Sept. 26, 2006
COACH WEIS: Once again, we face a team that’s on a little bit of a roll. Purdue has won seven games in a row going back to last year. For the fifth consecutive week, we play against a team that hasn’t lost a game.
Seems like every week we obviously have another team that’s undefeated, and this is no different. They’re sitting here at 4?0. They’ve also beat us two out of the last three times we played them.
One thing, Purdue has been a very, very, very good in the month of September, their best of any month. As a matter of fact, under Coach Tiller, they’re 28?9 in the month of September. That’s a .784 winning percentage which consistently is their best. He’s been there for 10 years. Brought them to eight Bowl games in nine years. Obviously accomplished a lot with their program.
There’s a couple little changes. For example, they have co?offensive coordinators this year, Bill Legg, who also coaches their centers and guards, and Ed Zaunbrecher. He’s their quarterback coach. Bill is up in the box. Ed is downstairs communicating with the quarterbacks.
Statistically they’re doing a heck of a job on offense. They’re ranked fifth in the country in scoring. They’re averaging over 40 points a game. They’re rushing for 164 a game. They’re throwing for just under 300. They’re averaging 5.2 per carry. Their offense is ranked 10th in the country. I’d say that’s a total of 461 and change per game yardage?wise, 7.1 per play.
Unlike us, as I said the other day, have not done well in the first quarter, they’ve outscored their opponents in every quarter they’ve played this year.
Starts with the quarterback. Curtis Painter, he’s had a heck of a year. Leads the Big?10 in passing per game at this point. He’s averaging 285 yards a game. Last week, for example, against Minnesota, he was 18 of 27 for 243 and a couple of touchdowns. In four games this year, this is what’s really impressive. In four games this year, he’s completed 64% of his passes with eight touchdowns.
Before you get to the skill players in the receiving game, we really should start with Kory Sheets. You can’t forget Kory Sheets as both a runner, and in the passing game for that matter. He’s averaged five and a half yards a carry, 10 rushing touchdowns. He’s also a heck of a kickoff returner. He’s tied for the lead in scoring nationally, averaging 15 points a game.
He’s their leading rusher with 321 yards. He’s got eight touchdowns rushing. Last year he had 10 rushing touchdowns for the year. This year he has eight touchdowns rushing and two receiving already through four games. 142 and change all?purpose yards a game.
In last year’s game, Taylor showed up, that’s the first time I really noticed him, he showed up with a bang. He had 11 carries for 90 yards for 8.2 average, rushing touchdown. He also had two catches and a touchdown receiving. He’s the smaller of the two, but obviously came in and produced right off the bat.
I think their tight end, Dustin Keller, is a very good player. He moved in from wide receiver to tight end in 2004, okay? He’s going over a hundred yards receiving the last couple weeks. For example, against Minnesota he had six for 119 for a 19.8 average, long and 55. He’s second on the team in receptions as a tight end with 18 catches and a touchdown. He’s averaging just under 90 yards receiving a game. He’s got good speed, he’s got hands, and he can run with the ball in his hands. He’s a dangerous weapon at the tight end position.
Now, the receiver, really they play a lot of three?wide receiver sets with Dorien Bryant, No. 9, Selwyn Lymon No. 1, and Greg Orton. Now, Orton didn’t play a lot last week. He’s coming back from an injury that he got in the Ball State game. It was limited last week.
Standeford took over for him. Standeford, Chattams and Tardy all show up at their fourth, fifth, and sixth receivers. It all starts with Dorien Bryant, though. I mean, he’s a guy, 200 meter guy on their track team.
I know last year it’s easy to remember him because he had 14 catches for 127 yards and a couple touchdowns last year versus us. He’s their leading receiver. He’s got 27 catches for 351 and three touchdowns. He’s averaging over 130 yards all purpose. He’s got suddenness. He’s got quickness. They move him around, they him the ball, screens, reverses. Sometimes they’ll even line him up in the back field.
As I mentioned before, Lymon, he’s their big guy: 6’4″, 210. And Orton, he’s their third leading receiver. We expect him back and healthy.
Probably the most stable part of their offense, and one of the reasons why they’re producing on such a high level, is they’re a veteran offensive line. First of all, last year they only allowed nine sacks. This year they’re right on pace. They’ve allowed three sacks after four games.
