and led them in tackles last year. He’s all over the field. One outside linebacker, both Burgess and Graham have showed up as a starter. They both played, but Graham started the Vanderbilt game, Burgess started the Central Michigan game, and then Shawn Crable starts on the other side. He’s the guy who gives them the most versatility because he lets them go in and out of packages from regular defense to nickel by going ahead and playing defensive end as well as linebacker, similar components to what we talked about last week.
In the defensive backfield, start with Hall being their shutdown corner, he’s pretty good. He also shows up at nickel as an inside guy, and it’s one ?? it’s not him that’s the inside guy, I believe it’s Ryan Mundy that they bring in as the other potential guy inside at nickel, but shutdown corner, and opposite of him they’ll play Stewart.
Safeties are going to be Adams and Englemon, and the other two DBs I should mention for different reasons, Darnell Hood, who’s a backup corner, he’s also competing for playing time as a starter, but Darnell Hood is a very, very, very good special teams player, and Johnny Sears is also a backup corner and has helped out as a kickoff returner, as well.
To wrap this up, as far as special teams go, you’ve got Ryan first of all, who both punts and kicks off. His dad played here from ’76 to ’80. They use two punters, though. They also use Mesko, and the interesting thing is they use them both in different situations on the field. It isn’t like one is a plus 50 punter and the other is not and Mesko is a lefty and Ryan is a righty. It’ll be interesting to have to practice for both of those guys this year. Rivas is their place kicker, a Lou Groza Award candidate, and Turner returns as their long snapper.
Q. When you went back and looked at the new coordinators, I imagine that’s something you did during the summer, did you anticipate Michigan trying to pound the football a little bit more, or is that just the way their first two games have evolved?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it’s interesting because I was watching the Vanderbilt game on TV, I believe it was the same day we played Georgia Tech, it was on TV. So sometimes when you watch a TV copy, you can gain some information. It was interesting listening in that game to things that were coming out of Michigan at the time about wanting to get back to smash mouth football. Well, so far you’ve seen some smash mouth football. People can talk about, well, the quarterback not having to throw it. Well, he hasn’t had to throw it a whole bunch. They’ve played smash mouth and done a good job.
Q. What about the guy on the other side of the ball? He hasn’t been a coordinator prior to this year. What do you go on there?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, you go on two things: First of all, you go on what you see from the last two games. You can go back and look at a little bit of the Arizona State where he came from, where he was coaching secondary to Arizona State. But most importantly, at this time of year you go back and self?scout yourself and realize where your problems where, and you can kind of expect early in the year where your problems were, that’s where your problems are going to be come from.
Q. The other week, I think it was last week, Coach Latina said that with a young guy on the offensive line you don’t want your older guys worrying too much about watching out for them because they don’t end up doing their jobs properly. In a situation like this with Sam Young on the field going up against these defensive ends, namely Woodley, is it inevitable you’re going to have to give him help on Saturday?
COACH Charlie Weis: You can do it a number of different ways, though. I think what John is saying, and he’s exactly right, what you don’t want to be doing is just hanging Sam out to dry all night going one?on?one with these guys, although after two games he’s kind of held up pretty well. The more he plays and the more experience he gets, the more confidence you’re going to have.
There’s a whole bunch of different ways of giving a guy help. You can throw it quick, you can chip, you can slide. Just by having the tight end lined up next to him ?? there’s a lot of different ways to give a guy help. Some of them don’t even involve having anyone else block him other than just the one guy. There has to be a variety of all those things.
Q. Leo Ferrine missed time in the preseason and did not make the trip to Georgia Tech. What his status? Is it a competition thing now or is he still banged up?
COACH Charlie Weis: He’s back from the injury, and then he had a personal issue that he had to go home for that I excused him for, and that was about the same time. I just had this conversation with Leo on Friday night this past week to tell you the truth, that it’s time to start getting back into the mix here. But I also let him know that you’re coming off an injury, I just don’t put you in there, you’ve got to play yourself into the mix.