It starts with Otto at left tackle. He’s their captain. He started 40 consecutive games at left tackle. Their left guard, Nwaneri, he started 11 games at left guard in 2004, okay? So he missed last year. Here’s a guy, he’s really a returning starter. So their left guard last year was Robbie Powell. All they did was move him into center, okay? So that gives them both left guard and center return.
The right guard is Grimes. He started all 11 games at right guard last year. The right tackle is Sester, and he started all seven games at right tackle last year.
So really, being able to bump Powell in from guard to center, and Nwaneri coming back, they are a very, very, very veteran offensive line.
On defense, Coach Spack, their defensive coordinator, he moved from linebackers to safeties now. He controls the coverages anyway. Their defense is holding teams down on third down greatly this year. It’s 37%. They’ve gotten 12 sacks in four games. It’s well?documented that we’ve had trouble on third down. They’re good on third down. That poses a serious problem.
Now, I’m going to talk about some different guys on their defense. On the defensive line, they really play seven guys. Now, obviously Anthony Spencer is a different guy. He’s their team captain, defensive end. He’s tied in the Big?10 for sack leads. I think he has five. He started 27 consecutive games. He’s the most experienced player.
For example, last week he was the Big?10 defensive player of the week. 10 tackles, three for a loss, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two sacks. Not a bad day at the office.
Mike McDonald starts opposite him, and Baker and Guynn start inside, but ?? no. McDonald starts opposite him and Baker and Guynn play inside, but you also see Bright a lot at defensive end, and Magee and Neal will also show up at defensive tackle.
It’s the same thing with their linebackers. Now, Keglar starts at their Will, and Bick starts at their Mike, Avril starts at their Sam. Now, Bick plays both inside and out, even though he starts at their Mike. Avril plays both Sam linebacker and puts his hand down when they go to nickel, so he also turns into a pass?rusher.
So, you know, when that happens you also see a lot of both Hall and Ferguson show up at linebacker. So there’s five guys that show up at linebacker. It isn’t just the three guys that start.
Secondary has also gone through some changes. Zach Logan is really the only guy returning with experience from their system. So now you got Adams and Vinson starting at corner, Scott and Erwin starting at safety, and Logan and Pender are the other two guys who show up in all their nickel packages.
Special teams, Mark Hagen, who is also their assistant head coach and linebacker coach, okay, is running the show there. They brought in (indiscernible) All?American punter by the name of Armstrong who is averaging just under 44 yards a punt with a long of 58. Their place kicker is also their kick?off guy, Summers, who is a true freshman. He’s 19th of 20 on PATs, and five of six on field goals. He’s also kicked seven touch?backs out of 28 kickoffs.
Huffman is their long snapper. Royce Adams is their punt returner, and as the kickoff returner they have both Bryant and Sheets back there.
Q. How have you seen teams make adjustments to Jeff Samardzija since last year?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think that initially what you’d want to do is roll coverage in that direction. But with Rhema and John, also proven to be down-the-field threats, I think it keeps the double coverages from heading into his direction all the time.
I think he gets his share of them still, you know, especially when you get into money downs where people know he’s a go?to type of guy.
I think when you have the receiver opposite him making a whole bunch of plays, your tight end threatening the middle of the field, it kind of takes some of the pressure off of just rolling into one guy.
Q. Have they tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage more?
COACH WEIS: Not unusually more. No, there’s times that they’ll come up and play cover two. They’ll jam whoever’s in there. But that’s one of the ways you roll into somebody, by playing cover two. You could have a corner in his face and have a safety over the top of him. It’s a safe way of giving a corner some help.
Q. I guess I didn’t realize how much Paul Duncan played until after the game. Did you feel that Young needed a break, or is that Duncan playing that well?
COACH WEIS: Well, we feel that it’s benefited both players, to tell you the truth, because it’s benefited both Sam and Paul. It’s got Paul more into the mix. The production that we’ve got out of Sam has increased as Paul’s playing time has increased, because now he gets an opportunity to be fresh a lot more than having to go every single play.
It’s a little different when you’re a freshman and you’re not used to going every single play. These guys, like a Ryan Harris, who’s just expecting to be out there for every play.
Q. In the 15 years prior to Joe Tiller, Purdue averaged less than four wins per year. What do you think the keys have been to the success that he’s had?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, he brings stability to the program. I think in any program, when you have the stability of the head coach and a system in place and a mentality that he’s brought there, I mean, the guy’s a winner. That’s the way they play.
He’s done a nice job consistently year in and year out. I think that’s why you see him playing in so many Bowl games. That’s why you go to nine Bowl games or eight Bowl games in nine years. That’s not by accident. Obviously from the day he walked in the door, things started to change.
Q. Were you familiar with him or did you have any contact with him prior to?
COACH WEIS: I was familiar with his offense because we ?? I went and worked out Drew Brees when he was coming out. As a matter of fact, that same year we drafted Matt, who was his left tackle. But I went and spent a lot of time with Drew at Purdue when he was coming out, had watched all their games.
I was kind of intrigued because, you know, I think Drew ?? I don’t know if that year, other than on the goal line, ever was under center. Every single play was shotgun. I was intrigued because we used a lot of empty sets in New England. I was intrigued by their offense.
Q. Did you have conversations with Tiller?
COACH WEIS: I met with a lot of guys on their staff right there. It wasn’t just about their offensive philosophy; it was about their offense – not their philosophy, just what they were actually doing. Like empty and how they protected empty, how they handled certain situations.
I think they threw a lot of bubbles. They seemed to be a little bit ahead of the curve on a lot of things they were doing. That’s back when Drew was first coming out. That was one of the first time I really studied a team. The reason why you studied them was because you were thinking about drafting the player.
Q. I know you haven’t had practice yet with the guys. Just in meetings, have you noticed, is there an extra boost of confidence? Is some of the swagger back after Saturday?
COACH WEIS: I couldn’t really answer that yet. Sunday was a very big critical, constructive criticism day. I think we got back to earth in a hurry. Monday is players’ day off. They get to have quality of life like every other student on campus.
My first true dealings with them will come this afternoon, 2:30.
Q. Did you see anything on Saturday night in the fourth quarter that indicates that maybe the offense is starting to get on track by the way they performed?
COACH WEIS: I think the jury is still out. I think we have to show a level of consistency that we have not shown at this point. I think that comes from coaching and players. I’m part of that problem. We’ve got to try to fix that.
If you want to sit there and say from Brady coming out and throwing for a couple hundred or just under a couple hundred in the second half that everything is fixed, I think that would be a little presumptuous. I think we have a lot of work yet to do.
Q. You’ve talked over the last couple weeks about needing to get the ground game going, and also this weekend talked about not playing from behind. Now, if those two things coincide, that’s great. If they don’t, what’s more important?
COACH WEIS: I think winning ?? leading in a game is always the most important thing. It’s all about winning. If you go rush for 200 and lose by 14, who cares? It’s about winning. I think the most important thing is to win the game by whatever means.
If you have to throw it all the time, you throw it all the time. But usually it’s a very easy statistic. Usually the more you have to throw it ? usually ? the less chance you have of winning the game.
Q. You talked on Sunday about 60 minutes being the theme of the week. How do you adapt the practice schedule, drills, meetings, to accomplish that?
COACH WEIS: We have a number of things we’re addressing on that subject. We’re starting today ?? you know, you could break it into like quarters, okay? So today is going to be like part of the game. So today is like the start of the game because today, with the emphasis on first down, first and second down for that matter, you have to think, okay, fellas, if you don’t produce on first down, tomorrow when we get into third down you’re already fighting a losing battle. That’s offensively.
Now, defensively, it’s just the opposite. Hey, if you stuff them on first down, now all of a sudden your chance of getting off the field on third down becomes increasingly better.
I think it all starts today by us emphasizing how important first down is.
Q. You talked a little bit about Keller. Is he a similar player to John Carlson?
COACH WEIS: No, because John was a tight end that’s a tight end. He was a wide receiver, who I don’t know if he grew into a tight end, ate himself into a tight end, you know, I don’t know how, but he has wide?receiver skills.
Usually when a tight end transforms from the wide receiver, usually it provides quite a threat because usually they’re more skilled and a lot of the idiosyncrasies of rout running, how to get open, how to use their bodies, how to use their hands. I think he’s good at that.
Q. You were talking about Dorien Bryant, and you used the adjective “suddenness.” What is that?
COACH WEIS: You could use a lot of slang or phrases. I always call it shake and bake. You know, you go somewhere, if you think you have him, you better tackle him because he can make you miss, and he does. He makes everybody miss. So you have to really try to corral him, because he’s got very good quickness.