Q. You’ve talked about bringing up history of series, history of games to use. Is it tough looking at history at all?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, because we’ve played them a whole bunch of times in a row. Here’s what you do now. I mean, it’s always a bruising physical game, and you know ?? each team knows you’re going to get the best performance from the other team. That’s what you do know. You already can book that. We know they’re coming up here with the intention of winning the game. They’re not coming up here hoping to win, they’re come up here expecting to win. That’s what we’re expecting them to think. We wouldn’t expect anything less from a Michigan team that we have a great respect for.
Q. It’s a bit of an odd rivalry in that most rivalries, they go back a decade and they play every year. When you were here Notre Dame didn’t play Michigan. Does that make it kind of a different rivalry?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, I know that it’s a rivalry in a lot of different ways besides the obvious rivalry of distance. I mean, you have ?? you’re recruiting a lot of the same guys, the same locale of the country. There’s a lot of similarities between the programs. I think that the logistical distance, mileage?wise, is one of the reasons why it creates such a logical rivalry.
Q. You mentioned a couple weeks ago about you like to take recruits on a personal tour of the campus and the history that you know so well. Is there one of those traditions that is special to you more so than the others or one or two that you stress most?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, my favorite part of the campus happens to be the grotto and the lake to tell you the truth. For me on my golf cart, this is one spot where I get off the golf cart because for me, whether it’s jog/walk around the lake, it might have been jog in the past tense, jog/walk around the lake or just the grotto itself, it’s something that always has great significance to me.
Q. Why is that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, because I think that for any college kid there’s going to be times that you want to have time to yourself, and sometimes we’re hustle and bustle, to spend a couple moments reflecting, whether it’s jogging or walking around the lake or saying an extra couple of prayers over at the grotto, I think that every college kid has times that they want to reflect and be by themselves.
Q. You mentioned John Carlson ?? (inaudible).
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it just comes from experience. You’re doing it more and more and more. It’s one thing we’ve been working on fundamentals and techniques in practice, but now being able to do that against a different opponent every day and the nuances that go with going against different opponents, I think every day he becomes a better player because not only does he have God?given ability but he has a very good work ethic and I think he’s becoming much more consistent.
Q. Some of the comments that you’ve made come Saturday night’s game when talking about Michigan, and I’ve heard you say they want us, they’re coming at us, that sort of thing. Is that a tack you’re taking, that you’re more of the hunted this time out?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it’s more of a different perspective. It’s more of a mutual respect. I don’t think it’s looking at it from that perspective as being the hunted. I think that we have a great respect for Michigan and we’re expecting a great effort from them, and we know that we have to match that great effort or else we’ll lose.
Q. As far as your ability to change, you’ve shown that. You’ve also shown the change as far as the home field last week, that you buy into it where you might not have done that last year. Has your opinion changed on the Michigan series because I know you said last year you had no emotional attachment to it?
COACH Charlie Weis: I still have none. I mean, people last year have said that it’s being disrespectful to an opponent. I think I have to respect every opponent exactly the same. I think I’d be disrespectful to the other people on our schedule if I treated any one team differently. I treated Georgia Tech the same way I treated Penn State, which is the same way I’m treating Michigan, with ultimate respect.
Q. Did the one game playing them give you a different insight into what it means to play Michigan?
COACH Charlie Weis: It gives you the knowledge base about what they did against what you did, but now you’ve got two different coordinators. A lot of that stuff that they see, they gain a little bit of an edge to tell you the truth because our play callers are the same. Their play callers have changed. You have to figure a slight edge goes to Michigan on that one because they know me and they know Rick.
Q. I know you probably might not have seen it because after the game you do post?game interview with your son or whatever. Rhema McKnight goes over to the crowd, turns his back to everybody, student section pretty much got it down to a science, and he turns around and the whole crowd explodes. It’s pretty unique. Have you seen that?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, I’ll look for it, though (laughter).