Q. You were talking about the 60 minutes. How do you force a team to get off to a quicker start?
COACH WEIS: Well, I’ve tried a couple of different ways and haven’t done too well. Sometimes it’s by play calling. Sometimes by play calling you up the tempo, okay? Sometimes it’s aggressiveness where you come out and throw a whole bunch of times in a row, okay? There’s different ways of trying to do it. Like on defense, sometimes you can bring heavy pressure early in the game to try to set a mentality.
But when it’s all said and done over a course of, you know ?? over the course of the season, the best way of doing it is by having a good plan and executing, and executing on a more consistent basis. I think that’s one of the big points of emphasis, in addition to the 60 minutes, which is definitely going to be high on the hit list, is going to be a higher level of consistency on every play.
Q. You said you tried a couple different things and failed. Are you trying something completely different this week?
COACH WEIS: No, over the last year and a half, I’ve tried most of the ploys, most of the tacts you can use. I’m certainly not going to come out and goal line offense if that’s what you’re asking.
I think I have always been a coach who likes to have balance. In the last couple games we have not had balance. I don’t like coaching like that.
Q. As far as Schwapp, he stayed back for treatment. How did that go?
COACH WEIS: He’s practicing today, so I’ll see what it looks like when he’s out there. Like I told Asaph, have you to be able to practice to play. I don’t mind if he’s not full speed, but I need to have more evidence that by Saturday he can go, or else he won’t go.
Q. And with Wooden, I know Saturday he was ??
COACH WEIS: We’re going to take precautionary ?? put a brace on him today. Not a heavy brace, but just precautionary, put a brace on him today so that – just make sure he doesn’t tweak anything.
Q. Balance-wise, how do you kind of measure balance? Are there statistical goals you’re looking for?
COACH WEIS: I think when it’s all said and done, if you had a really, really even game – I mean, I think that my last – I think even last year, my last few years, when you look at the number of plays you run for the entire year, not just in one week, but you look at the number of plays for an entire year, when your run pass ratio ends up being close to 50/50 over the course of a year, you attain seasonal balance.
Sometimes games get up and down. Like if you get up in the game, you’ll be a lot heavier run. If you’re down in the game, it will be a lot heavier pass. At the end of the year, when your proportion is about 50/50, you know that you kind of called it the way I like calling it. Some people don’t look for that time type of balance, but I would like to think towards the end of the year it’s pretty close to 50/50.
There’s been some years it’s been 60/40. It’s been that drastic of a percentage difference. I’d say usually when your team is pretty good on offense, usually it’s about a 50/50 ratio over the course of a season.
Q. I know you’re very opponent?specific when you game plan. During your game plan stage, do you always plan or hope to plan for balance? If you see something, we’re going to be throwing it all over the yard…
COACH WEIS: There’s certain times where you really think, Hey, we’re going to run the ball a whole bunch. There’s other games, we played that BYU game last year, people want to know why I ran it seven times in the first half.
Well, when they’re selling out blitzing on every down, I mean, you can run the ball and gain two yards a carry if that’s what you want to do. I mean, you got to pick your poison. I mean, do I want to sit there and throw it on every play? Absolutely not. But I’m also not going to let the defense dictate what we do. We’re going to dictate the course of the action.
Q. Given that the team has struggled a little bit out of the gate, would you ever rethink deferring versus taking the football?
COACH WEIS: No. That will never change.
Q. The turnover numbers the other night kind of came out ?? the team that won the turnovers won the game. Do you work on forcing turnovers and protecting the ball throughout the season, or is that added in training camp?
COACH WEIS: We work offensively on a gauntlet drill every week at every skill position, okay? In addition to that, Coach Vaas works on with the quarterbacks where they’ll drop back, have the other quarterbacks smacking the hell out of them with bags to try to knock the ball out of their hands. Because the easiest guy to fumble the ball really is the quarterback, because a lot of times when he’s getting hit, he doesn’t know he’s getting hit, or he’s unprotected, unaware of it happening.
Defensively, Rick and their staff do a great job of working on, you know, trying to strip the ball out. It paid dividends with Ndu’s stripped fumble the other day.
Q. When a college basketball player goes from college to the NBA, they talk about the wall after a certain amount of games. With Sam playing more physical teams every week than he’s ever faced in his life, do you watch for that at this level coming up from high school?