Q. It’s very unique, and I guess in light of this week being the last year playing Michigan, what that kind of result was for Rhema, could you speak to Rhema doing his thing and showing his character and Rhema being Rhema, especially doing something like that, the timing of it this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the most important thing for Rhema is that he’s happy to be out there playing again. It was a very discouraging injury that he got last year, and here’s a guy who was in his senior year, aspiring to graduate and go on to the NFL, and of course the first part he took care of, graduating, which is the most important thing, but I think that he’s back ?? because he’s back here and healthy now, it almost brings it full circle. It almost gives him closure now getting past this game. But now it’s an okay time to move on.
Q. I hope I didn’t ruin it for him. You’ll still let him do it, won’t you? It’s a crowd pleaser.
COACH Charlie Weis: I try not to inhibit my guys, as long as they’re doing things the right way. I don’t mind when a game is over to play to the crowd. I would mind if during the game they were selfishly playing to the crowd. That would bother me. I just don’t like showmanship. When they’re working with the crowd instead of working for themselves, there’s a difference.
Q. Beyond experience, what separates Ryan Harris from other left tackles that are in the college game?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, first of all, there aren’t too many guys playing left tackle that are really left tackles in the eyes of pro guys because left tackles are guys that have to be able to have the athleticism to handle an edge rusher by themselves, which is normally the blind side of a righty quarterback. There’s guys that are over there playing left tackle that as soon as you get to the NFL they go to right tackle because they’re more slug?it?out type of guys.
The first thing he has is the athleticism to play left tackle. What he’s done this year is added a lot of upper body strength, and that was really the direction we gave him. So a year and a half ago, we started giving it to him in December of last year, that that should be his goal, and he’s now got a much stronger upper body.
Q. When you were in the training camp you talked about here’s my depth chart, this is set in stone for the rest of the year, yet when you’re playing well are you looking for guys in the scouting team to pop out and move them up?
COACH Charlie Weis: As a matter of fact we do that every week. We bring up a couple guys every week and we send down a couple guys every week, as well, so there is a state of flux every week because if you truly do practice the you?go?by?what?you?see approach, there’s guys that go up and there’s guys that go down, and there’s guys going up and down today on both sides of the ball.
Q. It’s early in the season, but I think your team is like ninth in kickoff coverage. A good start there, personnel, scheme, a little bit of both?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it’s personnel, scheme, and Bobby has done a pretty nice job of kicking. When you get touchbacks, that helps out. I know he had a couple in the third quarter the other day, and it’s not the first ones, and those touchbacks, when you start with 20, that’s a pretty good start. But I’d say that Ryan has done a nice job of cutting back, cutting down to what we do, getting guys in there that know what they’re doing and getting them to go hard.
Q. You have a lot of kids on this team that are projected to be high draft choices and draft choices, period. Do you like them thinking about that? Do you think it motivates them during the season? Do you want them to shut that off during the season? How do you do that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think they’re getting pretty good advice by the head coach on how it works, and really how it works is they get judged by how they play. It’s a pretty simple philosophy. It’s not who they are, it’s not by reputation. You get judged by how you play, so it’s pretty easy. That’s a very simple motivational tool. They know that I’ll always tell them the truth. They might not like hearing it, but I’ll always tell them the truth.
Q. Following that up, when you’re recruiting, do you get a lot of kids talking to you about the NFL as much as academics?
COACH Charlie Weis: No, not as much as academics. Do they broach the subject of the NFL, yes, but that is probably the last thing that we broach because I think you first have to deal with them being good kids that can read and write that really want to go to a school where getting a degree is important. It’s just as important to us as it is to them. I think that’s the first thing you have to broach. And when you can get past that stage, when you can get past good kids that can read and write that are good players, I think that’s the stage when you can then talk about future, and then future, you always have to broach it if you play football, and that’s where the NFL conversation would come in.
But I think let’s not be premature. They haven’t even finished their senior year of high school.
Q. Is Derrell Hand getting closer to being able to help you?
COACH Charlie Weis: Yeah, as a matter of fact last week in practice, I was pleasantly surprised. He showed up multiple times where I even brought it up to the defensive staff because they’re out watching the defense at the time. I brought it up last week that a couple times he showed up.