COACH WEIS: The good thing, he’s only got two games left in the season, right? We’re about ready to finish up the first ?? so he’s only got two games left (laughter). If he can just hang in there for two weeks we can start all over again and he’ll be ready. A little foresight for you (laughter).
Yeah, right, it’s the halfway mark.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH WEIS: Yeah, there you go. That’s right on schedule, 6 and 6.
Q. Do you have to watch how they hold up physically?
COACH WEIS: Yes. I think that’s one of the reasons why John has gotten Paul involved more repping at right tackle is exactly what you’re talking about, so that you try to avoid that coming to fruition.
I think sometimes if you treat it all the same, treat him like you’re treating Ryan, that’s a little presumptuous that he’d be ready to psychologically, mentally, physically be able to handle that every single week, the pressure.
I mean, these games are all pressure games now. It isn’t like you have any cake walks. Every week it’s the same. Like he’s lining up, and that 49 is going to be sitting right outside of him right now. He happens to be one of their best players on their team. It isn’t like he gets a vacation at any time.
I think John has done a nice job of getting Paul involved in this mix as well to kind of try to head that off at the pass.
Q. How has Sam handled, mentally, these big games week after week?
COACH WEIS: Actually, he’s handled the mental aspect, I wouldn’t say remarkably well, but I’d say reasonably well.
Q. Is confusion with schemes the biggest thing you look for in a freshman?
COACH WEIS: I think the volume, the volume of movement in college defenses versus the volume of movement you get in high school defenses. High school defenses, they line up in front of you, you hit them and they hit you. These guys, just take a look at them. They’re moving, blitz zoning, stunting, running ETs and TEs. There’s a lot of stuff going on out there. It isn’t just go block the guy who is ahead of you.
Q. Is he pretty honest when he doesn’t understand something?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, but I haven’t really noticed him act like a freshman. That’s one of the reasons why he’s in there. He hasn’t acted like a freshman.
Q. When you’re recruiting a guy, the program he’s coming from, do you look at that as kind of an extra benefit, or do you target programs where people might be ready quicker?
COACH WEIS: It’s definitely an extra benefit. On top of that, their head coach, you know, is a lot like me or I’m a lot like him, either way. For a guy like that, the transition, not only is their program a good program, but the transition becomes a lot easier, because for him he’s seen me for the last bunch of years. Just happens to have a different name.
Q. With some of the inconsistencies on offense, I assume they’re coming off the field upset sometimes. Do you ever have to help them with their composure? Is that ever an issue?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think one of the things that helps a little bit is on game days I know I don’t raise my voice too many times to anyone other than officials or a guy getting a personal foul, or in a huddled up situation to try to fire them up.
So even when they make those type of problems, I think that inconsistencies are things that are worked on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I don’t think that game day is the day ?? you know, that’s when all the problems of the free world are solved. I think the drawing board really starts on Tuesday.
I think that what happens is you take that whole level of things that are problems, which aren’t always the same set of problems, and you try to address them the next week. But you have to address them by implementing a whole new game plan with a whole new set of circumstances than the problems you previously had. So you’re in a little bit of a Catch?22. What do you spend more time on? The inconsistencies that were caused last week by whatever problem, or applying it to the next opponent?
Q. I guess what I’m asking, is do any of the guys need to be settled down a little bit? Do you ever have to do any psychological coaching?
COACH WEIS: During the game?
COACH WEIS: There’s times. It happens at every possession. It happens right across the board. There isn’t one position that that doesn’t happen, every game, every week. Even if things are going well, there’s problems out there. A lot of times those problems are hid, but there’s always problems out there. I’d say that takes place every game, every week, at every position.
More than a layman would know not being on the sideline. You’d be surprised how much time is spent on problems and problem solving rather than just what the next set of circumstances are going to be.
Q. Before the game, I’ve noticed you’ll walk through the lines of the players, kind of give them a quick word. Can you speak to that as far as where that originated from, your idea behind that?
COACH WEIS: I think every player deserves to be recognized before the game. Everyone that’s at the game deserves some words about that game. I don’t say the same thing to every player. Like with some guys, I know they’re not going to play very much. I usually say, Let’s have a little fun out here today. Might be an offensive lineman. I’ll say, Let’s be physical today. If it’s a special teams player, I’ll say, make a few plays for me now. It’s not exactly the same thing depending on who I’m talking to.