Q. Michigan’s run defense has given up very little this year. What can you do to kind of control the tempo of the game like you’ve been able to do the first two weeks?
COACH Charlie Weis: First you’ve got to see what they’re going to do because each week is a different set of encyclopedias for them as well as us, so we have to see what their tack is going to be going into the game. We always go into the game more aggressive mode offensively, and we’re trying to dictate what we’re going to do, at least for a drive or two, and I’m not talking about no huddle like we did last week; I’m saying in all the formations and adjustments that we try and figure out what they’re going to do. Once you figure out what they’ve decided they’re going to try to shut down, that’s when you figure out how to attempt to exploit them.
Q. How far into a game does that usually take?
COACH Charlie Weis: It depends. Sometimes it could be in the middle of the first quarter, sometimes you might not make a change until halftime.
Q. On the flipside, you mentioned Mike Hart in their smash mouth, how they’ve kind of controlled the clock the same way you have. Is it important to get up early and take the running game away? How do you do that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think this is going to go long into the second half. I don’t think we can go into the game expecting that I’m taking anything away. I think we have to be ready to play for 60 minutes.
To answer that question almost would be falling into the trap to think that’s how the game is going to be played out. I have no idea how the game is going to be played out. I just know that we’re going to have to play hard for 60 minutes if we’re going to have a chance to win it.
Q. Does Mike Hart scare you guys defensively?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t think that you can go into any game thinking like that, no matter who you’re playing. Even Reggie, and he scared me.
Q. Lastly, all across the top 25 this weekend there’s a bunch of high marquee games. Is it on your minds that come Saturday there’s going to be some teams left standing and teams that aren’t? Does that build this game up a little bit more?
COACH Charlie Weis: To be honest with you, no one on this football team will be thinking about other games other than beating Michigan. They don’t have time to think about other games. We have our hands full this morning worrying about us and Michigan. Those other teams, I couldn’t care less.
Q. It seems like almost every week you’re going up against either an All?American wide receiver or a group of about three or four receivers on a team. You limited Kelvin Johnson in the second half, Derrick Williams and Deon Butler only had five catches for 26 yards in the game. There’s been debates about was the defense that good or was the op position not getting the ball to them the way they needed to? What was your perspective after watching the tape?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, first of all, I think we tried to mix and match what they do, but as games go on, as games evolve, there’s games within a game. It isn’t just like one game. The people that lay out their plan and figure it’s going to play out that way usually find themselves with a bunch of problems.
I think once again, like what’s happened in the first two games, will not be the same thing that happened in this game. I’m not really sure how it will play out yet, but I know one thing, whether you talk about their wide receivers, their quarterback, their running back, their fullback, tight end, interchangeable parts, regardless of what you’re talking about, I think that you have to be ready within a game to take away as the game goes on what’s hurting you the most. If we go into a game and stop the receivers and they score a couple times running the ball, then you’re going to react accordingly. Conversely, if you go into a game trying to stop the running game, and all of a sudden you’re getting gassed in the passing game, you’re going to react accordingly, as well.
When you’re playing a team like Michigan who can both run it and throw it, I don’t think you can just go into the game saying you’re going to try to stop one thing. I think you’re going to have to have a diverse plan that has ammo in it where you can go either way depending upon what’s working and what isn’t.
Q. Typically the coaching axiom has been that you’ve got to stop the run first because ??
COACH Charlie Weis: Not necessarily. Depends on what coach you’re talking to. If you’re talking about going to a team that wants to throw the ball, throw the ball and win, no, no, that’s not the way you play. It all depends on how it’s going. I mean, it might be a quarterback gets on fire, it’s a predominantly running team, the quarterback gets on fire, and you have prepared the other way, you have a serious problem. You really do have a serious problem.
I think you have to go into a game when you have a top flight experienced quarterback with receivers that can run and a good veteran offensive line with multiple running backs, you have a couple of different problems that you have to try to mix and match things to try to solve them.
Q. Seeing how you did shut out some of the marquee receivers in the first two weeks, do you give more credit to the defensive scheme?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the credit goes to the defensive coaches and the defensive players. I mean, the defensive coaches have done a nice job mixing and matching things, and the players have taken on the responsibility of being consistently better. Not better, being consistently better, because that one issue was playing one game, now it’s can you do it another game. Now we’re going into game three, can you do it another game because everyone is, well, it’s just two games, and that’s not the way they’re thinking about things. They’re trying to be a model of consistency, and I think that’s what they’re shooting for.
Q. You’ve talked about Michigan’s statistical success running the ball, but in terms of style and locking schemes, they seem to have made some changes. Could you talk about that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, they’re just trying to smash in a mouth. Last year from the research, it was more like powers and counters and misdirection plays, and that’s not what you’re getting anymore. They’re lining up and saying we’re going to maul you at the line of scrimmage, and that’s what they’re doing, mauling you at the line of scrimmage.
Q. Some of the Michigan players yesterday talked about how hard it is ?? it seemed like more than just the running backs they were talking about, the offense, the spirit of the team. Do you see that on tape? Does that show on a tape?
COACH Charlie Weis: To me I see multiple running backs running their team because when Grady comes in, it’s not like you’re putting in some crummy guy. They have multiple running backs. The heart and soul really are those guys up front. I think that running back is darn good, but those guys up front, they’ve made a commitment between those five ?? those big guys up front and those tight ends and fullback types I talked about of establishing a mentality that they’re going to win the line of scrimmage.
Q. And lastly, Schwapp and Grimes, talk about their status?
COACH Charlie Weis: Grimes is a full go. Asaph is going to be able to play. I’m going to use him on a limited basis. I might even hold him today because of things that he’s more involved in. I can hold a day. I held him in the script today. I drew scripts up today and I held those things for a day so I’d give him one more day to get the soreness out.
Q. You talked a little bit about and I was hoping you could revisit (inaudible). What do you see that sort of triggers you to try that?
COACH Charlie Weis: When you’re playing against a team that wants to do a variety of things, like the game we just played, they like to do a variety of things, and it’s early in the year where the unknown comes into play, it really isn’t a great equalizer because of what you’re going to go against. That’s really it in a nutshell. You really don’t see it used a whole lot.
Q. Is there a downside, a disadvantage to it? It seems like it would be a really good plan for a lot of people.
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, it all depends which one you use, but you use one on shotgun, the limitations are you don’t run very much so it’s all throws. If you’re underneath center, the limitations are you’re not in shotgun and they bring a whole bunch of pressure it doesn’t allow you to gap things the same way. So there’s pros and cons to both of them.
Q. How important is having a veteran quality quarterback to do something like that?
COACH Charlie Weis: You really can’t do it without one. You can try it, but it’s to the point where I give him one little signal and ?? I give him one signal and he gets the formation and the protection and the play. He’s pretty good at it.
Q. Just one more thing along those lines. In the NFL, correct me if I’m wrong, it doesn’t seem like you see it that much. Is it easier to do in college or do you see it in the NFL?
COACH Charlie Weis: We did it playing with the Patriots. I don’t know about anyone else, but we did it playing.
Q. Talk about Mike Hart. What is it about him that impresses you?
COACH Charlie Weis: A lot of times when you see a guy that’s like 5’9″, a shade under 200 pounds and people don’t think he can run with power, that they’re just elusive, the thing is he runs with power. So any time you have a running back that can run inside and out, usually the running back is good at running either inside or outside except for the just great ones, Tomlinson, but they can run inside or outside. This guy can run inside and outside. Any time a guy can do that, now you can’t say, okay, great, Hart is in there, now he can run inside, we’ll just press the edge and give away the inside run. You can’t give away anything with the guy because he’s got vision, he can cut, and he’s got wheels, too. He can run. He’s got speed.
Q. He was hurt last year. How much different is the game plan ??
COACH Charlie Weis: He wasn’t hurt going in, so our whole preparation was him as the primary runner last year. He’s just a guy who happened to get hurt on a tackle by Corey last year. So the preparation has been the same as far as getting ready for them but schematically some things have changed.