Q. Is it a pregame ritual? Where did you come up with the idea? Have you been doing that?
COACH WEIS: No, I don’t know anyone who’s done it. I just like doing it. I think it’s good for every player to feel part of the program no matter whether it’s Brady Quinn or some freshman walk?on that a lot of people think is obscure. I think anyone who’s at the game with a uniform on deserves that same handshake.
Q. At the home games, at least from up top, that’s a lot of walking.
COACH WEIS: You got to hustle. Not like last year. We got a lot more guys out there. As a matter of fact, this last game, I finished about 15 seconds before Ruben blew that whistle. That’s my workout for the day. You have to hustle to get there before every guy before stretching is over.
Q. Beats a treadmill.
COACH WEIS: No, it doesn’t (laughter).
Q. Quick subject change here. You’ve obviously been busy. Maybe you didn’t hear ??
COACH WEIS: Is this about Purdue?
COACH WEIS: Then don’t ask.
Q. No response to anything about –
COACH WEIS: Is this about Purdue? Thank you.
Q. At this stage of the season – I guess now that I know there’s a second season I may have to rephrase this.
COACH WEIS: There you go (laughter).
Q. A third of the way through the whole season, are you still looking – how important is it – in terms of building depth, how important is the competition at positions? Do you still have an eye for that as you’re going through practice?
COACH WEIS: I’d say at this point it’s still significant ? at this point. I think we’ll revisit where we are at the halfway mark. I think it just so happens that that bye comes at the perfect time. I mean, it isn’t like I scheduled it that way. It just ended up working out that way.
For my vision and how I like to think, it actually comes at a perfect time because it gives you an opportunity to revisit all your personnel, personnel issues. So at this point, no one’s out of the mix for anything.
You’ll come back at the halfway mark before we kickoff season two of 2006, we’ll revisit that again as an entire staff.
Q. You’ve mentioned a lot that sometimes the offensive problems aren’t just Brady. As you look at Brady and you move forward, what are the points of emphasis that you take from him in terms of his own improvement?
COACH WEIS: One of the things we’re going to do today, which we haven’t been doing, is we have three individuals early in practice that are all eight minutes long. The first individual, the one that you guys are around for, is usually warmup and technique related to their position specifically.
Then the next two individuals, he spends time with the receivers on the second period and with the backs and tight ends on the third period.
Well, today he’ll spend time with the receivers on the second period, but then the third period we’ll take like the first four receivers. Instead of him going with the tight ends and backs today, he’ll take specific routes that those specific receivers run that we’ve had problems with and just throw those routes.
In other words, Samardzija won’t catch all the same things that Rhema catches who won’t get all the same things that Grimes catches who won’t get all the same things that Chase catches.
For example, the other day you saw him throw a pass to Jeff on a little option rout. Jeff broke to the inside, it was incomplete, thrown to his inside. Now, he’s wide open on the play. Now, is the problem Brady? Is the problem Jeff? Is the problem rapport? So the only way you fix those things is by granting time in practice to work on those specific type of issues so that there’s a better understanding between the quarterback and the receiver where they’re going to be.
Sometimes you might run an out, and the quarterback might throw that out at six yards and you run it at eight yards. Well, I’m not saying who’s wrong, because it might be the quarterback being wrong or the receiver being wrong. But that’s not the point. The point is, you have to allocate time to fix it. So today we’re starting that allocation of time to fix some of those problems.
Q. This isn’t a slam on Ambrose, but in terms of Darrin Walls playing so well in the game Saturday, has he kind of pushed into maybe rotation, more playing time there?
COACH WEIS: We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how it goes. I was pleased with how Darrin played. Like I said the other day, the fact you barely noticed him out there is a good thing. At that position, the corner position, when you’re not noticed very often. But on the flipside, Lambert was noticed, and that was a good thing, too. It all depends.
I think Darrin has definitely earned more confidence of me and the entire defensive coaching staff. I think that bodes well for him having more opportunities.
Q. With Samardzija, four games into the season, do you see the same Samardzija you saw last year? Do you feel the baseball was no ill effects at all on him?
COACH WEIS: I think the only slight negative – which I think is really starting to vanish pretty quickly – is when you’re not thrown together every day like you normally would be if he wasn’t pitching in the minor leagues.