Q. Did they change a lot of what they were doing because of it?
COACH Charlie Weis: I don’t worry about what happened after our game. I just worried about getting through our game. It didn’t change in our game, what they were doing. When you set up a game plan, you don’t set it up, well, if he gets hurt we’re going to change the game plan, not in the running game. When you establish a running game, that’s what you’re going to do.
Q. You mentioned self?scouting. Could you clarify that?
COACH Charlie Weis: Self?scouting means you take all the formations that you’ve used and the down and distance you used and the field positions you’ve used them and see what you’ve done so that you see what your own tendencies are so when they’re breaking, you know; you know what they’re seeing and then you try to break the tendencies. You line up in the eye, and every time you line up in the eye, you run these two plays. Well, you can but the that when you line up in the eye the next game, that’s the two plays they’re going to be ready for. So you run two different plays.
Q. With that do you use the two games from this year or do you use the Michigan game from last year, as well? How far back?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, because they’ve played against us you use the Michigan game from last year. When you have no coordinators, you try and use the most recent frame of reference that you can.
Q. You talked after the Georgia Tech game that you felt the team was in pretty good shape. When a kid signs up, what can you guys do to kind of get him in shape and on your program and how important is it nowadays for a kid to come in ready?
COACH Charlie Weis: You mean like a prospect?
Q. After he signs.
COACH Charlie Weis: So he signs in February. Every one of our guys comes in second session of summer school, so like on June 18th this year, everyone showed up, June 20th classes started. Now for the next six weeks they can do no football. All they do is go to classes for six hours and then they can have eight hours of strength training with Reuben. They build camaraderie with themselves because this is not a pressure situation, they get in good shape, and we have a mentoring program where we have one of our upper classmen assigned to every young guy coming in so we don’t go through the homesick blues.
More importantly, by August when training camp starts they’ve already been indoctrinated into the team, don’t feel like new guys on the block, and it allows them to feel in a more competitive situation when they walk in the ropes.
Q. Can you compare weight training and getting in shape today versus years ago?
COACH Charlie Weis: They’re nothing alike. Back then weight lifting was about getting big. Everyone was into getting big. Everyone wanted to see how big everyone was. Now it’s a lot more about getting in shape and getting refined. You’ll see guys that are dominant players that ?? I was watching one the other night. The Giants were playing the Colts and I’m watching Michael Strahan for the Giants and I’m watching Dwight Freeney for the Colts. Neither one of those guys is very big, but they’re two of the most dominant defensive ends in football, and one of the reasons is because of what great shape they’re in.
Q. Last year you had a good complement of receivers with Jeff and Maurice. Rhema, how does he give you a different sort of complement?
COACH Charlie Weis: Rhema has got exceptional quickness, and I think that’s one of his ?? one of not his greatest strengths is that some guys are lightning fast, some have great hands, some guys run great routes, and some guys have that real good quickness coming in and out of breaks. He has that.
Q. Remind you of anyone that you coached previously, especially in the pros?
COACH Charlie Weis: Normally the bigger you are ?? I have had a bunch of little guys that have had good quicks, okay, I just haven’t had very many guys over six feet that have had really good quicks. I had a midget brigade in New England where we had all sorts of guys with quicks, but they weren’t 6’2″, 205 pounds.
Q. The first time at Notre Dame when you’re getting ready to play someone you’ve played before, when you get ready with the game plan, do you go back and look at what worked last year? Do you figure the time in between they’ve figured how to stop it?
COACH Charlie Weis: I watch it first and then I watch it last. I just watch it to watch it. I just watch the flow of the game, what happens in the game, and I like to watch it continuous, so I like to watch offense, defense, special teams ?? I like to watch it all. I mean watch the TV copy to watch that, too. And then after I’ve watched that, then I start doing all the research. And then after I’ve done all the research, I go back and watch it all again, only this time it’s a lot more critically to see if they’re doing the same thing this year that they were doing last year.
This early in the year you’ve got plenty of time to do these things because you don’t have eight regular season games to watch at this point. So you have last year’s stuff that you’ve already watched all of because you based your off?season report based on Michigan, all the stuff they did last year. So to date you only have two games to add onto that because that’s all they’ve played.
Q. Do you expect to have any conversations with Tom Brady this week?
COACH Charlie Weis: We email on a regular basis but we won’t talk. Last year people got mad because he had to wear a Notre Dame hat, so I won’t call him this year. I don’t want to get myself in trouble like I did last year. I’ll just email him. I think he’s more about getting ready for the Jets than he is worrying about Notre Dame and Michigan playing.
Q. You knew early last week what you were going to do on offense on the first possession against Penn State. Do you always know early in the week what you plan to do on the first drive?
COACH Charlie Weis: Sometimes I know that on Monday, sometimes I don’t know it until Friday morning because Friday morning is when I write openers because I like to have all our practices done for the week before I make a final decision what we’re doing, so Friday morning about 5:00 or so is when I start writing openers to get the call sheet all set so it can be all laminated and everything before 9:00 o’clock staff meeting.
Q. With a few exceptions of where you take over with the ball, are those plays normally scripted always?
COACH Charlie Weis: Well, they aren’t scripted when you go into a huddle. When you go into a huddle you don’t know if it’s going to be right hash, left hash, but all the other plays are always scripted, anywhere from 15 to 21.
Q. Why are there some times you might know early in the week and other times you don’t know until Friday?
COACH Charlie Weis: Last week I decided on Monday that we were going to start the game in a huddle because I was concerned with the multiple looks Penn State might be able to give us in their opening game after having the whole off season to get ready for us.
Q. I’m doing a feature on Notre Dame’s wide receivers and Michigan’s corners. I know you’ve talked a little bit about all of them, but could you tell me how you see that match?up a little bit more in depth?
COACH Charlie Weis: First of all, the first issue you’ve got to figure out is what they’re going to do with No. 29 if we put multiple wide receivers out there because I’m not really sure ?? should I say I’m not 100 percent sure, okay, whether or not they’ll put Hall inside or whether they’ll put Mundy inside. But we just line up with two wide receiver sets, now we’ve got Leon on one side and either Morgan or Charles on the other side, you have to figure out whether or not you want to test the field corner or the boundary corner or how you’re going to make the match?ups. But what I do know is they have some very good athletic players right there, and either way it’s not a big bargain for me.
Q. Two games into the season with the clock changes, are you finding that you have to drill maybe your offense and defense on situations like the two?minute offense because it changes sort of the rhythm of it with the way the clock starts off the kickoff?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think the only time it really comes into play to be honest with you is at the end of a half. The rest of the time the clock is running the way the clock is running. I think the only time you really have to be ready for it is at the end of the first half and at the end of the game. Like last week, I think that when we got the ball back with just a minute to go in the game, it all starts with just being at the line of scrimmage when the referee puts the ball in play. I think that’s the biggest area where people can mess up if they’re not standing at the line of scrimmage when the ball is ready to be put in play.
Other than that, I really haven’t found it to be much of a factor.
Q. You’ve played 15 freshmen so far. Just wondering if that during the week kind of gives a freshman a little bit more energy when he’s on show team or whatever knowing that there’s a chance he might get in on Saturday rather than just sitting out the season?
COACH Charlie Weis: I think it perks him up on one hand, but it also creates more anxiety on the other hand, when they realize that they’re actually playing in these games. Sometimes they have a security blanket going throughout the year in not having to go out there or going out there when it’s not really meaningful time, but a lot of these guys are getting in there in the first quarter when it’s really meaningful time. I think they really look forward to it but they realize how much every game means ?? every game is important, how important they are to the team.
Q. Is that something you can use in recruiting to let them know if you perform you’ll get on the field the first year and here’s the track record to prove that?
COACH Charlie Weis: I always say it, and I think they just see evidence of it because I tell every single guy that I just go by what I see, and that’s what our coaching staff does, and try not to fall in love with anyone in particular and whoever you see gives us the best chance of winning, that’s who you’re going to play. I think for some of these young guys that are prospects, that’s important to them. Other guys it’s not as important to them.