Not throwing together every day from June 18th or June 20th right to the end of July, during the second session of summer school, I think some of those – an occasional incomplete pass, like that rout I talked about before, maybe would have been just taken for granted before. Now you’re playing catch?up a little bit.
I think here in the very near future I think they’ll be caught up.
Q. Just as a follow?up on Ambrose and Darrin, do you subscribe at all to any of the theories that injured players, once he returns, don’t lose their starting position?
COACH WEIS: Well, I think there’s going to be plenty of reps for Ambrose and Darrin. I don’t look at positions so much as just a clear starter. That comes to fruition more if it’s like the quarterback, where you only play one and he plays all the time.
For example, runningback, if you have a runningback that sees time, I mean, he’s still going to see time. Cornerback, you play nickel, you play dime, there’s a lot of packages out there. There’s plenty of reps for a cornerback to be playing.
I’m not looking to run Ambrose out. At the same time, if Ambrose isn’t fully healthy, he’s banged up a little bit, Darrin gives us the best chance of winning, Darrin will play. I’m not worried about making any friends.
Q. At the end of the last two games, final stats showed four yards rushing, 59 yards rushing. You also fell behind 24?7 very early in the game. When such a situation happens, do you almost have to abandon any kind of rhythm in the running game?
COACH WEIS: You can still keep running the ball if you’re down three scores if you think that they’re not going to score any more, too. There’s a couple things. Like this past week against Michigan State, our defense did a great job in the second half and held them to six points. But they have offensive firepower.
If you think about it, if you just go on methodical scores, okay, and they come back and score, then that that’s that much less time in the game you have to catch up. Sometimes you have to play catch up to try to get it to a more manageable position before you can start to drive for some balance.
It’s not just affected by what you’re down in the game and what you can and cannot do. It’s also affected by the firepower that the other team has to have an opportunity to keep the lead where it is.
Q. Sometimes you can have an automatic notion that because you’ve run for only 63 yards the past two weeks, the offensive line isn’t controlling the line of scrimmage, not doing its job. You were able to rally from quite a deficit Saturday night. How do you view it?
COACH WEIS: Well, early in a game we weren’t getting that much production at anything we did. It wasn’t just the running game. We had thrown two out of eight in the passing game. We made one third?down conversion, whatever it was. It wasn’t just the running game, it was across the board.
What had happened is all of a sudden you have to do something to change the tempo of the game. Now, if I were one of those coaches that waited till halftime to try to change the tempo of the game, to be honest with you, I think it would have been too late. That’s why I changed the tempo of the game.
Q. You talk about consistency. Seems like mostly offense. Same goal for defense?
COACH WEIS: It’s all three facets. I’m not just trying to be a head coach here. For example, the whole point you could make is you saw how the defense – let’s talk about the defensive line for a second. You saw how they were getting after this quarterback in the whole fourth quarter, okay?
Well, is there any reason why we don’t do that in the first quarter? Is there any reason why he wouldn’t be under the same duress in the beginning of the game that he’s in on the end of the game? There’s a perfect point that’s, I don’t know, point six or point seven that we’re talking about here today when we get together with the team. It’s exactly that.
You can’t just go on an eight?minute part of the whole game and figure that’s going to be the whole game. It’s going to be, can you take that type of tempo and lay it out there at the beginning of the game and see if you can try to sustain it throughout the game.
Also, to go one step further, it carries right into special teams. Excluding the kickers, who are their own separate entity in its own right, you also have situations like that in coverage units especially. The four major coverage units, whether it’s punt action, punt return, kick?off, or kickoff return. If you don’t have play with that same eye of the tiger type of mentality, you can find yourself giving up a big play real easily.
Q. You talked repeatedly about openers, how much time you spend on them and that sort of thing. You talk about self?valuation. I think last year you scored on the first possession seven times and second possession three times. So 10 of the 12 games you had touchdowns or a field goal in the first two possessions. So far this year you have one field goal.
COACH WEIS: You’re preaching to the choir.
Q. Are you trying to figure out what you’re doing differently or if other teams have figured out your openers?
COACH WEIS: They haven’t figured out the openers. Just haven’t written the right plays, I guess. But I don’t think it’s them figuring it out. I think that – I just think that it’s been across the board. I’ll always take my fair share of the blame because you always can come up with a different set of plays.
But I think whether it be the head coach, whether it be the quarterback, whether it be anyone else, we’re all in this together. We all take credit together, but we also take blame together. I’m going to have to do a better job as well as everybody else involved there for us to get this fixed.
Q. And just when you think of openers, I mean, I guess those who know what it is you’re not expecting. I suppose it’s not the only thing you’re looking at. Do you look at what you do best? Surprise factor? What?
COACH WEIS: A lot of times what you do is you put out personnel groups and formations and see what their plan is against those personnel groups and formations. So you put out a personnel group, line up in a formation, and they line up accordingly. Okay, that’s probably their plan on this. You put out another one. Okay, that’s your plan on that.
By the time you’ve run a personnel group formation a couple of times, usually you say, Well either they’re going to do this or they’re going to do that. There’s some plays that you might have really liked when you put them in the game plan, but based on how they’re playing that formation or that personnel group, you might not call that play again the rest of the game because it no longer seems like as good a play as it was when you designed it based off the research you had done going into that game.
Q. You gave the stats earlier on Sheets. What makes him so dangerous?
COACH WEIS: Well, first of all, he scores a lot of touchdowns. When you’re averaging that many yards per rush, and then still are a weapon out of the backfield, okay? It’s another one of those games where the team’s throwing for just under 300 yards a game. I think it’s 297 and change, something like that.
Well, if you’re going to try avoid them throwing for 300 yards, then do you give more attention to this tight end that we talked about so much? How about that No. 9 over there? We going to try to shut him down? What are we going to do about all these wide receivers that are all over the place? Now all of a sudden you have this guy tearing it up inside because they’re rushing for 160 a game.
I mean, it’s another one of those things where even though statistically they have a lot more yards passing, they got plenty of yards rushing. He’s the leader. He’s the lead dog.
Q. I watched the Browns/Ravens game on Sunday. They brought up about how Romeo brought a big chunk of practice working on specifically stopping the run. You mentioned Brady, him off schedule just a tick. Do the time constraints of a college game make it difficult to hone in on one specific area of the week?
COACH WEIS: No, because Romeo will only practice for a certain amount of time. I know Romeo he pretty well. He’s not going to go out there and practice three hours and put an extra half hour on stopping the run. I believe that when you’re out there in practice, you only keep player’s attention for so long. I think it’s important to keep a practice peppy, going from one thing to the next thing.
I think you have to decide your point of emphasis, what you’re going to stop. For example, he was playing the Baltimore Ravens, who are a run first team. I think if you don’t go into the game trying to stop the run, I think you’re missing the boat.
I think each game is its own separate entity. I try to put the point of emphasis, besides correcting mistakes from the previous week, the point of emphasis on what the game plan is and what we feel we’re going to need to do to try to win that game.
Q. You talked a lot about consistency these last couple days. In the past, when you’ve been part of teams that manage to find their consistency early, is there some sort of intangible or spark that you can wrap your finger around?
COACH WEIS: Run that by me one more time.
Q. In the past, when you’ve been part of teams that have found consistency early, is there some sort of intangible or spark or something that they have that allows them to welcome so consistent so quickly?
COACH WEIS: Yeah, they convert on third down. I’m not kidding when I’m saying that because, you know, you see what the stats are with us statistically converting under 30% on third down. When you’re trying to have drives and on third down you’re not converting, your drives are over.
I think that probably of all the things we’ve done this year, putting ourselves in the bad position on third down and not converting really leads more than any other thing we’re doing to inconsistency.
Q. You mentioned in the past you’re not really into scheduling, that you want to know who you’re going to play, then you’re going to ?? then let’s show up. Maybe I’m answering my question before it ask it. There’s a sense that down the line Michigan may not want to play you guys every year or at all because of the Big?10 scheduling. Is there a sense where maybe you’d want to take a year off from playing a Purdue or anybody at all? Do you kind of leave that up to the powers that be?
COACH WEIS: No, I really think between Dr. White and John Heisler, they field all those questions. I think they’ll always do what’s in the best interest of the program. I’m not looking to get anyone off the schedule or anyone on the schedule. I think every once in a while the biggest question they’ll ask me is: We can play them on this date or that date. Which one do you choose? But other than that, I leave that to the powers that be and just deal with it accordingly.